That might sound a little crazy when you consider the high expectations the Crimson Tide will undoubtedly face yet again this fall, but it really isn't the biggest concern for a team that was an improbable play away from repeating as SEC West champs and possibly playing in its third straight BCS title game last season.
“Obviously, the first scrimmage kind of shows you who wants to really work for the spot and who doesn’t," Crimson Tide center Ryan Kelly said about the quarterback competition.
With Coker not on campus, Alabama has turned to Blake Sims, Cooper Bateman, Alec Morris, David Cornwell and Parker McLeod to share reps under center this spring. Sims, a redshirt senior, is the only one with any experience, but he changes the offense some with his mobility. While all five bring something different to the table, the plan for Alabama will be to run more of a pro-style offense. Sims might be the odd one of the bunch when it comes to that, but new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's arrival shouldn't change the basic structure of an offense Sims is very familiar with.
Alabama has only had a handful of scrimmages, but players have been at it since pre-spring 7-on-7s began. For wide receiver Christion Jones, each QB has taken advantage of every rep afforded to him since last season ended. For now, Jones said Sims, Bateman and Morris have stood out from the bunch.
“Everyone has their time where they struggle a little bit, but those three guys are the ones who overcome," Jones said. "Even when they mess up it’s not really a letdown or they get frustrated. Those three take the coaching better. The other guys still have to learn to take the coaching and take the criticism and make yourself better out of it.”
We'll be able to see a little more of that Saturday. The guys who have prepared the most and bought in more will stand out. They won't have to be perfect, but they'll have to show that they've learned something in the last few weeks.
In a perfect world for the Tide, a starter would be in place and this team could worry more about developing, but trying to find a new signal-caller means that players around them are having to do more. Linemen are having to adjust to five different patterns and cadences from each quarterback, while receivers are dealing with five different releases, five different throwing styles and five different versions of in-huddle terminology.
Jones said it isn't exactly ideal, but it is making receivers better, as they are having to concentrate even more on what they are doing in practices to accommodate for each passer.
“This spring, it’s more of focus level because we don’t know who the starting quarterback is," he said. "Either one of those five guys could be it. We have to be on our Ps and Qs and we have to be at that right spot at that right time. We don’t know what these guys are thinking right now. It makes you always be ball-ready because you never know what can happen.”
Saturday will be a good stepping stone for each quarterback, but it won't necessarily decide anything. To Kelly, it doesn't matter who is under center, he's going to be expected to excel. That's how elite programs roll, and Kelly wants each quarterback he's working with to understand that.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in that position, you’re going to be held to the standard that you’re going to do your job the best you can," Kelly said. "Otherwise, if all five guys aren’t on the same page then something bad is going to happen.”
- Georgia's director of on-campus recruiting, Daryl Jones, discusses the program's use of junior graphic design major Lisa Rader's unique drawings that it has recently begun sending to recruits, showing them half in their high school uniform and half in one from UGA.
- The Advocate's Ross Dellenger spoke with LSU's football scheduling head honcho Verge Ausberry about how the program approaches modern-day scheduling. The Tigers recently announced home-and-home series in upcoming seasons against UCLA and Arizona State.
- Alabama's Blake Sims calls the team's quarterback competition a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
- The Sept. 6 game between Vanderbilt and Ole Miss could be moved to Nashville's LP Field.
- Kentucky's coaches say their team is in a much better place at quarterback after a tumultuous 2013 season.
- Linebackers like Antonio Morrison and Daniel McMillian delivered strong play in Florida's spring practice on Wednesday.
- South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney has stated his case on why he should be the No. 1 overall pick in next month's NFL draft.
- Auburn center Xavier Dampeer's strong spring continues as he stakes a claim on becoming Reese Dismuke's heir apparent at center.
- Missouri is hoping for another dominant season from its defensive line.
- Arkansas' Korliss Marshall is adjusting to a full-time role in the backfield after playing defense most of last season.
- Texas A&M sophomore Jordan Mastrogiovanni is settling in at middle linebacker, a position group that could enjoy better depth in 2014.
