Alabama Crimson Tide: Alabama

SEC lunchtime links

August, 23, 2013
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Just think, the next time you click on the SEC lunchtime links post it will be Monday of the first game week of the college football season. Ready or not, it's that time again.
  • Tennessee lost two defensive ends over the course of the preseason and spent much of the past week or so looking for their replacements. In 6-foot-5, 260-pound Jordan Williams, the Vols may have found their man to start.
  • Damiere Byrd is already the fastest player on the South Carolina roster. Now the speedy wide receiver wants to make the biggest plays in the biggest situations.
  • Matt Elam was a playmaker and an All-American at safety for the Gators last year. Marcus Maye, his replacement, worked with Elam this offseason and has impressed coaches with his work ethic so far. With the season nearly underway, Maye hopes to be the same type of presence on defense as his predecessor.
  • Vanderbilt's seniors Kenny Ladler and Javon Marshall have so much familiarity with one another that they rarely need to speak. The Commodores are hoping that experience and comfort level pays off as the two form what could be a stellar safety net for the secondary.
  • It won't be easy, but Missouri's defensive linemen must replace Sheldon Richardson's disruptive presence on the Tigers' defense.
  • Arkansas struggled to defend the pass last year, finishing dead last in the SEC in passing yards allowed. Eric Bennett and Rohan Gaines are hoping to change that. The two safeties expect big years.
  • Keihl Frazier surprised many when he dropped out of the quarterback race to start over in the Auburn secondary at safety. That move happened less than two weeks ago. And ready or not, he'll need to be ready to play just over a week from now when the Tigers host Washington State in their season opener.
  • Arie Kouandjio was starting at guard for all spring and most of preseason camp before an abrupt move to tackle last week. Austin Shepherd experienced the same thing, switched from tackle to guard in a position experiment by the Alabama coaching staff. Now, it appears that those experiments are over and the Tide can get to the job of establishing chemistry.
  • The Egg Bowl is months away, but Mississippi State went ahead and released its new snazzy uniform combination for the rivalry game against Ole Miss.
  • D.J. Welter and Lamar Louis are expected to start, but how do the rest of LSU's inside linebackers stack up?

SEC lunchtime links

August, 21, 2013
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Starters are being named, injuries are being assessed and coaches are seeking consistency. Yup, the season is drawing closer. Take a look around the SEC and see.
The eligibility dispute of No. 1-rated pocket-passer quarterback David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./North) goes before the board of directors of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association on Tuesday.

And according to Ed Sheakley, executive director of the OHSAA, it boils down to a decision made by the Cornwells to keep David out of school in 2011 when the family lived near Jacksonville, Fla.

“They made a choice to leave school,” Sheakley said in this article. “They also made a choice not to play football that year.”

Top Alabama sleepers 

January, 22, 2013
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Recruiting is an imperfect science. Sometimes scouts can see a player's potential right away. With others it takes some seasoning. Alabama coach Nick Saban has hauled in more than his fair share of blue chip prospects, but he has also made hay with some lesser known quantities. With signing day only days away, we'll take a look back at some of the undervalued prospects that performed beyond their recruiting rankings at Alabama since 2006.


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Forecasting the Tide: Wide receiver 

January, 16, 2013
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Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday until national signing day, TideNation will review each position and look at who figures to start, who could rise up the depth chart and who might be on the way. Today we’ll look at the wide receivers.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Even with a national championship in hand, the Alabama coaching staff must look back at the passing game and wonder, "What if?"

What if DeAndrew White hadn't torn up his knee against Ole Miss? Would Amari Cooper have won the starting job and become AJ McCarron's go-to target if he had?


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Alabama goes back to the basics

December, 20, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- In many ways, the start of bowl practice resembles spring and fall camp. While there aren't as many position battles going on, there is a return to an emphasis on fundamentals. The thought of facing Notre Dame hasn't quite set it. Alabama is focused on Alabama, and shaking the rust off from a few weeks away from the football field.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireNick Saban's singular focus on "The Process" has allowed Alabama to be successful in bowl games under his watch.
"It can accumulate in two days," said guard Chance Warmack. "That’s how football is. If you don’t do it every day, it starts to get really hard to getting back to how you were."

So while the world measures the tale of the tape, weighing the Alabama offensive line versus the Notre Dame defensive line, running backs versus linebackers, wide receivers against defensive backs, and so on, the University of Alabama campus does not participate. The hive mentality exists even as Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban prepares to lead his team to Miami for the BCS National Championship.

