Alabama Crimson Tide: D.J. Fluker
Former Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker's Twitter account caused quite the stir early this week.
The controversial tweet from Fluker's account read: "Yea I took $ n college so wat. I did wat i had to do. Agents was tryin to pimp me so I pimped them. Cast da first stone."
It was quickly deleted and Fluker later claimed that his Twitter account was hacked. His agent, Deryk Gilmore, also said that he knew who was responsible for the tweet.
“We know who did this,” Gilmore said. “This is totally fiction, but I’m waiting to get some proof. I’ve been on the phone with Twitter."He also added: “I’ll tell you, of course, this wasn’t him. It was [expletive], and it’s a shame. And anyone who believes it was him and wants to believe the worst, you go ahead and do it."
On Wednesday, Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about the tweet on the SEC coaches teleconference and said that Alabama's compliance was still looking into it, but added that he and his staff are very involved in teaching players what's right and wrong in the off-field world of college football.
"We're trying to do things the right way," Saban said. "We've tried to do everything we can to educate our players to do things the right way when it comes to selecting an agent or being involved in the NFL draft."
Saban also said that staff members will even do in-home visits with parents to help educate them as well. He's also very adamant about agents and those associated with agents not contacting players before they've used up their eligibility. Saban said he's been "very involved" with the NFL's Players Association and the NCAA to create some sort of new rules and "cause-and-effect" consequences for those who do attempt to contact players early.
"We want to do anything that we can to prevent any sort of circumstance or situation that could get a player in trouble or an organization in trouble and to get people to manage things the right way."
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- At a certain point, there's too much work to be done on the football field. So much so that the idea of competition goes out the window. With three vacant starting positions on the Alabama offensive line this spring, the idea of actually battling for playing time is unthinkable, at least to left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
The depth chart, he noted, is still open.
"Everybody is just working," Kouandjio said following Wednesday's practice. He and guard Anthony Steen are the only two returning starters on the line. "At this time, we're not even thinking about competition."
They might be the only ones, though.
If Alabama is going to have anywhere near the success it had last season, the offensive line must come together, and in a hurry. Kouandjio might have the luxury of feeling good about his position on the depth chart, but he's the exception to the rule, as Alabama must replace three NFL-caliber offensive linemen in Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker. That's not to mention the other seven former starters now plying their trade elsewhere.
At least Kouandjio would admit that practice felt different without his former teammates around.
"It feels weird," he said. "I've been with those guys for a long time."
But he's been with his brother, Arie, longer. And with Warmack gone, Arie has a chance to start alongside his twin at left guard. He'll have to fend off Kellen Williams for the spot, but so far he's the favorite to win the starting nod.
Chemistry, the glue of any good offensive line, is already set on the left side. After playing together in high school, the Koundajios don't have to say a word to communicate to one another.
"It's my brother" Cyrus said, "of course we already have camaraderie. We already understand each other.
"I love playing with my brother. He's always pushing me, and I'm always pushing him."
The camaraderie of the line as a whole won't come from either Kouandjio, though. Ryan Kelly, the man charged with replacing Jones at center, is looking to make his stamp as the leader of the unit now. And as Cyrus put it, he brings a lot to the table, rivaling Jones in at least one respect.
"He's the most professional person I know," Cyrus said of Kelly. "He's really serious, and that's the perfect center right there. Most centers have to be really tough, and I trust him 100 percent. I trust him as much as I trusted Barrett Jones last year.
"I think things are looking good for him."
Cyrus also singled out rising sophomore Brandon Greene for his improvement this offseason. He, Williams, Isaac Luatua, Alphonse Taylor and newcomers Leon Brown and Brandon Hill have added depth to the offensive line.
"He's doing so much better from last year," Cyrus said of Greene. "He got so much better over the break. His hands are where they're supposed to be, his footwork is good, he is where he's supposed to be right now."
