Alabama Crimson Tide: Brent Calloway

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Nick Saban has had no trouble recruiting at Alabama. The number of four- and five-star prospects he and his staff have signed since 2007 is nothing short of staggering. Many of them are already enjoying careers in the NFL.

But which class was best? Which group of blue-chippers was the most impressive?

That’s a difficult question, but one we nonetheless set out to answer this week with a countdown of the top three classes at Alabama during Saban’s tenure, not counting the Tide’s most recent recruiting class.

No. 3 on our list in order of impact is the Class of 2011, which finished No. 2 in that season's ESPN class rankings.

[+] EnlargeCyrus Kouandjio
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsCyrus Kouandjio was an anchor on the Alabama offensive line for three seasons.
The stars: Cyrus Kouandjio didn’t say yes to Alabama first. On signing day, he told a national television audience he would sign with Auburn. But a change of heart and a desire to keep it in the family made Kouandjio go with the Tide, giving Saban his first five-star signee at Alabama. Kouandjio had the look of an All-SEC tackle from Day 1 at 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds, and he delivered on that promise, developing into one of the best at his position in the country. Along with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (the No. 2-ranked safety) and linebacker Trey DePriest (the No. 2-ranked outside linebacker), the class had plenty of headliners.

The contributors: It’s hard to imagine calling Vinnie Sunseri a “contributor” considering how he developed. But it’s important to remember that Sunseri, the son of then-assistant Sal Sunseri, wasn’t a highly thought-of prospect. He was a linebacker/safety tweener that ESPN ranked the No. 18 outside linebacker in the country. But the 5-foot-11, 202-pound athlete showed he had a nose for the football, developing into one of the best playmakers in the SEC, starring on special teams as a true freshman before developing into a heavy hitter at safety. Jeoffrey Pagan turned into an NFL-caliber defensive lineman, Ryan Kelly has the look of a solid center, and Christion Jones has turned into a home run threat as a receiver and kick returner.

The letdowns: There were plenty of misses in this class, though. Duron Carter, son of NFL legend Cris Carter, never played a down with the team after transferring to Alabama. Bradley Sylve, the No. 5 wideout in the class, hasn’t made a splash at cornerback, and Brent Calloway is no longer with the program after an arrest a year ago. LaMichael Fanning, who had the build scouts drool over at defensive end, never panned out, transferring to Jacksonville State after this past season. And most recently Dee Hart, a top 10 running back out of high school, left the team after the Sugar Bowl and was arrested by Tuscaloosa police on Feb. 16.

The results: The final tally is still coming in, but the 2011 class appears to be headed in the right direction. Junior college transfers Jesse Williams and Quinton Dial are already playing professional football, and there’s a solid chance both Kouandjio and Clinton-Dix will be selected in the first round of the NFL draft in May. Pagan and Sunseri will follow in the later rounds. If DePriest, Jones and Kelly develop into NFL prospects as fourth-year players in 2014, that would make nine total NFL players from the class, not counting what Xzavier Dickson or D.J. Pettway could do to impress scouts.

Forecasting the Tide: Running back 

January, 15, 2013
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Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday between now and 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 running backs.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Even Eddie Lacy is in the dark about who will carry the football for the University of Alabama next season. The junior running back who declared for the NFL draft last week said he's sure T.J. Yeldon will get plenty of carries, but who the No. 2 back is remains a question mark.

Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday between now and 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 tight ends and H-backs.


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Recruiting battles: Alabama vs. Auburn 

November, 20, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When you grow up in the state of Alabama, it’s either ‘Roll Tide’ or ‘War Eagle.’ There is no in between.

For recruits, it’s not that simple.

During the last century, Alabama and Auburn have waged war both on the football field and in recruiting, but the latter has increased dramatically in the last three years alone. It’s taken the rivalry to a whole new level.

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An analysis of three key plays in Alabama's 49-0 win over Western Carolina on Saturday at home -- and what those plays mean moving forward for the Crimson Tide:


Hitting the ground running



Dave Martin/Associated Press

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3 Up, 3 Down: Alabama 49, WCU 0 

November, 18, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A look at the good and bad from No. 4 Alabama's 49-0 romp over Western Carolina at home on Saturday.

