Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jones propels Alabama over stingy Virginia Tech

Courtesy of a stellar performance by Christion Jones, the Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies by the score of 35-10.

Jones, a member of a very talented wide receiving unit, returned a punt for a touchdown in the first quarter, a kickoff for a touchdown in the second quarter, and was on the receiving end of an AJ McCarron 38-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Jones’ performance against the Hokies was not only impressive, but extremely rare from a statistical perspective.
As for the lowlights, the Alabama offense, as a whole, was virtually anemic. Especially the offensive line…

In a contest that felt, at times, like something out of the Gene Stallings era, Alabama only managed 14 points of offensive scoring in the entire game. The Crimson Tide garnered a grand total of 96 yards and five first downs in the first half of play.

The 'Bama offensive line, a major area of concern in the preseason, looked as inexperienced as many fans and pundits feared. The Tide running game, a stalwart of the offense, was held in check the entire contest. As for AJ McCarron, the Tide quarterback looked flustered at times as the lack of protection yielded several rushed throws.

The game, while a blowout on the scoreboard, was very “uncomfortable” from an offensive perspective.

Defensive domination

While the offense was inconsistent, the Alabama defense was as stiff as ever. The highlight of the performance came early in the second quarter when safety Vinnie Sunseri intercepted Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and returned the ball 38-yards for a ‘Bama touchdown.
Alabama stats of note

-206 total yards (96 rushing – 110 passing)
-McCarron: 10/23 – 110 yards – 1 TD – 1 INT
-Yeldon: 17/75 yards – 1 TD
-Tide Defense: Limited Virginia Tech to 212 total yards
-Sunseri: INT returned for TD
-C. Jones: 72-yard punt return for TD – 94-yard kickoff return for TD –
38-yard TD reception

>>> *Alabama/Virginia Tech Stats*

Saban quotable
>>> *Saban press conference transcript*

While Alabama did look impressive in many aspects of the game, the Tide offensive line, as mentioned, performed on a “C-” level at best. With so many talented players at the offensive skill positions, the young ‘Bama “trench dwellers" have been charged with a great responsibility. In many respects, the entire fate of the Crimson Tide offense will be determined by the chemistry and in-game productivity of the offensive front.

TomTom Go Confidently

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tech’s Foster/Loeffler compliment the UA program

In an effort to include various news items from the opposing side of the field, Virginia Tech beat writer Andy Bitter has been a valuable service this week in regards to timely and significant news concerning the Hokies.

As well documented in Monday’s “Crimson Crossover” feature, Bitter, as well as various national media outlets, were prominently showcased in an effort to provide Alabama fans with a glimpse of the “happenings” this week in Blacksburg.

With the Alabama/Virginia Tech contest roughly 48 hours away, Bitter, through his Wednesday publication, provided various updates concerning the Hokies as they prepare to make the trip to Atlanta.
The linked content below not only includes high-quality information, but some valuable quotes. In addition to Bud Foster’s commentary noted above, Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler also shared his thoughts on the Alabama squad. Loeffler faced the Tide last season when he held the title of offensive coordinator at Auburn.
In regards to the betting line, the Crimson Tide currently stand as a robust 20.5-point favorite over the Hokies.

UPDATE – Virginia Tech injury report

The Hokies have battled the “injury bug” the entire month of August. Andy Bitter has the latest on the Tech injury situation.
The injury "summary"...
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Midweek musings of the Tide variety - 8/28/13

As the college football season draws closer with every passing second, the Wednesday newswire concerning the Alabama football program is rather “digestible” given the current climate of anticipation.

This edition of the midweek report includes a practice overview, Derrick Henry’s jersey number, and a double helping of peanut butter and jelly.

Wednesday practice report

While Virginia Tech, as noted in the weekly game overview, will enter the contest against Alabama with a plethora of injuries and player concerns, Alabama, and Nick Saban, are treating the Hokies just like any respected opponent. Simply getting off the bus won’t be enough for the Tide to close the deal.
Derrick Henry No. 21

As noted in the aforementioned practice report, running back Derrick Henry, who has adorned the No. 3 since spring practice began in mid March, is now wearing No. 21.

During his media obligation, Nick Saban confirmed that Henry is sporting No. 21 for special teams purposes. Saban also noted that Henry was a “good sport” about changing numbers.
-Saban presser-

The peanut butter and jelly experience

While the context is different, the comparison is the same. Peanut butter and jelly!

The Crimson Elephant (Aug. 22) -- While the eyes of the nation, mostly pundits, will reside with the corners, the Alabama safeties are built to last. The undisputed “main attractions” of the secondary are found at the safety position. Couple the range and speed of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, with the hard hitting style of Vinnie Sunseri, and the Crimson Tide have two of the best things going since peanut butter and jelly.

-Full story- (Aug. 28 – Andrew Gribble) -- "Last year my first pick came on the same day as his first pick and his second pick came on the same day as my second pick," Sunseri said after Tuesday's practice. "My mom was calling us peanut butter and jelly. She said we go good together. We're a little different, but we go good with each other."

-Full story-

While the posts in question are separated by a week, the peanut butter and jelly combination really made the rounds. As is certainly worth noting, the original post on The Crimson Elephant was written simply using an age old expression, yet today, we all learned that Sunseri’s mother feels the same in regards to the UA safety combo.