Head coach Nick Saban, for his part, downplayed the transition taking place on the offensive line. He said new position coach Mario Cristobal is doing a "really good job" at coaching and connecting with the players.
"He’s done a good job teaching them," he said. "He’s got good energy and enthusiasm. He brings some new ideas. That’s always welcome when you have new coaches join the staff. So everything about this so far from a transition standpoint has been positive."
And like everything with the offensive line, Saban's remarks came with a caveat.
"But that's a work in progress, too," he said.
AP Photo/Romeo GuzmanEddie Lacy won't partake in drills at the NFL combine, but will perform at Alabama's pro day.
Combine results: N/A
The latest: For the next week or so until Alabama holds its pro day, NFL general managers and scouts will have to rely on game film when breaking down the top-rated running back in the draft. A small tear of the hamstring kept Lacy from participating in drills in Indianapolis, but he made the trip all the same to weigh in and take part in team interviews. ESPN's John Clayton believes there wasn't a first-round running back on the field Sunday, which could be good news for Lacy. A strong pro day -- tentatively set for March 13 -- could be the final push Lacy needs to separate himself from the rest of the class and solidify his first-round status.
OT D.J. Fluker
Combine results: 5.31 second 40-yard dash, 21 bench press reps
The latest: Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago says Fluker could be a target for the Bears with the 20th overall pick. That's how far the former Alabama right tackle has come since concerns about his weight and athleticism. Coming in at a trim 6-foot-4 and 339 pounds in Indianapolis helped nearly as much as his performance during on-field workouts. While it's still not clear whether he ends up at tackle or guard, teams are clearly interested.
In the SEC, getting a high number of early enrollees is becoming more and more of a priority for coaches. This year, all 14 SEC teams had players from their 2013 classes enroll in school early. Georgia leads the SEC with 13, Alabama has nine, and Florida and Texas A&M both have eight. In fact, 73 players from this year's recruiting class enrolled early at SEC schools in this year.
ESPN colleague Travis Haney unveiled his top impact early enrollees from around the country Wednesday, and of his five players who made the cut, three came from the SEC. Well, four, because he said defensive backs Tray Matthews and Reggie Wilkerson would make immediate impacts at Georgia.
Florida running back Kelvin Taylor, who was the nation's No. 1 running back, and Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, who was an ESPN 150 member, also made the list.
Those all make sense. Georgia is basically replacing its entire secondary outside of cornerback Damian Swann, so the Bulldogs will need all the help they can get in the secondary. Florida proved that it could survive -- for the most part -- on a very strong running game last fall, but workhorse Mike Gillislee is gone, so the Gators will need help for Matt Jones and Mack Brown. Taylor is an elusive, physical back who could find himself getting a boatload of carries this fall. And Howard is a real difference-maker at tight end. The Alabama coaches are very excited about his big-play ability and his ability to create a lot of mismatches for defenders.
Haney also gave Tennessee wide receiver Paul Harris the honorable mention nod. Harris comes in at a position of great need, and it will only benefit, well, everyone, having him on campus early.
But what other players who decided to trade in their prom tuxes for shoulder pads could make immediate impacts in the SEC? Glad you asked, because here are some other guys I think you should all keep an eye on:
Christian LaCouture, DL, LSU: With LSU losing starters at both end spots and one at defensive tackle, LaCouture has a chance to get immediate playing time. He can play inside or outside for the Tigers.
Christian Morgan, TE, Ole Miss: The Rebels lost three senior tight ends from last season's team, and the returning players lack experience, so Morgan could step right into a starting spot with a successful spring.
Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida: The Gators need receiving weapons, and Robinson might be the most versatile of the bunch on campus right now. He's the play-making type this offense desperately needs.
Junior college transfers
Leon Brown, OL, Alabama: Three starting offensive linemen are gone, which means Brown could find himself playing a lot this fall. He could be in line to take the vacant right tackle spot left by D.J. Fluker.