- Former Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson proclaimed that he is finally healthy at the Vols' NFL pro day on Wednesday.
The jab was obvious as he gave a sly look around the room as if to say that hard work was a foreign concept to the press. One writer quipped, "Why are you looking down here?"
A smirk from Saban: "I don't know. I'm wondering."
The playful mood lasted a hiccup longer and then it was back to business as Saban said how his players were starting to worry too much about the depth chart, followed by a news flash: “We really don’t have a depth chart.”
Saban can talk about X’s and O's all day. The problem is there’s hardly anything concrete about spring practice. There’s no game film, no stat book, no players of the week. Without a depth chart, there’s only who’s getting better and who’s getting worse. And without results, that’s a matter of opinion.
But Saban isn’t fond of conjecture. He’s even less fond of appearances, apparently.
“What does appear mean?” Saban said, responding to a question about the perceived depth of his defensive line. “It just means you’ve dreamed about it and it’s there?”
A quick clarification before he fired back: “What it looks like on paper? We’ve never seen these guys play or seen them take on an SEC lineman. But it appears.”
He continued, putting a point on the matter: “That’s how we form public opinion because something appears to be that way and everyone believes it.”
Such was a sneak peek into the mind of Saban. There’s no room in there for what could be. There’s a standard he’s trying to uphold and anything that takes him away from that -- say, speculation -- isn’t tolerated.
It’s an odd conundrum to have a program that loathes appearances while at the same time being such an object of speculation. It’s like a celebrity shunning the paparazzi. You want to avoid them but they’re always there.
Alabama is nonetheless wrought with pressure from the outside. Inside the bubble of the football offices it’s all business, but everywhere around there’s immense expectations and boundless conjecture about wins, losses, championships and future stars.
Saban might claim to not have a depth chart, but every day is a constant battle for fans to determine who the starters will be on a team that loses two starting offensive linemen, two veteran receivers, two high-profile linebackers and three key contributors in the secondary. Oh, and there’s also the small matter of AJ McCarron leaving a vacancy at starting quarterback -- just don’t ask Saban about that race because he’ll tell you to hold your horses and be patient.
Take for instance the question about the defensive line. Saban might not see his group in a good light today, but when you look at the depth Alabama has up front on defense, it’s scary. A’Shawn Robinson was one of the most impressive rookies in the SEC last season. He’s joined by Jonathan Allen, another true freshman who was promising off the bench. Brandon Ivory is back at nose guard, Darren Lake returns as his backup and there are a number of options to bring in the rotation around them. Dalvin Tomlinson, when healthy, has the potential to be a game changer. And we haven’t even mentioned the return of former Freshman All-SEC choice D.J. Pettway and the eventual arrival of five-star Da’Shawn Hand.
List those names all you want, just don’t expect Saban to sing their praise. It’s simply not his way to buy into the hype.
“I’m not satisfied with the way any of them are playing, if you want to know the truth about it," Saban said of his D-line. "They’ve got to be more aggressive, physical, play with better leverage, hold the point better, rush the passer better. I didn’t think that last year was one of our best years up front, and even though we have a couple new players competing and Dalvin Tomlinson back, I think all of them have a ways to go. A’Shawn Robinson has a lot of ability, but I think we need to get him in shape and he’s got to play with better focus and intensity down in and down out to be more consistent.
"So defensively we have a ways to go to improve to get back to the level and our standard of what we like to play here.”
Though sometimes it feels like Saban is constantly fighting with reporters, he’s not. The speculation extends far beyond the walls of the media room and the pages of newspapers. It’s all the talk that drives Saban nuts because it has a way of reaching his players, inflating their egos long before they’ve earned their stripes. Remember Saban’s comment about the depth chart? That came unsolicited, a direct shot at his team one floor below in the locker room.
What Saban is fighting is the standard. While others are taking time off, he’s busy worrying about the next move, not the next question about how things appear.
How it looks on paper? He’d rather see how it looks with his eyes, and then he’ll get back to you.