Had the context from the Gribble piece been of a different variety, rather than a quote, one could have easily considered the notion of "peanut butter and jelly theft" on the part of the 'Bama beat writer. However, no feelings were harmed, and no nuts (peanuts) were busted.


Monday, August 26, 2013

The Crimson Crossover: Painting a Hokie picture

Alabama – 2012 season

Record: 13-1
Conference Record: 7-1 (SEC – First-place in Western Division)
Postseason: Alabama 42 Notre Dame 14 (BCS National Championship Game)

Virginia Tech – 2012 season

Record: 7-6
Conference Record: 4-4 (ACC – Fourth-place in Coastal Division)
Postseason: Virginia Tech 13 Rutgers 10 – OT (Russell Athletic Bowl)

History lesson

Series: Alabama leads 11-1 (First meeting in 1932)
Most Recent Meeting: Alabama 34 Virginia Tech 24 (2009 - Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game)

Setting the scene

Alabama 0-0 vs. Virginia Tech 0-0 (Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game – Atlanta, Georgia – Georgia Dome)
Betting Line: Alabama -19.5 (as of 8/25)
Beat writer of the week

Andy Bitter - Virginia Tech football beat writer for the Roanoke Times and Virginian-Pilot.

Twitter: @AndyBitterVT

Follow Andy via Twitter to get the latest (breaking) news concerning the Virginia Tech Hokies as they prepare for Alabama.
Virginia Tech on the wire

What can Hokie fans expect in 2013? The Chicago Tribune breaks down the Virginia Tech season.

NCAA Football Preview - Virginia Tech Hokies

Andy Bitter chronicles the “newly finalized” VT offensive line.

Virginia Tech finalizes starting offensive line
ESPN and Hokie beat writer Andy Bitter discuss quarterback, and Tech team leader, Logan Thomas.

What does Thomas need to return to form?

Logan Thomas is a natural leader

To say Virginia Tech has been “injury plagued” is an understatement. The AP documented the VT issues earlier this month.

Injuries slam Virginia Tech with Alabama up first

Frank Beamer describes running back J.C. Coleman (ankles) as "questionable" for Saturday.
Highly touted defensive lineman Corey Marshall has taken a leave of absence from the Virginia Tech squad.

Virginia Tech DL Corey Marshall leaves team for personal matters

"Gobble" until suspended

"Gobble Gobble. #HOKIES #BEATBAMA” was the tweet, and, was the only tweet.

In what provided a touch of humor to Alabama fans, the Twitter account known as "AutomaticHokie" spent the better part of three weeks, at least, spamming various users through what was described as an "automated" system.

When Twitter users tweeted about Virginia Tech, in essentially any fashion, they were met with the aforementioned tweet.
Sadly, the "gobbler on parade" was eventually suspended by the powers that be at Twitter.

The weekly quotable
One has to respect Fuller's confidence, but that same confidence could also be viewed as a case of "famous last words." The thought of a freshman defensive back checking Amari Cooper is quite interesting to say the least.
Frank Beamer is a legendary head coach and he knows how to deliver a compliment to the opposition while providing fuel for his own team. Take the above comment as a mix of "coach speak" with a touch of motivation for the Hokies. The promise of facing the "best team" the program has ever encountered is the ultimate incentive to spring the upset.

The Crimson Elephant verdict

Although Virginia Tech will likely field a quality product in 2013, the "week one" Hokies are a little too injured and a little too young to compete with the top-ranked team in the nation.
While the Hokies have a legitimate shot at capturing the ACC Coastal Division, and quite possibly securing a 10-win season, "(Frank) Beamer Ball" will have to dig out from a season-opening loss.

Alabama 38
Virginia Tech 10

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cameron Sims gives verbal to Alabama

Ouachita Parish High School (Monroe, LA) wide receiver Cameron Sims has given his verbal commitment to the University of Alabama for 2014.
Sims, who stands 6-foot-4 and tops the scale at 190-pounds, selected the Crimson Tide over the likes of Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Southern, and Southern Mississippi.

While Sims narrowed his final list to five schools, the highly touted prospect had scholarship offers from a large collection of contenders which included Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Oregon, and USC.

Listed as a four-star prospect per, Sims becomes Alabama’s 19th verbal commitment in respect to the 2014 signing class.

Advance Auto Parts - Keep the Wheels Turning

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Alabama Analysis: Special teams dependability

With the departure of kicker Jeremy Shelley and long snapper Carson Tinker, the Alabama special teams unit will undergo a minor makeover this season.

Prominent players

H – AJ McCarron
K - Cade Foster
LS - Cole Mazza
P - Cody Mandell

Emerging talent

K - Adam Griffith

Potential kick/punt returners

CB - Cyrus Jones
RB - Dee Hart
WR - Chris Black
WR - Amari Cooper
WR - Christion Jones
WR - DeAndrew White

In regards to Cole Mazza, Alabama’s newest long snapper is the first such player during Nick Saban’s tenure to receive a scholarship directly out of high school. Players in the past who held the position were walk-ons who could potentially earn a scholarship at a later date. Carson Tinker was/is a prime example of such evolution.

While AJ McCarron will return for his final season as the holder, the battle for the starting job at placekicker could literally change with the tide, no pun intended.