Justin Cox, DB, Mississippi State: Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay are gone, and Cox is already impressing people around the program. Word is he's already one of the fastest guys on the team, and could come in and start immediately at cornerback.
Za'Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky: With all the late movement in UK's class, Smith might have been overlooked, but Mark Stoops is very excited about him. He's been a monster in the weight room and could play right away this fall.
It's only fitting that the best offensive line in college football would produce some of the most intriguing prospects in the NFL draft. Alabama will likely have three offensive linemen taken in the first few rounds in April, further proof of the talent that resided in Tuscaloosa this past season.
Courtesy of Lamar CarterLeon Brown will have a chance to battle for the right tackle spot in 2013.
Now, the voice and the jersey are gone, and two rookies are poised to compete for the spot he vacated when the redshirt junior decided to leave school early and enter the NFL draft. In his place are two newcomers, Leon Brown and Brandon Hill. Neither are your typical rookies. Brown came to Alabama after spending two years at a junior college in New York and Hill arrived by way of Hargrave Military Academy, a well known preparatory school.
Both offensive tackle prospects called their experience prior to signing with Alabama necessary.
"Brooklyn was very, you know, needed," Brown said last week. "I needed to get the experience of getting a higher level of college football in. It prepared me very well to be here right now."
Said Hill, who wasn't cleared by the NCAA to enroll last year: "The military part was tough, but the football part was the same. You just worked out, and I had set things planned in and we were practicing every day. We made it each other better, but going up north, it was kind of hard to adjust to people, and it prepares you for college and being around a different culture.
"Now I’m back south where I’m home again."
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It was never a secret that D.J. Fluker would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. Alabama's hulking right tackle put his four years in and decided it was time to go. Coach Nick Saban even said way back in November on his weekly radio show that Fluker was a "a guy who is probably going to go out for the draft."
But Fluker is just one loss on an offensive line many considered the best in all of college football. Center Barrett Jones is leaving the Capstone as one the most decorated football players in the school's history. His three national championships playing three different positions on the offensive line is unprecedented. Winning the Outland Trophy as a junior and then switching to center and winning the Rimington Trophy is mind boggling.
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"Returning in 2013 will give me a chance to improve my draft status," he said in a news release, "while also providing the opportunity to enjoy another season with my teammates, coaches and our fans."
Steen was part of an offensive line that was arguably the best in the nation, producing two 1,000-yard tailbacks and accounting for more than 3,000 yards on the ground. The 6-foot-3 Mississippi native will be joined by sophomore tackle Cyrus Kouandjio on the line next season as it's likely junior right tackle D.J. Fluker will turn pro. Center Barrett Jones, the Rimington Award winner, and All-American guard Chance Warmack were both seniors this season and are likely NFL draft picks.
"We are glad that Anthony has decided to return and he'll be one of the senior leaders of our offense," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "He's done an outstanding job for us as a starter at guard on the last two championship teams and I think he can become an even better player and improve his status for next year's draft with another season here."
Saban said that while most people spoke about Jones, Fluker and Warmack this season, he expects to hear a different tune in 2013.
"I think Anthony Steen and Cyrus are two guys that have played very, very well all year long, and their time is coming," he said. "They're going to be the guys who get featured next year as being the most experienced guys, who have the most starts, who have played with the most consistency, that people will be looking at as guys who probably will receive a lot of accolades. I don't think that just because you don't get media attention or make some team that it doesn't mean you haven't been very effective as a player. A lot of times, people do a numbers count on how many guys are from this this team -- you can only submit so many guys for these teams -- but Anthony's done as good a job as anyone on the offensive line."
Steen, who has started 25 games in his career, came to Alabama as the No. 39 prospect at defensive tackle, according to ESPN.
"I enjoy Tuscaloosa and our fans way too much to leave early," Steen said. "We are also losing two great seniors this year and this will give me the chance to help get players ready for their new roles in 2013."