Tenpenny, a former four-star recruit who was primarily a backup and special teams player for the Crimson Tide as a freshman last season, received a citation from North Little Rock Police at 2:21 a.m. on March 24. According to the incident report, Tenpenny was pulled over for having a faulty license plate light when the officer smelled what he believed to be marijuana.
The report states that Tenpenny told the officer he “smoked a blunt” with his older brother an hour earlier. The officer asked if there was any additional marijuana in the car and Tenpenny said there was not, according to the report. The officer searched the car and found a substance he suspected to be marijuana. The “whole drug quantity” was reported as two grams, to which Tenpenny allegedly said he was the owner, the report states.
Tenpenny was later released by officers, was given a citation and told to report to court on April 10 at 9:30 a.m.
"I’m aware of the situation with Altee and this is obviously not the kind of behavior we expect from our players," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "In addition to any punishment he may receive from a legal standpoint, we will have some internal discipline as well as education that he will be responsible for working through.”
The sophomore tailback has participated in spring practice at Alabama since the incident. He is expected to be one of a handful of backups to incumbent starter T.J. Yeldon in 2014.
Watching Malzahn, you got the feeling he wasn’t playing coy. This was the difference a year makes. Last spring was an anxious time for Auburn. There was no quarterback, no depth chart and no sense of expectations. Malzahn and Co. were simply trying to pick up the pieces left behind from the previous staff.
This spring has a much different tone. All one needed to do was look at the long-sleeve, collared shirt Malzahn wore after practice, the one with the SEC championship patch on its left shoulder. The building phase of Malzahn’s tenure is over. The questions are much fewer this year than the last. And with that, the sense of urgency is far more diminished.
“We've got more information now, so we're not as urgent,” Malzahn said. “We pretty much know a lot about the guys returning.”
Not every coach in the SEC is in the same enviable position.
“You've also got to keep in mind next year," Malzahn said. "You want to get your guys as much reps as you can moving forward for next year, because that's what it's all about ... but I would say, probably, for the most part, that we've got guys in the position that we want them to be in."
Not every coach can afford to look ahead this spring. Not every coach has the time.
With that said, let’s take a look at the programs with the most to accomplish this spring, ranking all 14 schools by the length of their to-do list.
Vanderbilt: Any new coaching staff has the most work to do, from determining the roster to installing new schemes on both sides of the ball. Throw in a new starting quarterback and the raid James Franklin put on the recruiting class, and it adds up to an enormously important spring for Derek Mason.
Kentucky: Mark Stoops has done a lot to turn around the culture at Kentucky. In fact, veteran defensive end Alvin Dupree said it feels like more of a football school now. But the fact remains that Stoops has a very young group to deal with, so inexperienced that true freshman Drew Barker is in contention to start at quarterback.
Tennessee: The Vols are facing many of the same challenges in Year 2 under Butch Jones. He has brought in a wealth of talent, including a remarkable 14 early enrollees. Considering the Vols lost all of their starters on both the offensive and defensive lines, there’s a lot of work to do.
Florida: The hot seat knows no reason. All is good in Gator Land right now as a new offense under a new coordinator is installed, injured players -- including starting quarterback Jeff Driskel -- return, and expectations creep upward. But a bad showing in the spring game could change the conversation quickly for Will Muschamp.
Arkansas: There’s nowhere to go but up for Bret Bielema after a 3-9 finish his first year with the program. The good news is he has young playmakers on offense (Hunter Henry, Alex Collins, etc.). The bad news is the quarterback position is unsettled and his defensive coaching staff is almost entirely overhauled from a year ago.
LSU: A depth chart full of question marks is nothing new for Les Miles, who has endured plenty of underclassmen leaving for the NFL before. But missing almost every skill player on offense (Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry) hurts. He has to find replacements at several key positions, and we haven’t even gotten into the defense.
Texas A&M: Cedric Ogbuehi can replace Jake Matthews at left tackle. The combination of Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil can replace Mike Evans at receiver. But who replaces the legend of Johnny Football? Determining a starter under center won’t be easy, but neither will be overhauling a defense that was far and away the worst in the SEC last year.