Senior Cade Foster, who has had a rather shaky kicking career at 'Bama, will most likely get the starting nod. However, with consistency being the only proof of production, his longevity as the starter will literally depend on his make/miss ratio. In the kicking world, only a few misses can be the difference between being the starter and being the spoof.
When it comes to Foster’s competition, redshirt freshman Adam Griffith will finally get the opportunity to prove his merit in live game action. As noted above, Foster will likely be the “opening day” starter, but Griffith could easily force his way into the starting role, or at least prompt Nick Saban to use a platoon system. In prior seasons, Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley shared the kicking duties, and the assignments were typically based on the distance of each field goal attempt. The same operation could be implemented with Foster and Griffith in 2013.

As for the punting game, Cody Mandell is the man…and he’s the only man. 2013 will mark Mandell’s fourth year as the starter, and barring injury, this position is not up for grabs.

In respect to the return game, expect a motley crew. While Dee Hart, Christion Jones, and Cyrus Jones appear to be the most probable candidates, the unit always has a chance to be shuffled simply based on in-game production. If “player A” were to have various issues in regards to catching the ball and/or fielding/returning treacherous punts or kickoffs, a change would certainly be made.
Many times in college football, the special teams unit as a whole is essentially invisible until a costly mistake is made. Lack of fundamentals within the group always has the potential to change the complexion of a game.

Speaking in general terms, as well as for Alabama, not every kickoff or punt has to be returned for a touchdown, and not every 50-yard field goal has to split the posts. Take care of the basics and “routine” plays, and let the offense/defense take care of the rest.

Don’t be a hero...just be dependable.

Unit rating: 8/10

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Alabama Analysis: Secondary of primary concern

The keys for the 2013 edition of the Alabama secondary will be a combination of chemistry, identity, and “lockdown” ability at the corners. Much like the Crimson Tide offensive line, the ‘Bama secondary will have to gel as a unit to be successful.

Replacing the likes of Robert Lester and Dee Milliner is certainly no easy task, and many “national observers” are anxious to see how this unit performs, especially on the edges.

Prominent players

CB - Deion Belue
CB - John Fulton
CB - Geno Smith (Will miss first game due to suspension)
S - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
S - Nick Perry
S - Vinnie Sunseri

Emerging talent

*CB - Anthony Averett
*CB - Jonathan Cook
*CB - Eddie Jackson
CB - Cyrus Jones (WR in 2012)
*CB - Maurice Smith
CB - Bradley Sylve
CB - Jabriel Washington
S - Landon Collins
*S - Jai Miller (Walk-on – Spent a decade playing pro baseball – College education funded by MLB)
S - Jarrick Williams

*True Freshman
In regards to the aforementioned corner spot, returning starter Deion Belue, and 2012 reserve John Fulton, will be charged with the responsibility of sealing the outside edges in Alabama’s base 3-4 defense. Considered one of the biggest “team weaknesses” by many pundits, expect both corners to be exploited at various times, if not often, during the season. Picking on the “weaker links,” especially in the passing game, is one factor that keeps a quarterback drooling.

Belue and Fulton will need to be fast and physical. To say the duo will enter the season with “something to prove” is quite the understatement.

When it comes to reserves at cornerback, expect Geno Smith, barring prolonged/additional disciplinary issues, to play a pivotal role in the secondary when Alabama moves to the nickel package. Smith will likely fill the “star” role in the “three corner” defensive set.

Bradley Sylve, converted wide receiver Cyrus Jones, and true freshman Maurice Smith will likely see respectable action at the cornerback spot as well. Per various eyewitness reports, and per Nick Saban himself, Smith has been one of the most “talked about” players in respect to overall performance during the month of August.

While the eyes of the nation, mostly pundits, will reside with the corners, the Alabama safeties are built to last. The undisputed “main attractions” of the secondary are found at the safety position. Couple the range and speed of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, with the hard hitting style of Vinnie Sunseri, and the Crimson Tide have two of the best things going since peanut butter and jelly.
While not meant to serve as a “masking agent” by any stretch, the talent at safety will serve as an “ointment” for the corners until they can prove their merit to opposing quarterbacks.

When it comes to reserves at the safety position, Nick Perry not only has game experience, but experience under pressure. Expect Perry, Landon Collins and Jarrick Williams to see the field quite often at safety, but also at the “money” position when 'Bama goes to the dime defense.

From top-to-bottom, the Crimson Tide secondary will be solid, but as mentioned ad nauseam, the real areas of concern are the corners. Dee Milliner was the textbook definition of a "lockdown corner," as was Dre Kirkpatrick prior to Milliner. Rest assured the opposition(s) will test the edges until the Tide “cover men” prove they can make plays on a consistent basis.

Unit rating: 7.5/10 - the #1 destination for headwear

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Alabama Analysis: Talent abloom at linebacker

When it comes to “documenting” the Alabama football team unit-by-unit, what becomes apparent in a rather short time is the amount of “nit- picking” that has to be done in order to comprise an honest and objective overview.

When the talent pool is so prolific, the only real concern, excluding the ever potent fear of injury, is turning raw talent into needed depth.

In respect to the 2013 Tide linebackers, securing a solid rotation and building the aforementioned depth within that rotation will be a vital component.