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There was no more dominant an offensive line in college football than Alabama's. In fact, it's hard to recall a line in recent memory that performed as well. But what made the Crimson Tide's front five so solid -- its talent and experience -- will take a serious hit next season as center Barrett Jones and left guard Chance Warmack graduate to lives in the NFL and junior right tackle D.J. Fluker likely follows their lead and strikes while the iron is hot.
With three-fifths of the offensive line gone, where does coach Nick Saban turn? Who will offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland prepare as their replacements? Will it be an incumbent or a rookie who wins the jobs of tackle, center and guard?
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Alabama: There's little doubt that Alabama has the most talented offensive line in the country. If there was, it was likely erased when the Crimson Tide bullied their way to an SEC title game record 350 yards rushing against Georgia. It was a display of just how dominant the front five can be -- D.J. Fluker bowling over defenders, Chance Warmack bursting to the next level for a key block, Barrett Jones orchestrating the action from center.
But Alabama's line hasn't been without its flaws. In the same display of dominance in Atlanta was a show of weakness. In the first half, Georgia attacked the line and had good success rushing the passer. AJ McCarron was harassed and rattled early on, forcing a number of errant passes that would force offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to turn almost exclusively to the running game.
While Georgia had one of the best pass rushers in the country in Jarvis Jones and a front seven that's arguably more athletic than Notre Dame's, the worry of a repeat exists. The Fighting Irish are balanced up front and can attack the offensive line in a number of ways. Brian Kelly's squad ranks in the top 25 in passing defense, rushing defense, sacks and red zone defense.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish might not have Barrett Jones, but they have the next best thing in Braxston Cave. The 6-foot-3, 304-pound senior was a candidate for the Outland and Lombardi awards, as well as a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, an award for the top center in the country which Jones just so happened to have won.
Notre Dame's line might not come in with the hype of Alabama's, but their effectiveness is without question. It starts with their experience as all five linemen are juniors or seniors. And all five linemen are big. The unit averages 304.4 pounds with right guard Mike Golic Jr. the smallest at a mere 295 pounds.
"They're a pretty good group," UA defensive end Damion Square said. "The center is a big, physical guy. All those guys have great size on them, great height. They protect (quarterback Everett Golson) back there pretty well. It's definitely a game we're going to have to strap it up and come to play. It's power football."
Final Verdict: Fawn over the skill players and pass rushers all you want, but this game will be decided by what happens in the trenches. Both Alabama and Notre Dame are built on the simple premise that if you win the line of scrimmage, you'll likely win the game. And while both schools have big, powerful offensive lines, there's none more overwhelming and physical than Alabama's. When Jones, Warmack and Fluker get going, there's no stopping them. Every coach that has witnessed the Bama o-line has come away with the same impression. Said Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze: "That’s why they are where they’re ranked now and why they’re in the national championship hunt."
TUSCALOOSA, Ala -- The hype began before the season had even started. Michigan head coach Brady Hoke watched film of the Alabama offensive line before the season opener and said it was the best he'd seen in college football. Barrett Jones was the defending Outland Trophy winner at center, Chance Warmack was arguably the most talented lineman in the country as a guard ,and D.J. Fluker was a potential top-20 pick at right tackle. Even sophomore left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, who hadn't started a game in his career, had credentials as the former No. 1 offensive tackle prospect in the class of 2010.
The front five didn't disappoint in Dallas as Alabama manhandled Michigan up front. The Crimson Tide tallied 431 total yards of offense in the 41-14 win, 232 of those yards coming on the ground.
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireBarrett Jones (75) and Chance Warmack give Alabama's offensive line two anchors in the middle.
Michigan learned about the offensive line's strength. So did every other team that faced Alabama throughout the season. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said, "It's one of the best I've seen," in late September, pointing toward the trenches as the reason Alabama was ranked No. 1 at the time. The Tide would slip with a loss to Texas A&M, but regained traction in the weeks that followed, securing a trip to the BCS National Championship Game with a win over then-No. 3 Georgia in the SEC title game. Alabama set a record for the most rushing yards in the conference championship with 350.
