Alabama Crimson Tide: LSU Tigers

CB Tony Brown suffers shoulder injury

December, 31, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Cornerback Tony Brown, No. 11 in the ESPN 300 and the No. 2 prospect in Texas, suffered an injury to his left shoulder on Tuesday and likely will not play in the Under Armour All-America Game.

Brown, of Beaumont Ozen High School, was hurt while reaching to defend a pass in a non-contact coverage drill. He received medical attention at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and was transported from the practice facility by cart, his head buried in his hands and his arm in a sling.

The 6-foot, 196-pound Brown, rated as the No. 4 cornerback nationally, is scheduled to announce his college decision during the 4 p.m. telecast of the Under Armour Game Thursday on ESPN.

Brown made official recruiting visits to Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, USC and LSU.

He graduated from high school early in order to enroll in January at his college of choice. Brown is an elite sprinter and plans to compete in football and track and field in college.

3-point stance: Fresno State lurking

November, 4, 2013
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1. It’s not smart to delve deeply into BCS what-ifs. The season has five remaining weeks -- a full third of the schedule. Besides, the top of the BCS standings will sort itself out. It has every year since the FBS went to a 12-game schedule. But the race at the other end of the BCS is worth keeping an eye on. Fresno State has reached No. 16, the minimum threshold a BCS buster needs to secure a bid as long as it’s ahead of an AQ champion. Louisville and UCF of the American are No. 20 and No. 21, respectively.

2. No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Oregon turn their heads toward their biggest conference nemeses. Nick Saban is only 4-3 against No. 13 LSU while since taking over as coach of Alabama. He’s 72-10 against everyone else. No. 5 Stanford is the only team to beat Chip Kelly’s Ducks twice in his four seasons. Last season’s 17-14 overtime loss cost Oregon a berth in the BCS Championship Game. Suffice to say it left a mark. Expect coach Mark Helfrich to have something in his game plan this week. The Ducks kept it pretty vanilla last year, and it cost them.

3. When Michigan State defeated Michigan four consecutive times from 2008-11, it didn’t quite feel as if the Spartans owned the rivalry. This wasn’t the real Michigan -- coach Rich Rodriguez didn’t fit the Wolverine mold. Michigan State took advantage of Michigan, but so did a lot of teams. That’s not the case any longer. Michigan has its own (Brady Hoke) running the program. He is in Year Three. Yet Michigan State just beat Michigan 29-6, the Spartans’ biggest margin in their 5-1 run against the Wolverines. The rivalry belongs to Sparty as securely as it did in the mid-1960s run of Duffy Daugherty.

DBs from SEC blanket combine

February, 22, 2013
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites took a look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins today in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Click here to read the entire predraft series. Today: Defensive backs and special teams.

Alabama Crimson Tide


It's hard to imagine that the Alabama secondary in 2011 yielded five NFL prospects. Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and De'Quan Menzie were all drafted a year ago. Dee Milliner and Robert Lester stuck around and won one more ring before hanging it up in 2013.

(Read full post)

2014 S John Bonney talks LSU offer 

November, 16, 2012
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Before this season, Houston Lamar safety John Bonney already possessed an offer from his father's alma mater, Houston. This week, the 2014 prospect received one from his mother's, LSU.

[+] EnlargeAlabama defense
AP Photo/Bill Haber2014 safety John Bonney enjoyed his visit to LSU for the Alabama game.
The six-foot, 175-pound rising star got the news of the LSU offer on Thursday from his head coach at Lamar, Tom Nolen. It was met with excitement from Bonney, who came into the season with offers from Baylor, Houston and SMU.

"I was kind of surprised at first," Bonney said. "I didn't expect anything coming but it was pretty good and I was happy. It's great."

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The players filtered in and out, the coaches too. The football office on the University of Alabama campus was quietly buzzing as ESPN cameras documented it all on the Wednesday leading into Alabama-LSU, the primetime showdown Saturday night between two teams ranked in the top five of the BCS Standings.

The hype of the game wasn't a deterrent to the day's events, though. For players and coaches, it was more of the same: Work out, watch film, practice. Rinse, repeat.