Prominent players

Trey DePriest
Denzel Devall
Xzavier Dickson
Adrian Hubbard
C.J. Mosley

Emerging talent

Ryan Anderson
Reuben Foster
Walker Jones
Dillon Lee
Anthony Orr
Tana Patrick
Reggie Ragland
The undisputed leader and “rock” of the group is inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. Returning for his senior season, Mosley is the glue and the brains of the unit. Virtually every defensive snap, in some fashion, revolves around Mosley. When it comes to skill set, both mental and physical, Mosley's attributes are unmatched.

In respect to Mosley’s cohorts, expect Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard to see ample playing time, along with Denzel Devall and Xzavier Dickson.

The leader in both sacks and tackles for loss last season, look for Hubbard to play opposite Mosley at the outside linebacker position.

With regards to the aforementioned DePriest, Devall, and Dickson, each player has the size and strength to clog the middle when necessary, but also defend the pass and pressure the quarterback. All three players, especially 2012 starter DePriest, are the ideal figures to complement the talent(s) of Mosley.

As for depth, Ryan Anderson, Dillon Lee, Reggie Ragland, and Tana Patrick will all vie for time in the rotation this season. Lee being utilized in the nickel defense is certainly an option.

When it comes to the “youth movement,” the linebackers, at least under Nick Saban’s tenure, have been a virtual "fruit basket" of talent.

Highly touted inside linebacker Reuben Foster (true freshman) could see a respectable amount of playing time, and potentially substantial playing time, depending on how the cards fall as the season progresses.
While the running backs and receivers have garnered the bulk of preseason praise, the Crimson Tide linebackers, from top-to-bottom, are quite possibly the best in the country.

If Nick Saban is hoisting yet another crystal trophy in early January, the consistent play of the linebackers will be part of the Tide's triumphant story.

Unit rating: 9.5/10

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Practice resumes for Tide, Geno Smith suspended

How much can happen in 72 hours? Just ask Nick Saban…

Alabama scrimmaged for the second and final time of the preseason Saturday afternoon, and since that evaluation, health and disciplinary measures have made for a rather turbulent E ticket ride.

Defensive back Geno Smith, who was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with DUI, did attend Tuesday's practice session. Per beat writer Andrew Gribble, and the noted blog Roll 'Bama Roll, Smith spent a respectable portion of the afternoon as a spectator.

During his post-practice media obligation, Nick Saban announced that Smith has been suspended for the contest against Virginia Tech.
Smith demoted...
In respect to injury news, Amari Cooper returned to practice for the first time in a week. Cooper, who suffered a strained foot presumably in Alabama’s initial scrimmage of preseason camp, spent last week in a black non-contact jersey working with the training staff.

Nose guard Brandon Ivory, who suffered a twisted/sprained knee during the Tide’s most recent scrimmage, was dressed for full contact but did adorn a brace on his left knee. Ivory is No. 99 in the image below.
In terms of additional disciplinary matters, linebacker Trey DePriest was back on the practice field this afternoon after serving a short suspension for violation of team rules.

In respect to the full practice overview...
During the latter portion of the week Alabama will begin game prep for the contest against Virginia Tech.

TomTom Go Confidently

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Alabama Analysis: D-line prepares to shine

While replacing the likes of Quinton Dial, Damion Square, and Jesse Williams is certainly no easy task, the 2013 Alabama defensive line has the opportunity to be a very solid unit.

As is always the case with any team and specific group, health and depth will be a “major player” in terms of success. The Crimson Tide have an abundance of talent across the defensive front, but the bulk of that talent is very young and inexperienced. The depth, or lack thereof in respect to substantial playing time, will be an issue of concern entering the season.

Prominent players

NG Brandon Ivory
DE Jeoffrey Pagan
DE Ed Stinson

Emerging talent

*DE Jonathan Allen
DE LaMichael Fanning (Returns to DE after taking reps at TE during camp)
DE Korren Kirven
*DE Dee Liner
*DE/NG A'Shawn Robinson
DE Dalvin Tomlinson
*DE Tim Williams
NG Dakota Ball (Appendectomy – missed most of camp)
NG Darren Lake
NG Wilson Love (Undisclosed medical issue – missed portion of camp)

*True Freshman
In respect to the starters in Alabama’s base 3-4 defense, barring injury, Brandon Ivory, Jeoffrey Pagan, and Ed Stinson will be the main trio.

Ivory: Backup to Jesse Williams in 2012 at nose guard. Saw action in 12 games, earned one start.

Pagan: Played in every game in 2012 as a reserve defensive end, recorded 22 tackles.

Stinson: Starting defensive end in 2012, recorded a career-high 30 tackles.

As for the backup line, expect the likes of LaMichael Fanning, Darren Lake, Korren Kirven, and Dalvin Tomlinson to fuel a talented, yet inexperienced, second unit. Given Alabama’s defensive system, the Crimson Tide rely on a solid second-team due to heavy rotations; so many players will need to be prepared for game action at any moment.

In regards to true freshmen, the jury is out, and will possibly remain out for several weeks. The first note of business is which players, if any, will receive a redshirt. The second point of contention will be the rotation in regards to the aforementioned freshmen. Alabama has four and five-star talent across the board on the defensive line, but “star ratings” certainly don’t always equate to college playing time and success. Playing time is earned…not given.

As a whole, Alabama is stout on the defensive front. While the Crimson Tide will have to "mold and shape" in terms of building "game ready" depth, virtually every team in the nation would love to have 'Bama's "problems" right about now. Roll Spoiled Roll!