THREE UP
1. Confidence gained: After back-to-back subpar performances, Alabama needed a thorough win to get back on the right track. Western Carolina was outmanned and outgunned, but it didn't matter. The Crimson Tide jumped out to a big lead and never looked back, maintaining their dominance for the full 60 minutes even when they were down to the second and third string.

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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.

Instant analysis: Bama 49, WCU 0

November, 17, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 4 Alabama got the relief it needed on Saturday, trouncing Western Carolina 49-0. After back-to-back weeks of bruises and beatings, the Crimson Tide were all smiles at home.

Quarterback AJ McCarron played pitch-and-catch for a quarter and a half before heading to the sidelines. His one touchdown pass was enough to set a school record for the most passing touchdowns in a single season (21). He was a perfect 6-for-6 passing for 133 yards.

Alabama tallied 460 yards on offense, 300 coming on the ground. Starting tailback Eddie Lacy led the team with 99 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries.

The UA defense, coming off allowing a season-high 29 points to Texas A&M a week ago, surrendered only 163 yards of offense.

Game ball goes to: McCarron set a school record on Saturday, but the game ball goes to his backup Blake Sims. The former wide receiver/running back came on midway through the second quarter and ran the offense well. He carried the ball eight times for 70 yards, in addition to completing two passes.

Stat of the game: McCarron only had to throw the ball six times, but his 29-yard touchdown pass to Christion Jones in the second quarter set an Alabama single-season record for touchdown passes in a season with 21. The junior finished a perfect 6-for-6 with 133 yards and the lone score. He has a chance to add to the mark next week against Auburn.

Unsung hero: With the amount of depth Alabama has, it’s not every day the Tide have a player who shows up on the stat sheet for both offense and defense, but Brent Calloway did just that on Saturday. The redshirt freshman rushed seven times for 52 yards, and he also recorded three tackles on special teams.

What it means for Alabama: The romp over Western Carolina was the cupcake the Crimson Tide needed. After back-t0-back games against Texas A&M and LSU, Alabama needed a weekend to get its house back in order. Starters got rest, backups got experience and plenty of points were scored.

What it means for Western Carolina: Coach Mark Speir already got what he wanted out of the matchup against Alabama -- new video editing equipment. It was the Catamounts' only money game of the season and Speir knew just what he wanted to do with the paycheck. The $475,000 payoff was a drop in the bucket for Alabama, but a needed boost for a Western Carolina football program in need of revenue.

Five storylines: Alabama-Missouri 

October, 11, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The break is over. It's back to SEC action for the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday when they travel to Columbia, Mo., to face the league upstart Missouri Tigers.

The Tigers are still looking for their first SEC win after dropping a close one to Vanderbilt last weekend. Welcoming Alabama to Faurot Field won't be the easiest way to accomplish that. On Wednesday, coach Gary Pinkel had nothing but praise for the Crimson Tide, calling Alabama a team with "no weaknesses."

At 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, Pinkel and his staff will try to find something to exploit, but the search could be difficult.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Sheldon Richardson got the attention of the college football world when he called Georgia's style of play, "Old-man football."

Missouri's star defensive lineman continued: "If we execute, nobody in this league can touch us. Period."

That was before Missouri got its first taste of SEC play and Richardson was forced to eat his words. The Tigers were blown out by Georgia 41-20 and haven't won either of their two league games since, losing by three touchdowns to South Carolina and a 19-15 heartbreaker to Vanderbilt last weekend.

Richardson, for his part, apologized to Mark Richt and has been mum on the subject since. But what the 6-foot-4, 295-pound junior has done on the field has spoken volumes to Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who pointed him out as a player to watch when the two teams meet on Saturday afternoon in Columbia, Mo.

"They’ve got some good guys," said McCarron, sizing up the Missouri defense that's totaled 15 sacks and 53 tackles for loss this season. Richardson is tied for second on the team with three sacks. "[Richardson] is a pretty good ball player. But I think they play very good, sound defense as a whole. I think everybody knows what they’re supposed to do. They do it well. Force you to make plays to beat them. They’re not gonna beat themselves."