Alabama hasn't gotten to No. 1 in the country by letting the pressure get to it. What's at stake goes without saying.

"Everybody knows the ramifications of the game," coach Nick Saban told ESPN's Samantha Steele.

The goal: stay the same, play the same. Saban doesn't want anxious players coming out of the tunnel in Death Valley on Saturday night. The environment there is capable of eating players alive if they're not prepared.

But how do you know when your players are ready? How do you know they're focused?

(Read full post)

Inside the program: Kirby Smart

October, 31, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Kirby Smart came in with scruff on his face that looked less like a 5 o'clock shadow and more like a day-after cover. In fact, it was only midday on the University of Alabama campus and the Crimson Tide's defensive coordinator was in a hurry.

It's LSU week in the football offices and Smart has his work cut out for him. His young defense has been the best in the country this season, coming in first in all four major defensive categories, but on Saturday it will face a top-5 team that knows its strength: power football.

"They really run the ball well," Smart told ESPN's Samantha Steele. "You have to stop them."

Even when they do get bogged down, the Tigers don't give up.

"They're stubborn with the run and that's toughest to defend," Smart continued.

Alabama has the bodies to match up with LSU up front. Smart said that despite losing three-quarters of his starters from a year ago, he feels UA has more depth on the line, and possibly less in the secondary. When you're going up against a team with a sometimes shaky starter in Zach Mettenberger and a consistently bruising rushing attack, that's a good thing. Not that Smart is sleeping on the passing game.

"Zach throws a good deep ball," Smart explained. The lanky quarterback who transferred to LSU from Georgia has thrown for 1,419 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Starting cornerbacks Dee Milliner and Deion Belue will be tasked with defending LSU's weapons on the outside. Milliner leads the country in passes defended, a stat that combines pass breakups with interceptions. Belue hasn't been much easier to throw on either. The junior college transfer stepped in as the starter opposite Milliner right away.

LSU coach Les Miles told ESPN on Tuesday that his team will have to throw the ball against Alabama, something the secondary is prepared for.

“We know they are going to run the ball and take shots down the field," UA safety Robert Lester said. The senior from southern Alabama has gone back-to-back weeks with an interception, his last coming in the end zone against then-undefeated Mississippi State. "As long as we’re prepared for it and we know at least something that is coming, I think we’ll be good.”

Lester is one of the few returning starters from a year ago. Smart and head coach Nick Saban had to rebuild Alabama's defense this offseason, incorporating first-time starters such as Milliner and Belue, as well as sophomores such as Trey DePriest and Vinnie Sunseri who starred on special teams last season.

Smart said he's seen a more hungry, more coachable group of players this season. The latter might contribute to the scruffy beard.

"There's a lot of work, a lot of effort," Smart explained.

In Baton Rouge, the Crimson Tide will need all the effort they can muster. Only one team will leave Death Valley on the fast track to the SEC Championship Game, and the defense is likely to be the difference in who comes out on top.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- At the University of Alabama, Goliath feels more like David. The team with the undisputed No. 1 defense in the country has a pair of stars playing with a chip on their shoulders.

"All we heard all summer is we wouldn't be good enough," UA linebacker Nico Johnson told ESPN's Samantha Steele.

Johnson said he didn't feel like the defense got the respect they deserved after losing seven starters to the NFL over the offseason. Those who returned came back during spring and fall practice ready to work hard to prove the doubters wrong, incorporating rookies like Deion Belue at cornerback, Xzavier Dickson at Jack linebacker and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix at safety.

The transition, by all accounts, has been seamless. UA is No. 1 in the country in all four major defensive categories, giving up less than 9 points per game. In fact, the defense has actually gotten better at creating more big plays, coming in this week on pace to surpass last year's number of interceptions, fumble recoveries and sacks.

But there's a standard Alabama's defense is living up to, said fellow linebacker C.J. Mosley. The standard isn't about statistics or standings. It's about blocking out the hype and getting better every week. With LSU on tap Saturday, the challenge is bigger than ever. The Tigers have a physical running game unlike anything the Tide has seen this season.