Unit rating: 8/10

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Injuries build for Tide, Saban talks scrimmage

With the start of the 2013 season just two weeks away, Alabama concluded its second and final scrimmage of preseason camp earlier today.

While the Crimson Tide appeared to avoid the injury bug in the initial week of camp, the most recent week has been the virtual antithesis.
Notable ailments/injuries this preseason...

-DB Deion Belue (hamstring)
-DL Dakota Ball (appendectomy)
*-DL Brandon Ivory (sprained knee)
-DL Wilson Love (undisclosed ailment)
-DL Jeoffrey Pagan (shoulder)
**-DL Darius Paige (DQ)
***-OL Caleb Gulledge (DQ)
-RB Alvin Kamara (arthroscopic knee surgery)
-WR Amari Cooper (strained foot)

*Pending additional review
**Medically disqualified - Never participated in preseason camp
***Medically disqualified - Never participated in preseason camp -  Transferred to Jacksonville State

Tide on Tide II

In respect to scrimmage highlights/lowlights, Nick Saban met with the media following today’s events.
The Crimson Tide will now take a slight respite before returning to practice Tuesday afternoon.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Knee scope sidelines Kamara

Alabama freshman running back Alvin Kamara will be out of action for at least two weeks following an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee.

Kamara, who adorned a black sleeve during Alabama’s Wednesday practice sessions, did not participate in team drills and was essentially reduced to "spectator" status.
As for the surgery aspect, Nick Saban delivered the news during Thursday’s post-practice press conference.
For comparison purposes in respect to Kamara, Saban used Mark Ingram's knee procedure prior to the 2010 season as the example.

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The Alabama Analysis: Wealth of talent at receiver

If the 2012 edition of the Alabama Crimson Tide found an unbreakable foundation in the offensive line, the 2013 Crimson Tide will enter the season with a similar outlook when it comes to the receiving unit.

With arguably the best crop of receivers in the country, working with arguably the best pro-style quarterback in the country, ‘Bama is poised to have a statistical juggernaut when it comes to the passing game.

Familiar and proven talent will “join forces” with a group of highly touted freshmen to form what can only be considered a dream for the offense, and a certifiable nightmare for any college secondary.
Prominent players

WR - Kenny Bell
WR - Amari Cooper
HB - Jalston Fowler (RB split)
WR - Christion Jones
TE - Harrison Jones
WR - Kevin Norwood
TE - Brian Vogler
WR - DeAndrew White

Emerging talent

WR - Chris Black
TE - Malcolm Faciane
WR - Raheem Falkins
HB/TE - LaMichael Fanning (DE in 2012, worked at HB/TE in camp)
WR - Robert Foster
TE - Kurt Freitag
HB/TE - Brandon Greene (OL in 2012, worked at HB/TE Aug. 12-present)
HB/TE - O.J. Howard
WR - ArDarius Stewart

Just look at the names above. Is an “overview” really necessary? Talent is the name of the game, and Alabama is loaded at this particular skill position.

In respect to personnel replacements from last season, tight end Brian Vogler is the likely choice to fill the vacancy left by Michael Williams, while Jalston Fowler is the most likely candidate to fill the h-back spot vacated by Kelly Johnson.

As noted in the running back analysis in respect to Fowler, Alabama is still searching for someone to truly fill the “Brad Smelley” role from 2011. Smelley was the ideal h-back and perfect complement to tight end Michael Williams. Either Fowler, or freshman O.J. Howard, could fill that role this season.

As far as the wide receiver position goes, nine-deep isn’t too shabby. Injured receivers Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White will return in 2013, as well as redshirt freshman Chris Black who sustained a shoulder injury prior to the start of the 2012 season.

It was only this time last year that a faction of people thought Black, not Amari Cooper, would be the “stud” freshman of the 2012 receiving unit. In retrospect that is a massive compliment to Black, considering Cooper wrote an incredible chapter in his first season at the Capstone.
The 2013 Tide receivers have an unlimited ceiling of potential, but everything will begin on the front line. As noted in the offensive line analysis, AJ McCarron, the running backs, and the receivers, can only be as good as the protection allows. Having the next "Jerry Rice" at wide receiver is irrelevant if the quarterback has to run for his life.

If McCarron can stand tall in the pocket, Alabama has the potential to rewrite virtually every single-season (team) passing record in program history.

Unit rating: 9.5/10

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Yeldon graces SI cover, minor ailments hamper Tide

'Bama running back T.J. Yeldon has received the honor of being featured on a regional cover of Sports Illustrated.

The issue, which previews the 2013 college football season, is one of six regional covers available this week. Yeldon is the fifth consecutive Alabama running back to grace the cover of the popular magazine.
Alabama continues to battle various health issues as preseason camp continues. The Crimson Tide "appeared" to be on the "good side" in terms of the injury bug, but the second week of practice has displayed a rash of minor issues. Especially after Saturday's scrimmage...
The story was covered in the above tweet/link, but visual evidence is always an extra bonus. Based on the picture below, it appears the protection on Alvin Kamara's (26) right knee is more of the “sleeve” variety rather than a cumbersome brace.
Today will mark the final day of two-a-day practice sessions for the Crimson Tide. Alabama will enter the final segment of preseason camp next week, before beginning "game week" prep for the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cooper in black, Faciane back on track

In what has been a rather “uneventful” preseason camp in terms of the injury bug, precautionary or not, the visual of wide receiver Amari Cooper in a black non-contact jersey is bound to draw some attention.
Cooper, who “stole the show” during Alabama’s first scrimmage of preseason camp, has been hampered, to some degree, ever since the Tide resumed practice yesterday morning. Although, today was the first day Cooper adorned the black jersey.