Georgia: Jeremy Pruitt should breathe some new life into a struggling Georgia defense. Having Hutson Mason to replace Aaron Murray helps as well. But off-the-field problems continue to plague Mark Richt’s program. With stars such as Todd Gurley, the players are there. The pieces just need to come together.
Missouri: After 13 seasons in Columbia, Gary Pinkel knows how to handle the spring. Maty Mauk appears ready to take over for James Franklin at quarterback, and even with the loss of Henry Josey, there are still plenty of weapons on offense. The real challenge will be on defense, where the Tigers must replace six starters, including cornerstones E.J. Gaines, Kony Ealy and Michael Sam.
Alabama: The quarterback position won’t be settled this spring, so we can hold off on that. But still, Nick Saban faces several challenges, including finding two new starters on the offensive line, replacing C.J. Mosley on defense and completely overhauling a secondary that includes Landon Collins and a series of question marks.
Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze has his players. Now he just has to develop them. With emerging stars Robert Nkemdiche, Tony Conner, Laremy Tunsil, Evan Engram and Laquon Treadwell, there’s plenty to build around. Include a veteran starting quarterback in Bo Wallace and there’s a lot to feel good about in Oxford.
Mississippi State: It’s a new day in the state of Mississippi as both state institutions have high expectations this spring. Mississippi State returns a veteran defense, a solid offensive line and a quarterback in Dak Prescott who could turn into a Heisman Trophy contender. A few months after Dan Mullen was on the hot seat, he now appears to be riding high.
Auburn: Losing Tre Mason and Greg Robinson hurts, but outside of those two stars, the roster remains fairly intact. Nick Marshall figures to improve as a passer, the running back corps is well off, and the receivers stand to improve with the addition of D’haquille Williams. The defense should get better as youngsters such as Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson gain experience.
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier would like to remind everyone that Dylan Thompson was the only quarterback in the country to beat Central Florida last season. Sure, Thompson wasn’t the full-time starter last year, but he has plenty of experience and is ready to be the man. Throw in a healthy and eager Mike Davis and an improving set of skill players, and the offense should improve. The defense has some making up to do on the defensive line, but there’s no reason to panic, considering the rotation they used last year.
HOOVER, Ala. -- When ESPN Junior 300 star Jauan Jennings visited Auburn this past weekend, he had the opportunity to take in the Tigers’ first scrimmage of the spring and watch quarterback Nick Marshall, a player not so different from himself.
Marshall played quarterback in high school but signed with Georgia as a defensive back. After committing a violation of team rules, he was dismissed from the team and ended up in junior college. One positive that came from the incident was that it gave Marshall an opportunity to return to the position he loves, and now he’s one of the top returning signal-callers in the SEC.
“He came from not playing quarterback at first,” Jennings said. “He was a defensive back. He did a lot of things I want to be able to do. A lot of coaches don’t feel I can play quarterback. A lot of fans don’t feel I can play quarterback. I want to say, ‘I told you so.’”
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- Alec Morris is right in the thick of the race to become Alabama's next starting quarterback. But apparently the big Texan has another role: punter.
- Arkansas is back at it after spring break. And while some coaches may not love the delay in the action, Bret Bielema said he's in favor of the stretched out camp.
- Reese Disumkes has already accomplished a lot in his career at Auburn. Glancing over the list of returning linemen in the SEC, he's arguably the league's best center. But this spring he's focused on improving two specific skills.
- Will Grier has wasted no time at Florida as it appears he's headed for the backup role behind Jeff Driskel. What's amazing is the former U.S. Army All-American and ESPN 300 recruit has only been on campus for a few months.
- There was a bit of false confidence among the Georgia defense last season. The result? Well you know how bad it was. Long on talent yet again, players are doing less talking this spring and more learning from new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
- Experience. Experience. Experience. Kentucky's players on defense may not have much of it, but the coaches do. The Wildcats' new special teams coordinator is the third coach with defensive coordinator experience, including head coach Mark Stoops.