"We know what kind of game it's going to be," Mosley told Steele.

Johnson said the defense is preparing as it does for every game: "Like it's our last."

Two years ago, LSU beat Alabama with a late touchdown in Baton Rouge. That season, Alabama fell to South Carolina and Auburn in dramatic fashion as well. Johnson said he felt like the defense let them down then and he's not ready for a repeat this season.

"We feel like this year we can't let that happen," Johnson said.

Inside the Program: In the trenches

October, 31, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama center Barrett Jones wants the world to know more about the linemen of the SEC. To his way of thinking, the skill players have gotten enough love, it's time for the men in the trenches to get their due.

"We always see little kids wearing quarterback, receiver and running back jerseys," Jones pointed out. "You don't see many jerseys out there in the 60s and 70s. It's an issue that we need to address."

When Jones' Crimson Tide meet up with the LSU Tigers on Saturday night, the linemen shouldn't have much trouble standing out, though. Whenever Alabama and LSU go head-to-head it comes down to what happens in the trenches.

"Winning the line of scrimmage is probably the major factor in this game," UA coach Nick Saban said.

Alabama's offensive line will have its hands full against an LSU defensive front that features a handful of NFL prospects. The Tigers rank fifth in the country in tackles for loss and with the home crowd at Death Valley behind them, the Crimson Tide will have their backs to the wall. LSU fans are among the loudest in the county.

"We have a lot of experienced guys on the offensive line, and we've been there before, opposed to the loudness and dealing with the adversity of times you can't hear," UA guard Chance Warmack said. "I'm pretty sure it's adversity we're going to overcome."

But will the Tide have to deal with trash talk on the field? Not so, says Warmack -- there's too much respect between the two schools and too much on the line to run their mouthes.

"It's more about what they're doing, not what they're saying," Warmack explained.

"It's going to be physical all around."

Inside the Program: Saban vs. LSU

October, 31, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When Alabama and LSU meet, everything is on the line. The game between the two schools has decided the SEC West champion more often than not in recent years, and has served as a springboard to the national title.

While Alabama coach Nick Saban insists Saturday night's date with Les Miles' Tigers in Baton Rouge, La., is just another game on the schedule, the postseason implications are not lost on him.

"It's about playing a very, very good team in your division that every game you've played with them the last four or five years is of significance," Saban told ESPN's Samantha Steele.

Alabama or LSU has represented the SEC West every season but one since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007. The Tide lost the regular season matchup with the Tigers last season but met them again in the national championship game, winning 21-0.

This season's rematch seems to have the same weight behind it as last year. Alabama is No. 1 in the BCS, LSU No. 5. Whoever wins will be in the driver's seat in the division and will become instant national title contenders.

But the Tide are leaving the buildup of the game to fans and the media. Staying grounded is important in a hostile road environment.

"It is a really, really exciting game, but we've got to play within ourselves and I guess that's what he's trying to stress with us this week -- play within ourselves and play our game," UA safety Vinnie Sunseri said. "Don't get out of the game plan that we come into the game with. Don't try and do too much. Just do what we've done all season. Play your assignment, do what you need to do during a game and we'll be ok."

UA linebacker C.J. Mosley said it's all about having the right mindset. Death Valley can play tricks on opponents. How a young Alabama team handles the pressure will be key.

"The main thing is just the atmosphere of the crowd," Mosley explained. "Some teams might go down there and just not have the right mindset or (be) ready to play and might let the crowd get to them or let the adversity get to them. But being where we are, we have to make sure we stay focused and block out all the clutter and just be ready for a physical game come Saturday."
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is one to spread the credit around. Sure, his quarterback AJ McCarron is in the thick of the Heisman race, has thrown 18 touchdowns with no interceptions and faces the biggest game of the season against LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La., but it's not all about him.

Alabama's undefeated record and 40.6 points per game is a testament to the play of the team all the way around, not just the man under center.

"It's the body of work of everybody on the offense," Nussmeier told ESPN's Samantha Steele, crediting the offensive line, running backs and wide receivers.