Click the link below in the “tweet grab” to read Andrew Gribble’s account of the Cooper saga, as well as the return of once suspended tight end Malcolm Faciane.
In regards to what could be ailing Cooper, expect Nick Saban to field several questions on the subject within the hour. Courtesy of the video documentation included in the link above, Cooper appears to be working on balance and agility in the form of "hopping" drills.

5:15 p.m. UPDATE: Amari Cooper has a strained foot and is expected to miss a few practice sessions. Given the timing of the situation, one can conclude that Cooper suffered the injury during Saturday's scrimmage.

In addition to the Cooper information, Nick Saban also announced that linebacker Trey DePriest has been suspended for violation of team rules. Per Saban, DePriest will likely return to action in one week.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Alabama Analysis: Yeldon leads stable of RBs

Since Nick Saban began his tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide running back unit has been more like a stable of horses bound for the Kentucky Derby.

Within two years, if not sooner, the “fresh face” in town becomes one of the most distinguished running backs in the nation. The notable list includes, Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, and if the trend continues…Derrick Henry.

Granted high school talent and “star ratings” aren’t enough to guarantee college success, but Nick Saban’s “potential driven” attitude, coupled with the fundamental teaching of running backs coach Burton Burns, allows the crop of rushers who land at the Capstone to become some of the best backs in the nation.
Prominent players

T.J. Yeldon
Kenyan Drake
Jalston Fowler
Dee Hart

Emerging talent

Derrick Henry
Tyren Jones
Alvin Kamara
Altee Tenpenny

When it comes to the 2013 crop of backs, T.J. Yeldon is the undeniable star. Not to say that someone like freshman Derrick Henry won’t shine like a diamond, but entering the season, Yeldon is the proven asset.

In regards to the aforementioned Henry, the highly touted prospect who set the national high school record for most rushing yards in a career, has a chance to “run wild” in a twosome featuring Yeldon.
As is commonplace with Nick Saban, Alabama loves the “package deal” at running back. Ingram/Richardson, Richardson/Lacy, and Lacy/Yeldon, proved to be three of the greatest running back duos in Crimson Tide history. Given the structure of the Alabama offense, Yeldon and a “player to be named later,” potentially Henry, could share the duties in 2013.

With his freshman year under his belt, expect Kenyan Drake to garner a healthy load of the carries in 2013. Working in spot duty in 2012, Drake showed moments of greatness with his balance and ability to read blocks along the offensive front.

2013 will also mark the return of Jalston Fowler. The “bull” of a back who missed essentially the entire 2012 campaign due to a knee injury, is back, better, and 20 pounds lighter. Fowler, who will likely split time between running back and h-back will be a major asset in not only the short yardage run game, but the passing game. Fowler is a great blocker, great runner, and he comes equipped with soft hands. While “Nudie” is not likely to steal the show like a Yeldon or perhaps Derrick Henry, the redshirt junior will likely have the most productive season of his career. Fowler is the true definition of a multi-tool player.

Battle tested Dee Hart, who has suffered two devastating knee injuries during his time at Alabama, is back once again to prove that he really is the five-star recruit that had so many schools drooling in 2011. While his place in the running back rotation is unclear, Hart still has the hunger to prove himself and beat the odds that have threatened his very playing career.
Along with the aforesaid Derrick Henry, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara, and Altee Tenpenny are the true freshmen of the 2013 class. With a nice mix of balance and burst, expect at least one of the latter three players to see a respectable amount of action this season. Building depth is the key, and elite young talent makes for a rather promising future.

Unit rating: 9/10

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ross Pierschbacher gives verbal to Alabama

Cedar Falls High School (Cedar Falls, Iowa) offensive tackle Ross Pierschbacher has given his verbal commitment to the University of Alabama for 2014.

Pierschbacher, who originally gave his verbal pledge to the University of Iowa, announced his intentions to attend the University of Alabama via press release. The news of Pierschbacher's “flip” hit the wire earlier this evening.

In respect to 2014, Pierschbacher is the fifth offensive lineman of the class, and the 18th verbal commitment.

Listed as a four-star prospect per, Pierschbacher stands 6-foot-4 and tops the scale at 295-pounds.
Excluding the aforementioned Iowa, Pierschbacher selected Alabama over the likes of Auburn, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Stanford, and USC.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Alabama concludes first week of preseason camp

Excluding the obvious bumps and bruises, the initial week of preseason camp has been rather quiet on the injury front, and even the “major news” front.

Granted, the situation with Darius Paige caught fire like an alley dumpster, but in respect to actual news from the practice field, the Paige saga quite obviously belongs in a different category.

Emergency surgery

The most notable physical setback in preseason camp thus far has been a “non-football related” ailment. Earlier this week, defensive lineman Dakota Ball underwent an appendectomy. Ball, per Nick Saban, will likely be out of action for a couple of weeks.

Fanning moves to tight end

In respect to field activities, LaMichael Fanning, a defensive end in 2012, has been moved to tight end. While Nick Saban has called the move an experiment, Fanning remains at the tight end position.