- LSU defensive back Kavahra Holmes won't be back on the football field in 2014. The track star is transferring after appearing in one game last season.
- Ole Miss early enrollee C.J. Hampton says, “I know I’m not ready to step in right now.” With some time, the four-star safety could be.
- Pharoh Cooper went to South Carolina to become a defensive back. But now he's playing four roles and none of them are on defense.
The good news for Alabama is that this isn’t the first time coach Nick Saban and his staff have been through this. Just last season offensive line coach Mario Cristobal had the unenviable job of replacing three All-SEC caliber linemen: Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker. And do you remember what happened? The 2013 line actually one-upped the previous season's line in some respects. The line allowed six fewer sacks and also saw its rushes for zero or negative yards -- a good indicator of the push a line generates -- fall from 91 to 79, vaulting the Tide to fourth nationally in that category.
But, of course, there’s room to improve. Just ask Kelly.
“Communication is the most important thing,” he explained. “All 11 guys have to be on the same page. ... It starts with the offensive line. One of the things we’re trying to emphasize is get up to the ball, get down, get set. Last year, look at it, we were running the clock down to five, four seconds every time. The faster that we can get to the line, get set, let the quarterback look at what he’s got to look at, the more time we can have and we’re not rushing to make calls last-minute.”
Does that mean Alabama is turning to a more up-tempo offense under new coordinator Lane Kiffin? It depends whom you ask.
Brian Vogler, a senior tight end, said that he thought the offense would stay similar to years past, relying on the “mauler” style it was founded on. Kelly, however, asked the question: “Anytime we can run more plays it’s good for an offense, right?” He said he anticipates “a lot” of change this season, including new plays and new formations.
“Obviously, we want to practice faster every day,” Kelly continued. “As as the spread offense, stuff like that, it’s still the same. We’ve just been wanting to get more reps in practice. Obviously, reps make us better.”
More repetitions will be key for the newcomers on the offensive line, not to mention the communication among all five potential starters.
Through the first four practices, the first-team line features Kelly, Shepherd and Kouandjio at their usual positions, with Alphonse Taylor added at right guard and Leon Brown at left tackle. The two combined for 17 appearances and one start last season, the lone start coming from Brown when Shepherd was lost for the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma.
Though he can play inside, Brown might be better suited at tackle given his length (6-foot-6, 313 pounds).
Taylor, however, has all the earmarks of a punishing guard. At 6-5, 335 pounds and a low center of gravity, he looks vaguely like Warmack when he shuffles upfield in running situations.
“If you look at how big he is, he’s actually really athletic, can bend really well and he’s got a lot of power,” Kelly said. “Another young guy, doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, obviously, playing games. But I think this spring’s going to be really big for him.”
But the most intriguing prospect of all has to be Cameron Robinson, a five-star prospect and the No. 1 offensive lineman in the 2014 class. He has everything you look for in an offensive tackle: size, strength, athleticism. The 6-6, 325-pound freshman from Louisiana has shown some growing pains since enrolling in January, but he has also shown flashes of the talent that made him such a coveted recruit.
With a spring to learn, an offseason to prepare and an open position at left tackle to compete for come fall, don’t sleep on Robinson.
“He’s got a lot of ability,” Kelly said of Robinson. “He’s a big guy, can bend really well, long arms. Obviously he came into an offense where we kind of transitioning into a new style or new plays, stuff like that. So he never really learned the old one. Anytime you’re coming from high school to college it’s going to take a while to kind of get acclimated to it. Older guys have been helping him along the way, kind of showing him the ropes, because it can be eye-opening at times, coming from high school to college.”
Saban called Robinson “a young guy that’s learning and getting better every day.” But along the same line, Saban said of the entire line that he wasn’t “satisfied with where they are, but pleased with the progress they’re making.”
In other words, the line is very much an ongoing process.
“The depth chart means nothing right now,” Shepherd said. “The depth chart won't mean anything until we play West Virginia.”
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Nick Saban believes that players deserve a seat at the table when determining the future of college football.