If anything, it's been a team effort. McCarron just happens to be the face of it.

The junior quarterback from South Alabama has taken on a greater role on offense this season after leading the Tide to a national championship in his first year starting under center. Nussmeier, who is in his first season at Alabama, said McCarron came in this past offseason ready to work on the finer points of his game, things like footwork and selling the play-action pass better. It was music to the former pro quarterback's ears.

Coordinator and quarterback jelled quickly and McCarron's newfound attention to detail has paid off on the football field. The same pundits and and prognosticators that labeled McCarron a "game manager," are calling him something different this season. They're calling him one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

Not that UA coach Nick Saban is ready to abandon the title of "game manager" any time soon. To him, it's a compliment more than an insult.

(Read full post)

ROSENBERG, Texas -- ESPN 150 tight end Derrick Griffin wasn't too busy on Thursday night as he and his Rosenberg (Texas) Terry teammates cruised to a 30-0 win over Bay City (Texas) High School. Griffin, who caught three passes, made them count, as two of them were for touchdowns.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Griffin
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.comTexas A&M commit Derrick Griffin, the top 2013 TE prospect, said he's still looking at other schools.
Lining up at receiver for the Rangers, Griffin works hard to stay focused and stay involved for his team, which operates in a run-heavy offense and was playing its third-string quarterback Thursday because of injuries to the first two sustained early in the season.

But when his time comes, Griffin is ready to deliver.

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2014 LB Kain Daub opening things up? 

October, 10, 2012
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN Watch List inside linebacker Kain Daub (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) will likely be one of the top linebackers in the country next year. After the 6-foot-3, 227-pound athlete committed to LSU on July 14, he shut down his recruitment. But now he is thinking about opening things back up.

"My LSU commit is still pretty solid, but I think I'm going to open up the doors up again," Daub said. "Anything could happen, there could be a coaching change and I just want something to fall back on and not just close all doors just because I committed to LSU."

[+] EnlargeKain Daub
Courtesy of Jeff Barlis, GatorNationLinebacker Kain Daub could be one of the top defensive prospects in the class of 2014.
Daub recently transferred from Ponte Vedra (Fla.) Nease to Sandalwood High School and is now playing alongside Alabama defensive end commit DeMarcus Walker. Daub, who has more than 15 offers, said Walker continually tries to get him to switch to Alabama.

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[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images2014 WR Demarcus Bingham looks and plays a lot like former Tide star Julio Jones (above).
HOOVER, Ala. -- At first glance, it looked like Julio Jones circa 2008 was competing at the National Select 7-on-7 tournament in Hoover on Friday. The guy in the No. 8 jersey for Foley High School was split wide and making catches all over the field. He even had the dreadlocks to go with it.

However, it wasn’t Julio Jones. It was 2014 wide receiver Demarcus Bingham, and it’s the not first time he has heard the comparison.

“When I hear people compare me to Julio, it’s an honor to be compared to him because he’s in the NFL now, of course, and he came out of Foley High School. But I want to be better than him,” Bingham said.

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Each week at TideNation we will speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's 2012 opponents. Today we spoke with David Helman, who covers all things LSU for GeauxTigerNationESPN.com.

Scarborough: What is the mood around the LSU campus in the aftermath of losing to Alabama in the national championship game? Is there a sense of revenge?
Helman: I'm not sure the word "revenge" completely encapsulates what LSU fans want out of 2012. Sure, any and every Tigers fan wants to beat the Crimson Tide on Nov. 3. But it wasn't just a big rivalry game Alabama won last January -- Nick Saban and Co. completely tainted what had been one of the most impressive single seasons in college football history. Beating Bama would be huge, but for many LSU fans, a national title might be the only way to wash Jan. 9 away.

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Tide schedule preview: LSU 

July, 10, 2012
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Les MilesAP Photo/Tom HauckLes Miles had no answers in the title game, but the Tigers, like the Tide, are capable of a return trip.
The rundown
2011 overall record: 13-1
2011 SEC record: 8-0 (first, beat Georgia in SEC championship game)
Record all time against Alabama: 25-46-5

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