Malcolm Faciane, a reserve tight end in 2012, has been suspended due to violation of team rules. With Faciane absent, the Fanning position change has obviously been done for depth purposes.
Secondary needs

Early in spring practice, wide receiver Cyrus Jones changed from jersey No. 8 to No. 5, and switched to defensive back. As Alabama completes the first week of preseason camp, Jones remains a fixture in the secondary. At this stage, it is more than safe to assume that Jones’ time at receiver is over.
Return of Nudie

Jalston Fowler, who appears to be fully recovered from a knee injury that forced him to miss the majority of the 2012 season, looks better than ever per various reports and eyewitness accounts.

Fowler, who is about 20 pounds lighter than last season, has been working with the running back unit, but also with the h-back/tight end unit. One could say, that even after two years, Alabama is still searching for the next “Brad Smelley” to truly fill the h-back role in respect to both blocking and receiving.
Tide on Tide

Saturday will mark the first scrimmage of preseason camp for the Crimson Tide. Nick Saban will hold a presser following the events of the day. - the #1 destination for headwear

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Alabama Analysis: Grooming a backup/future QB

AJ McCarron is arguably the best quarterback in the nation and quite possibly the best quarterback to ever wear an Alabama uniform.

Not too shabby for a “game manager”…

While the critics are still finding ways to discredit McCarron’s talent, the pride of Mobile continues to win and write his name in the Alabama record book.

McCarron is a gem, and like many things in life, the true impact of his time at the Capstone won’t be fully realized and appreciated until he’s gone.

While McCarron prepares to write his final chapter at Alabama, the Tide staff will groom his 2013 backup and his 2014 successor.
Prominent players

AJ McCarron – Redshirt Senior (returning starter)
Blake Sims – Redshirt Junior (backup in 2012)

Emerging talent

Cooper Bateman - Freshman
Luke Del Rio – Freshman (walk-on)
Parker McLeod - Freshman
Alec Morris – Redshirt Freshman

The health of AJ McCarron will be critical as he enters his final season at Alabama, but that much is a given. The real challenge will be grooming the “future stars” and establishing a solid backup for this season.

Is Blake Sims still the man to relieve McCarron? Yes and no…

The situation, in terms of a backup, is rather tricky. Blake Sims, simply by having more experience and time in the program, will likely be the selection, once again, to serve as the second unit quarterback. However, Sims, in all probability, will not be the man who succeeds McCarron in 2014.

The Alabama offense is predicated around a pro-style quarterback, and while Sims is a gifted athlete, he is certainly not a pro-style passer. Even when looking at Sims’ tenure at Alabama, a respectable period of time was spent at the running back position. Is Sims a fine athlete? Yes. Is Sims the starting quarterback of the future? No.
In terms of the grooming process and who will succeed Alabama’s version of Tom Brady, the keys will either be handed to Cooper Bateman or Alec Morris, with Sims potentially falling to third string or returning to running back.

Bateman, the “crown jewel” quarterback of Alabama’s 2013 signing class, and one of the most highly touted quarterbacks in the nation, is essentially a McCarron clone.

On the flip side of the coin, Alec Morris, who originally gave his verbal commitment to Wake Forest before selecting the Tide, has a year under his belt courtesy of a redshirt season in 2012.

As for 2013, depth at the quarterback position is, and will continue to be, the obvious issue. When one of the best players in the history of the program is taking the snaps, the depth, as far as “live action” snaps, will always suffer.

Can Alabama win a game without AJ McCarron as the starter? Could Bateman, Morris, or Sims play an entire game in 2013 if the cards were stacked against the Tide?

One can only hope those questions will never have to be answered.

Unit rating: 8/10

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Alabama Analysis: New look O-line for Tide

Replacing arguably the best offensive line in the country is certainly no easy task.

D.J. Fluker, Barrett Jones, and Chance Warmack have moved on to the NFL, and new ‘Bama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal will now accept the responsibility of solidifying a new starting front, while grooming the newcomers and veteran reserves.

In a college football landscape where the slightest misstep is considered a sign of failure, the 2013 edition of the Alabama offensive line will have something to prove.
While Alabama returns one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the nation, a stable of highly touted running backs, and a crop of decorated wide receivers, the “functionality” of everything offensively will be predicated on the production of the offensive line.

An inconsistent offensive front could easily turn a potentially potent Tide offense into an ill-performing jalopy.

Prominent players

Cyrus Kouandjio - Left Tackle (returning starter)
Arie Kouandjio - Left Guard
Ryan Kelly - Center
Anthony Steen - Right Guard (returning starter)
Austin Shepherd - Right Tackle

Emerging talent

Leon Brown
Bradley Bozeman
Brandon Greene
Brandon Hill
Grant Hill
Chad Lindsay
Isaac Luatua
Alphonse Taylor
Kellen Williams

While it is still too early to “cement” the starting offensive line for 2013, the key figures are in place. Since nothing is fool-proof, one can only make a projection, based on experience in the program and repetitions, that someone like Austin Shepherd, for example, will be ready to fill a void.

In respect to the reserves, expect junior college transfer Leon Brown to have a significant role. Brown, along with the likes of Brandon Greene, Brandon Hill, Chad Lindsay, Alphonse Taylor, and Kellen Williams will comprise the bulk of what should be a very talented second unit.