Fresh off the heels of last week's ruling that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and have the ability to unionize, Alabama's coach chimed in with his thoughts on the matter, saying how he's long been an advocate of players' rights.
"I've always been an advocate of players being compensated the best that we can to help them," Saban told reporters following practice on Monday night. "Whatever the NCAA rule is and whatever they decide to do, I've always been an advocate of the player and the quality of life that a player has. I think that having a voice in what happens, I think, is something that the players probably ought to have."
Saban, however, said that all is not what it seems.
The coach of four national championships and 33 NFL draft picks took care to point out how schools aid in each player's development, noting how Alabama invests in "quality support staff to help players that may have a chance to go on and play at the next level."
Saban asked the question that's troubled so many in the course of the Northwestern case: "Not just the value of the scholarship, what's the value of him getting an education?"
"On a per-player basis, what we invest in the player to try to help them be successful," he said. "We spent like $600,000 last year on personal development programs -- all things that directly affect the player having a chance to be successful. I can't even tell you what our academic support budget is, trying to invest in a player and what is the value of him getting an education and graduating from school here?"
- Spring break is over at Alabama. The Crimson Tide get back to work today on rebuilding a team with its fair share of question marks.
- Arkansas was spoiled to have someone like Kiero Small at fullback last season. Now Bret Bielema and his staff are turning toward Kody Walker to see if he can handle the position.
- Angelo Blackson had the look of a difference maker heading into last season, but his play dwindled as the year went along. Now facing his final year of eligibility, he's looking to work his way back into the rotation on the defensive line for Auburn.
- Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is more than pleased to have Jeff Driskel at quarterback. In fact, the coach said it was the "luck of the draw" to get him under center.
- Reggie Davis is all in on football, not track this spring. The speedy Georgia wideout could make a difference in more areas than one.
- A "hard-hitting" scrimmage has LSU ready for next week's spring game. Les Miles didn't release the quarterbacks' stats, but there were four touchdown passes thrown.
- Find out what Dan Mullen and quarterback Dak Prescott had to say about Mississippi State's first scrimmage of the spring. Check out some stats while you're there.
- Besides the turnovers, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace says the offense took advantage of the defense and "kicked their butt all day" during the scrimmage.
It is the era of up-tempo, explosive offenses in college football, and records for scoring production are threatened or broken on an almost weekly basis. Nine teams averaged at least 40 points per game in the 2013 season, including six teams from "big five" conferences. There were as many 50-PPG offenses last season (Baylor and Florida State) as there were 40-PPG offenses four years earlier (Houston and Boise State).
We account for strength of opposition in our Offensive FEI (OFEI) ratings, a measure of scoring efficiency by possession based on starting field position. The top offenses according to OFEI are productive not only in terms of raw performance, but also have exceptional production against elite defenses. Florida State led the nation in baseline offensive efficiency last year, but since the Seminoles played only the 64th-toughest set of opposing defenses, their OFEI was a more modest No. 12 overall.
Which teams are projected to have the best opponent-adjusted offenses in 2014? Our model starts with a five-year measure of offensive success, Program Offense, which has a stronger correlation to next-year success than any other baseline factor we have tested.
As such, here are the top five offenses of the past five years according to opponent-adjusted Program Offense, and a breakdown of the challenges each will face in producing elite efficiency again this fall.
Program Offense rank (over past five years): No. 1
2013 Offensive FEI rank: No. 10
In 2013, the Bears led the nation in points per game for the season (52.4), their third straight season ranked in the top five nationally in scoring offense and in the top 10 in opponent-adjusted offensive FEI. However, their dominance early on in 2013 gave way to inconsistent production down the stretch. Baylor averaged at least 10 yards per play on 42 percent of its offensive possessions through the first seven weeks of the season, but posted a more modest explosive drive rate of only 21.4 percent the rest of the year. Oklahoma State held Baylor in check in its only regular-season loss (in late November), as the Bears punted on five of their first six drives against the Cowboys after having four or fewer total punts in eight of their previous nine games.