If there's anything particular that Saban is emphasizing in practice and team meetings, he's keeping it quiet.

"If there was, I wouldn't be telling you," Saban said with a smile on Tuesday night, his first news conference since beating Georgia in the SEC title game Dec. 1. "What we want to do is do the things that we do well and get back to doing those things well. We've done a lot of work on the quality control of things that we need to improve on the season, so those things will certainly be points of emphasis for us."

(Read full post)

GT, FSU after 2014 SG Tadric Jackson 

December, 18, 2012
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The City of Palms Classic is filled with intriguing prospects looking to improve their recruiting stock against some of the top talent the nation has to offer. One such player is 2014 three-star combination guard Tadric Jackson (Tifton, Ga./Tift County), who leads his squad into action against No. 6 Long Beach Poly (Calif.).

Tadric Jackson
Reggie RankinFour-star guard Tadric Jackson is a great start for Georgia Tech in the 2014 class.
Jackson is averaging 19.0 points, 6.0 assist, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game for the 20th-ranked Blue Devils. His ability to fill up the stat sheet is why a number of high major programs are trying to land this talented prospect.

"I have offers from Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Georgia, Clemson, South Carolina and Memphis,” said Jackson. “I am receiving interest from Kansas, Michigan State, NC State, Ohio State and others. I really like [the team’s that are] recruiting me."

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Tracking the Tide: Amari Cooper

December, 18, 2012
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Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, we will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player or coach and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at wide receiver Amari Cooper.

No. 9 Amari Cooper
Wide receiver
53 receptions, 895 yards, 9 touchdowns

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesAmari Cooper pounced on an opportunity to start after injuries depleted the Tide's receiver ranks.
Role in 2012: Cooper began the season as a backup receiver but progressed quickly into a starting role, thanks to injuries to Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White.

The good: The freshman didn't waste much time showing what he can do at Alabama, flashing an above-average ability to get behind defenders and catch passes in traffic. He caught his first pass against Michigan in the season opener, two more against Western Kentucky the following week and hauled in his first career touchdown a week later. It wasn't long before he was breaking the century mark in receiving yards, which he did four times this season, and catching multiple touchdowns in a single game, which he did three times.

The bad: For a rookie, there was very little to pick on in Cooper's game. He was just as adept catching short- and medium-range passes as he was going deep. He could abuse second-tier talent such as Florida Atlantic just as easily as he did the likes of future NFL safety Baccari Rambo and Georgia. The only concern might have come in the SEC Championship in what was arguably the play of the game. Cooper showed his youth on the game-winning touchdown pass from McCarron. Instead of running his route and trusting the play, Cooper looked back midway and slowed down, thinking the ball was going elsewhere. While he was able to outrun the mistake, plays like that will catch up with him.

Crystal ball: There's no doubt Alabama has a go-to receiver for years to come in Cooper. He's the most successful freshman receiver the Tide have had since Julio Jones. Cooper is a complete wideout with the talent to develop into a first-round pick by the time his career in Tuscaloosa has come to a close. He'll be further aided next season with quarterback AJ McCarron returning for his senior year and the wide receiver corps getting a much-needed boost in terms of depth with the return of Bell, White and freshman Chris Black.

Alabama 10: Week 14 power rankings 

December, 3, 2012
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The TideNation's power rankings look at the top 10 Alabama players who have raised their game. Every week, we’ll update these rankings to reflect how specific areas of the Alabama football program are faring.

Here are this week's power rankings:

1. G Chance Warmack: Saturday was the Alabama offensive line's most outstanding performance of the season. When the Tide needed yards, the men in the trenches delivered. And if one lineman best represents consistency and dominance, it's Warmack.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Alabama 32, Georgia 28 

December, 2, 2012
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ATLANTA -- A look at the good and bad from Alabama's four-point win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

THREE UP
1. Downhill running: When Alabama wanted to run the ball, there was nothing Georgia could do about it. The offensive line was punishing, pushing the line of scrimmage 3, 4 and 5 yards at a time. All Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon had to do then was find a hole and run through it. Alabama set an SEC title game record with 350 yards rushing with Lacy accounting for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Yeldon's 154 yards was just enough to get the freshman to 1,000 for the season.

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Alabama powers its way to SEC title

December, 2, 2012
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John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsEddie Lacy ran for 181 yards for Alabama.