The 2013 edition of the Crimson Tide offensive front won’t be the best in the nation, but they do have a chance to be one of the best in the SEC. Chemistry is a vital factor, yet chemistry can't be formed in a single practice, or even a single game. The full potential of this group could very well remain a mystery until late October or early November.

As noted above, Alabama has the tools when it comes to the skill positions on offense, but those skills are only as fruitful as the production and protection of the offensive front.

Unit rating: 7.5/10


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Four in the Box: Alabama preseason notes

Day two of preseason camp

The 2013 edition of the Alabama Crimson Tide came together as a single unit for the first time during the second day of preseason practice.

Beat writer Andrew Gribble provides a quick observation of the on field activities from earlier today…

>>> Alabama practice report: Full 2013 squad comes together for 1st time

The missing man

Where is offensive lineman Caleb Gulledge? The 105 man roster for the 2013 squad was released today and Gulledge was inexplicably absent. Expect Nick Saban to field a couple of questions concerning the Gulledge situation at the next media obligation.

>>>Caleb Gulledge not at practice and is not on Alabama's 105-man roster

The new breed

Who are the new guys? The link below provides a roster of the 2013 scholarship freshmen, as well as several notable walk-ons.

>>>Alabama unveils heights, weights of newcomers; adds handful of notable walk-ons
Sign this...

Sharpies and sweat will be the order of the day come Sunday afternoon as Alabama’s annual “Fan Day” will commence at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Making the trip? Take a quick look at what to expect at this year’s event…

>>>Football Open Practice and Fan Day Slated for Sunday, August 4

Friday, August 2, 2013

Darius Paige deemed medically ineligible by Tide staff

Earlier this week it was noted that offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman would be joining the Crimson Tide football team for preseason camp rather than accepting a grayshirt which would delay his enrollment until January 2014.

While the Bozeman situation, taken alone, was positive news, the unexpected situation also meant something potentially unfortunate in respect to someone else.

After today’s initial practice, the first session of preseason camp, head coach Nick Saban announced that incoming freshman Darius Paige has been medically disqualified due to an undisclosed issue.
Via quotes obtained through, Saban made the following comments regarding the Paige situation…

"Darius Paige has medical issues that has caused our medical staff to think that it is not safe for him to play, so he has been medically disqualified," Saban said.

"He is here, and we are helping to support him. He will be on scholarship. He will get an education, but our medical staff is working with him right now to try to help improve his condition. I can't comment any further on that."

Saban also stated, as hinted in the aforementioned, that Paige’s situation was/is the direct reason that Bozeman was able to join the 2013 roster.

Shocking news? No question…

Paige, a four-star defensive lineman, was considered one of the “top prospects” in respect to the 2013 signing class. While it is obviously too early to know for certain, it appears, on the surface, that Paige’s college football career could potentially be over before it even begins.

Quite obviously shocking news in a college football world where very little is “shocking” these days.

When the story just isn't big enough...

Less than 24 hours prior to the start of preseason camp, Darius Paige posted the following tweets.
Although the tweets have absolutely no contextual value, veteran sports writer Cecil Hurt decided to “retweet” Paige’s comments in an apparent effort to connect today’s medical news with the tweets in question.

Given Hurt’s clout with fellow media personalities and “football fans” in general, the Paige tweets quickly garnered attention. Quite obviously just the way Hurt intended.

Since the tweets had no contextual value in respect to today’s “top story,” the owner of The Crimson Elephant expressed his displeasure with Hurt.
So, Mr. Hurt was simply sharing what Paige entered in the public domain?

Weak response…

For all we know the tweets in question could have been about a relationship or a friendship? The possibilities are endless, yet Hurt, quite obviously, pinned them on today's regional and national story concerning Paige's status at Alabama.

If you visit Paige’s Twitter account he recently placed something "in the public domain" about Bojangles’. Unfortunately, Hurt failed to retweet the "chicken update"...even though it actually contained contextual value.

In the old days of journalism, “connecting the dots” was an essential practice. In 2013 all you need is one dot, and you’re given free form to attach it to whatever you want. Hurt, by design, took that privilege today.

TomTom Go Confidently

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Roll Juggernaut: New team...same Saban

While it only seems like yesterday that Alabama was hoisting the crystal trophy after defeating Notre Dame, time really does fly when a dynasty is in progress.

The next stop on the “progression train” will lead the newest edition of the Alabama Crimson Tide to the gridiron Friday morning for the first day of preseason practice. With veteran leadership, coupled with fresh faces, Nick Saban will once again strive to meet the challenges presented in this ever changing world of college football.

The installation of positive team chemistry and the eradication of the sense of entitlement will forever be the struggle during this “golden age” of success at the Capstone.

August has arrived, and it is once again time for Nick Saban to “feed the beast” that currently has a chokehold on major college football.

Roll Reign Roll? ‘Bama begins 2013 season at No. 1
The camp questionnaire

In a very informative and inquisitive piece, Alabama beat writer Andrew Gribble poses five critical questions in respect to Alabama’s preseason camp. Arguably one of the most insightful articles on the wire…
Coming attractions

Next week The Crimson Elephant will begin a unit-by-unit breakdown of the 2013 squad as well as provide various “play-by-play” accounts (posts) of the on field action in respect to preseason camp.

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