Alabama Crimson Tide: Penn State Nittany Lions

3-point stance: Texas two-step

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
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1. Duane Akina became the seventh assistant from Mack Brown’s staff at Texas to get another job when Stanford hired him as secondary coach. Co-offensive coordinators Major Applewhite and Darrell Wyatt, the two highest-paid assistants, remain on the market. One interesting note: Most coaching contracts see to it that a fired coach gets the agreed-upon amount. If he is hired elsewhere for less than that amount, the first school makes up the difference. Not Texas. If you take another job, Texas is done.

2. Dr. Joab Thomas, the former president of the University of Alabama and Penn State University, died last week at age 81. While at Alabama, Thomas endured the controversy of hiring Ray Perkins and Bill Curry to replace the legendary Paul Bryant. In 1990, Thomas went to State College, Pa., where the equally legendary Joe Paterno turned 65 the following year. When someone asked him about Paterno retiring, Thomas said, “You can't ask one man to replace both Bear Bryant and Joe Paterno.”

3. Jake Trotter’s post Monday described the desire of West Virginia players to turn the program around after a 4-8 record last season. Injuries contributed a great deal to the Mountaineers’ troubles. But the physical and mental burden of traveling to the Big 12 footprint will be an annual drag on West Virginia football. The good news is that in this season’s nine-game conference schedule, the 5/4 split tips to Milan Puskar Stadium. The bad news is that the season opens with a neutral-site game against Alabama in Atlanta.
1. I am willing to give Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich a pass on Bobby Petrino. Jurich hired Petrino at Louisville 11 years ago, the first head coaching position Petrino had at any level. Jurich knows the man and Jurich knows what he is getting into. I don’t think it’s a gamble at all. But here’s the unusual part of the story: how many bosses give a guy his first chance at the big time and, no disrespect to Western Kentucky, his second chance at the big time?

2. Michigan hired away Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and here’s betting both Nussmeier and Tide head coach Nick Saban were ready to move on. There was talk in Newport Beach over the weekend that former USC coach Lane Kiffin may end up running the Crimson Tide offense. It may be an ideal job for Kiffin -- Saban doesn’t allow his assistants to speak to the media. Whoever it is better know how to convert a fourth down in the red zone. Alabama’s last two losses in the SEC (Texas A&M in ’12, Auburn in ’13) hinged on the failure to do so.

3. Niners offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Penn State must be interested in each other. The university interviewed him Monday even as San Francisco began its preparation for the NFC semifinal Sunday at Carolina. Roman has no connection to Penn State, other than being a Jersey guy, which means he may be able to recruit the neighborhood. Bill O’Brien didn’t have a connection, either, and that worked out well.


Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


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As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


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3-point stance: Scoreboard watching

September, 5, 2013
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1. You probably knew this already, but inflation has struck the scoreboard. Of the 10 longest scoring streaks in the history of the game, four are current: Michigan, which has scored in 353 consecutive games, is eight short of the record set by BYU (1975-2003). There’s also No. 3 Florida (309 games), No. 9 TCU (255) and No. 10 Air Force (247). The Wolverines were last shut out, 26-0, by Iowa in 1984, one of only two shutouts that Hall of Fame coach Bo Schembechler suffered in 21 seasons in Ann Arbor.

2. Frank Fina, one of the prosecutors in the Jerry Sandusky case, told 60 Minutes Sports that he found no evidence that the late Joe Paterno took part in any effort to conceal Sandusky’s child sexual abuse. “I’m viewing this strictly on the evidence,” Fina said, “not any kind of fealty to anybody. I did not find that evidence.” Fina agreed, using Paterno’s own words, that the coach should have done more. That’s a long way from the Freeh Report. So someone with subpoenas exonerated Paterno. Maybe now NCAA president Mark Emmert will realize that he overreached. Probably not.

3. With the commitment of West Monroe, La., offensive tackle Cameron Robinson to Alabama, the Crimson Tide has 14 players in the 2014 ESPN 300, including 10 in the top 120. However, only two of those prospects are from the state of Alabama. Head coach Nick Saban has commitments from players as far away as California, Oklahoma, and Iowa. That’s a long way from 2008, when Saban found three future first-round draft picks in Alabama alone: Julio Jones, Mark Barron, and Marcell Dareus.


2013 freshman All-American candidates

August, 16, 2013
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Projecting the eventual success level of high school prospects is difficult in its own right, but forecasting which ones will play right away and make a big splash in college can be even more difficult. Sometimes, however, there are no-brainers such as South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and USC's Leonard Williams. But more often than not, there is no guarantee when it comes to freshmen making instant impacts. So many factors, from team needs to injuries to maturity, will determine who makes the biggest splash.

Headlined by Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche and Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg, RecruitingNation takes a look at the Class of 2013 members who can make the biggest impact as freshmen.

To take a look at the team, click here Insider.
The recruiting process has moved quickly for 2016 DT Rashan Gary (Scotch Plains, N.J./Scotch Plains-Fanwood).