Alabama won its first SEC championship since 2009, handing Georgia an SEC championship game loss for the second straight season.

The Tide got it done on the ground. They ran for 350 rushing yards, the most in SEC championship game history.

Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon became the first teammates to each run for 100 yards in SEC championship game history. Lacy’s 181 rushing yards are the third-most in the history of the SEC title game.

The Tide were committed to the run, as they ran the ball 51 times, two shy of the SEC championship game record of 53.

Two tight ends, too much

Alabama ran 36 times for a season-high 298 yards with two or more tight ends in the formation. The Tide ran out of this personnel package on 26 of their 34 second-half plays, gaining 199 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama averaged a season-high 5.5 yards before contact out of this formation.

AJ McCarron completed 8 of 9 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown with two or more tight ends in the formation.

Getting it done inside the tackles

Alabama outrushed Georgia 304-72 inside the tackles. The Tide averaged 8.0 yards per carry on such runs, including a season-high 13 that gained 10 yards or more. Lacy (172) and Yeldon (125) led the way for Alabama, with both running backs gaining over 100 yards inside the tackles for the second time this season. They also did it against Missouri.

Strong run game leads to play action

McCarron completed 5 of 7 passes off play action for 116 yards and a touchdown. McCarron has 11 touchdown passes off a run fake this season, six more than he had all of last season. Eight of the 11 touchdowns have been on passes thrown 20 yards or longer, including Cooper’s 45-yard touchdown against Georgia.

Georgia’s defense allowed a season-high 512 total yards, just the second time the Bulldogs allowed 500 yards in the past seven seasons. For the first time since at least 2000, they’ve allowed 300 rushing yards in three straight games.

Alabama will most assuredly face Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game on January 7, as the SEC goes for its seventh straight BCS National Championship.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- University of Alabama freshman running back Kenyan Drake did not compete in Saturday's 49-0 win over Western Carolina because of a suspension for violation of team rules, according to coach Nick Saban.

Drake, who is third on the team in rushing yards (206) and rushing touchdowns (5), was not allowed to dress out for the game.

"It wasn’t anything that was really significant or bad, but it happened once before, he was told if he did it again that he wouldn’t dress for the game," Saban said. "It is what it is. It would have been great to have him out there today -- he would have gotten a lot of playing time."

In his absence, former H-back Brent Calloway made the most of mop-up duty, running for 52 yards on seven carries. Alabama's running back corps had already taken two hits this season when both Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart went down with season-ending injuries. Both were listed above Drake on the depth chart to start the season.

It was the first game Drake had missed all season and Saban expressed hope that it won't be a recurring occurrence.

"We think he is a good person and are certainly excited about his future, but he also has to learn that if you don’t do the right thing, there are consequences for it," he said.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Crimson Tide were in need of a signature win, and on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La., they got it. Alabama beat then-No. 5 LSU for its first top-10 win of the season.

The result? The gap between the University of Alabama and the rest of the pack has widened.

Alabama (9-0, 6-0) held strong at No. 1 in the BCS standings after surviving a 21-17 win over LSU on the road. Oregon, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Georgia round out the top five.

The Crimson Tide are No. 1 in the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and USA Today coaches’ poll, which are the other two pieces of the BCS standings formula. Alabama is also ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.

Yesterday's win over LSU was enough for the computer rankings to move Alabama from No. 3 to No. 1. UA's cumulative strength of schedule is the 33rd toughest in the country.

Alabama's resume includes four solid victories, three coming away from Bryant-Denny Stadium:
  • a 41-14 win versus Michigan
  • a 44-13 win at Tennessee
  • a 38-7 win over No. 21 Mississippi State
  • a 21-17 win at No. 7 LSU

Alabama still has one regular-season game remaining against an opponent in the top 20 of the BCS standings: Saturday at home against No. 15 Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2).

Alabama can secure the SEC West crown with a win over A&M. The Aggies are coming off arguably their most compelling win of the season, throttling the No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs 38-13 on the road in Starkville.

Texas A&M has fared well in its inaugural season in the SEC. With freshman Johnny Manziel under center, the Aggies have put together a top-10 offense in yards and points per game.

Alabama also has games against a pair of sub-.500 teams in Western Carolina (1-9) and Auburn (2-7).

If Alabama were to make it to the SEC Championship Game, it would likely face No. 6 Georgia, who can secure the SEC West crown with a win over Auburn on Saturday.
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.

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SEC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12