"They didn't do anything new," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "They just lined up and played inside drill for a while. ... I don't even know if they threw it, it might have been one pass and two drives or something like that, but they just lined up and knocked us off the ball."
Richt was left without answers, but Kouandjio wasn't.
"We would not be denied," Kouandjio said, citing an attitude the unit possessed since Week 1 of the season.
"We didn't want to settle for average," Warmack said. "We all want to be exceptional."
With just one game remaining, it appears as if the promise of the Alabama offensive line has been fulfilled. Jones won the Rimington Trophy for the nation's top center, Warmack and Fluker were both All-SEC selections, and UA averaged more than 224 yards per game on the ground, good enough to finish 20th in the country.
If success in the SEC starts up front, it's no wonder Alabama ended the season on top of the conference with a shot at being on top of the college football world.
No. 61 Anthony Steen
Blocked for two 1,000-yard tailbacks
Role in 2012: Steen came back from injury a season ago to play and start in all 13 games at right guard in 2012.
The good: The junior was a quiet force in the interior of the offensive line. He didn't grab headlines like center Barrett Jones, left guard Chance Warmack or right tackle D.J. Fluker. His potential wasn't hailed like that of sophomore Cyrus Koundjio. Nonetheless, Steen was effective and helped Alabama form one of the best offensive lines in all of college football. The Crimson Tide ranked 20th nationally in rushing offense (224.6 yards per game) and 15th in red zone efficiency.
The bad: If there's one area in which the offensive line struggled, it was pass protection. Alabama ranked 53rd in sacks allowed, letting quarterback AJ McCarron go down more often than he should. For that, Steen shares in some of the blame. Whether it was a lack of communication or execution, defenders were able to get into the backfield far too often.
Crystal ball: It's likely Steen will remain an interior lineman next year, but he could switch sides as Warmack heads for the NFL draft in a few months. Alabama might see an opportunity to pair two experienced linemen in Steen and Kouandjio and allow T.J. Yeldon and the rest of the stable of tailbacks to run left next season. Sophomore Arie Kouandjio, who served as the second-team right guard this year, could slide in to replace Steen should he move positions.
No. 76 D.J. Fluker
Second team All-SEC selection
Role in 2012: Fluker was a mainstay at right tackle this season. Alabama ran behind the 6-foot-6 junior for many of its record 350 rushing yards in the SEC championship game against Georgia.
The good: The Foley, Ala., native was a force in the running game. When he got all of his 335 pounds going in the right direction, he created lanes as wide as the interstate. Fluker allowed just four sacks and missed on 11 assignments this season, according to Alabama. The University also cited his 30 pancake blocks and two penalties as a case for his All-America candidacy.
The bad: Fluker improved in pass protection as the season went on, but it was still the biggest and most glaring weakness of his game. He lumbered and looked heavy-footed against more athletic defenders. Georgia's Jarvis Jones and others had success getting Fluker on his heels and running right by him. It's part of the reason Alabama's offensive line, while being hailed as one of the best in the country, ranked a mediocre 53rd nationally in sacks allowed.
Crystal ball: It's likely we'll see Fluker selected somewhere in the first three rounds of the NFL draft this April. One report already claims the junior will turn pro a year early, and coach Nick Saban said earlier in the year that his right tackle was "a guy who's probably going to go out for the draft." He has the ideal height and weight to play tackle at the next level, but quickness could be an issue. Look for either sophomore Austin Shepherd or junior college commitment Leon Brown to be in the mix to take over for Fluker next year. Laremy Tunsil, an uncommitted five-star prospect from Georgia, could figure into the equation if he chooses to come to Alabama.
Black and Belue
The score: No score, 1:23 remaining in the first quarter
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