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The Pro Impact team, led by LSU commit and the No. 3-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300 Kevin Toliver II and defensive back Derwin James Jr., a Florida State commit, upset River City, which featured FSU quarterback commit De’Andre Johnson and South Carolina commit Sherrod Pittman, 23-14.
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New offers pique Payne’s interest
The top-ranked player at the event was defensive tackle Daron Payne, a local product, ranked No. 23 overall in the ESPN 300. He didn’t make the list of players invited to The Opening, but based on the media coverage, he was still the center of attention, both on and off the field.
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AJ McCarron is getting married.
The former Alabama star quarterback proposed to his girlfriend, model Katherine Webb, on Friday, she said on Twitter.
- Katherine Webb (@_KatherineWebb) March 29, 2014
Webb also posted a picture of the ring on the social media website.
- Katherine Webb (@_KatherineWebb) March 29, 2014
Webb graduated from Auburn in 2011 and was named Miss Alabama in '12. The pair reportedly started dating in 2012.
McCarron won three national titles in his four years with the Crimson Tide, two of which (2011, '12) came with him as starting quarterback.
He's currently prepping for the NFL draft in May. ESPN NFL draft analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. have him ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, among QB draft prospects in this year's class.
- You might have heard a little something about Johnny Manziel's pro day workout in front of the entire NFL and a national cable TV audience. The consensus was that it went really well for Johnny Football. Afterward, Manziel had dinner with the Houston Texans, who hold the No. 1 overall pick. He also is expected to meet with the Jaguars, Raiders and Buccaneers -- all picking in the top seven. Whatever happens, it's clear that Manziel has crossed over into the rare air of a pop-culture icon. His performance predictably sent Twitter into a tizzy.
- Vanderbilt associate athletic director Rod Williamson said VU has been and will continue to monitor the Northwestern football unionization case. The NLRB ruling applies only to private schools. Coach Derek Mason thinks it means changes are coming for college football, but he'd rather not speculate on what they might be.
- One South Carolina Gamecock already sees himself as a school employee, and coach Steve Spurrier says he "can see their point, a little bit." Spurrier is a longtime proponent of increasing player stipends.
- There is no law in the state of Tennessee allowing public university employees to unionize ... for now.
- Kentucky opens spring practice on Friday, and the Cats expect a boost from their redshirt players.
- Six of Athlon's top 15 wide receivers on the rise for 2014 hail from the SEC, with Auburn's Sammie Coates high on the list. The Tigers have one less receiver, as Trovon Reed moves to cornerback this spring.
- Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper gushed over how quickly QB Jeff Driskel is learning the new offense.
- LSU coach Les Miles has no qualms about recruiting middle schoolers.
- Missouri coach Gary Pinkel likes his QB competition, saying of Maty Mauk: "He's the starter right now."
- Vandy's Mason anticipates a "baptism by fire" in his first season in the SEC. The Nashville Predators will take it a little easier on Mason when they officially welcome him at their game on Sunday.
- With the departure of C.J. Mosley, Alabama has a huge void at linebacker. Junior Denzel Devall is excited about the Tide's new identity. Another linebacker, Josh Dickerson, made waves during his spring break when he dunked on his grandmother.
- Are Georgia's linebackers, with all four starters returning, the best in the SEC?
- Hey, remember ol' Ed Orgeron, the former Rebels coach? He resurfaced this week as the featured speaker at Mississippi State's coaching clinic.
- South Carolina safety Brison Williams is preparing to move to cornerback where the Gamecocks are thin.
- Ole Miss WR Quincy Adeboyejo is moving inside to slot receiver.
Saban: Peyton's Visit: 'Mutually Beneficial'
TBD Temple Vanderbilt TBD Texas A&M South Carolina 8:00 PM ET Boise State Ole Miss
TBD Arkansas Auburn TBD Idaho Florida TBD Clemson Georgia TBD Tennessee-Martin Kentucky TBD South Dakota State Missouri TBD Southern Miss Mississippi State 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 9:00 PM ET LSU Wisconsin