He first tried on shoulder pads in seventh grade, gathered attention in eighth grade after grabbing MVP honors at a National Underclassmen Combine and then became a varsity starter in ninth grade. And now? He already holds seven offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Penn State.


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T.J. Wheatley Jr. (Buffalo, N.Y./Canisius) has moved around more often than an Army brat.

He's followed his father and current Buffalo Bills' assistant coach, Tyrone Wheatley, from New Jersey to Florida, from California to Michigan (in three different homes) and then, finally, to New York. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound tight end/defensive end is still unpacking some boxes after his most recent switch from Syracuse to Buffalo, when his father was promoted from college assistant to NFL coach.

But the next move the ESPN Junior 300 prospect makes? That'll finally be up to just T.J.


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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Richie Petitbon (Washington D.C./Gonzaga) didn’t know what to expect when he visited the University of Alabama this week for camp. The 2015 offensive lineman was just ready to put in some work.

He competed in both sessions on Monday. Despite the heat and feelings of fatigue, Petitbon geared up for the 1-on-1 drills, where he spent time at all three spots on the offensive line. He caught the attention of Bama head coach Nick Saban, who later called him up to his office and offered him a scholarship from the Crimson Tide.


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NORCROSS, Ga. -- ESPN 150 defensive end Lorenzo Carter seems to never stop grinning, even on the football field. His 100-megawatt smile calls to mind another affable defensive end, Michael Strahan, complete with the trademark gap. Even a shoving match with a teammate resulted in Carter falling down laughing about it later.

During the Norcross spring game on Friday, Carter and offensive tackle Horatio Walker tangled as they went at each other in the trenches. Walker held Carter’s jersey and was rewarded with a shot to the helmet.

“Well it was a run, and I don’t think Horatio respects me on the run yet, but it is all good,” Carter said between guffaws. “He tried to bully me around, but I was not having that so I had to hit him back. I was having fun out there.”


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It was a Thursday night in late April and Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mount Lebanon) was watching the NFL draft. A 6-foot-6, 295-pound prospect, Bookser is being recruited as a lineman on both sides of the ball.

Bookser was an offensive lineman by the end of the night Thursday.

“Ever since I saw the draft I decided to go O-line,” said Bookser, referring to the run on tackles in the first round, including three among the first five picks. “That was the biggest draft I’ve ever seen, so I was like if I can get that far it’ll definitely pay off.”

With more than 20 offers to his name, Bookser was already being recruited mostly as an offensive tackle, where he is ranked No. 14 nationally. As a two-way player for Mount Lebanon, Bookser likes defense a little more because he can play with a little more emotion on the defensive line. He understands why coaches project him best on offense, though.


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It's been a busy week for running back Jonathan Hilliman (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's). Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Pittsburgh are all among the schools who have been by to evaluate him.

What are the coaches looking for when they visit the 6-foot-1, 202-pound back?


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Thomas Holley’s recruitment has been a lot like his most recent visit.

The ESPN 150 defensive tackle out of Brooklyn (N.Y.) Abraham Lincoln was at Penn State for the annual spring game, which was hampered by every weather condition imaginable.

“It did a little bit of everything -- rain, snow, everything -- it was crazy,” Holley said.

The first few months of his recruitment have been the same. Holley, No. 93 in the ESPN 150, has seen it all in a short time. He went from basketball prospect to first-year football player to playing just a handful of games to landing his first offer. Now he is an Under Armour All-American with more than 20 offers.


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RN Top 10: D.C. NFTC 

April, 22, 2013
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The RN Top 10 will appear throughout the camp and combine season and rank prospects based strictly on their on-field performance at that particular event. It does not reflect their overall prospect ranking.

ASHBURN, Va. – The East Coast and mid-Atlantic states represented well on Sunday as eight players earned invites to The Opening at the Nike Football Training Camp outside of Washington, D.C. Defense ruled the day, led by two five-star prospects from Virginia.

10. Nick Scott
Fairfax (Va.) Fairfax |RB| 5-11, 180

Scott stood out among a field of backs who were overshadowed by the prospects at nearly every other position. He earned the attention of coaches for his strong play and versatility but missed the MVP award, which went to Vincent Lowe (Chesapeake, Va./Grassfield), who also posted the top SPARQ score.

Scott committed to Penn State in February over an offer from Boston College.

ESPN national recruiting analyst Craig Haubert’s take: “He’s got a great frame, and what I like about him as a Penn State verbal, he’s a versatile player. He may not run by you, but he does a good job in route-running.”


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BUFORD, Ga. -- ESPN Watch List defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) credits his blindingly pink socks and highlighter yellow shoelaces with helping him win the defensive lineman MVP award at the Atlanta NFTC on Saturday.

The award came with a brilliant gold dog tag that complemented his outfit. But what really caught Carter’s eye, and fashion sense, was the big gold box that he was handed that contained his invitation to The Opening.


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