McCarron said the defense is "sound in what they do" and, "they make you move the ball down the field.

"They’re a good defense."

Opponents have tried to slow down Alabama's offense in recent games by putting eight men in the box to try to stop the running game and pressure McCarron when he drops back to pass. In turn, Alabama has attempted more short passes, and subsequently fewer deep shots down the field.

Alabama didn't complete a single pass of more than 20 yards against Ole Miss two weeks ago, but it's not anything that has McCarron worried.

(Read full post)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- As he's done all season, Nick Saban continued to guard his Alabama Crimson Tide against an upset. He could have stepped to the podium on Monday and not said a word and gotten his point across.

But that's not his style.

[+] EnlargeRobert Lester
Butch Dill/Getty ImagesRobert Lester believes the bye week came at a perfect time for the Tide.
With the weekend off, Saban spent Saturday taking notes. No. 4 LSU lost to No. 10 Florida in dramatic fashion. No. 5 UGA was exposed No. 6 South Carolina. Even Missouri got tripped up on the road by the previously 1-3 Vanderbilt Commodores. No one was safe.

"The teams that most of you in this room make head and shoulders above other teams, obviously showed you this last weekend how badly you can be mistaken," Saban said in his opening remarks. "I know I can be mistaken and get criticized, but you guys are badly mistaken when you make teams that are like so much better than everybody else. This weekend kind of proved that your predictability is not very good.

"What it proved is the only thing predictable about college football is its unpredictability."

It wasn't quite the tirade of a month ago when Saban criticized the media for overlooking Western Kentucky -- a team the Tide beat 35-0 -- but the message was the same.

"The key to the whole thing is consistency in performance, having a group of players that are committed to doing the things they need to do to play the game at a high standard and a high level all the time regardless of the circumstance or situation," Saban said.

No one need go on radio or television to put the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide on upset alert. Saban and the coaching staff have that job covered.

"This bye week was perfect timing," said senior safety Robert Lester. "It gave the younger guys a chance to look at other teams and other great teams and them not bringing their A game to the game and actually lose a game, maybe they learn a lesson while not actually going out there and learning a lesson and it costing us."

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Finding replacements for Hart, White 

October, 8, 2012
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Blake SimsAP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisAlabama coach Nick Saban indicated that Blake Sims could get more time at running back as the Crimson Tide look to replace injured RB Dee Hart.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Early last week it became official that Alabama starting wide receiver DeAndrew White and backup running back Dee Hart would miss the remainder of the season with knee surgery. But it wasn't until Monday that the players tasked with replacing the two became clear.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said backup H-Back Brent Calloway and backup quarterback Blake Sims would be the top two candidates to replace Hart in the backfield.

"We have two guys that I think we have to get ready to some degree to be able to give us some depth at running back," Saban said. "Calloway is a guy who played running back here for a long time, who we tried to make an H-back, who we're going to give some repetition to at that position. Blake Sims has been a running back in the past, even though he's sort of a backup quarterback right now, I still think that his skill-set would allow him very easily with his understanding of the offense and previous experience to go back and be able to play that position to some degree."

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Second look: Bama 33, Ole Miss 14 

September, 30, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- After roughly 24 hours of digestion, analysis of No. 1 Alabama's 33-14 win over Ole Miss:

On offense …
Ole Miss was not going to allow Alabama to run the ball effectively. The Rebels put eight men in the box most of the night and dared AJ McCarron to throw the football.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama trailed for the first time all season when Ole Miss scored a touchdown early in the second quarter, but the Crimson Tide answered with two quick scores and held off the Rebels to win 33-14 Saturday night.


The offense looked efficient but not outstanding. The Tide never hit on the big play they’ve become accustomed to this season. Still, it was a coming-out party for freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper, and quarterback AJ McCarron was sharp yet again for the Tide.

Alabama’s defense gave up 218 yards to the Rebels’ up-tempo offense, but it continued to force turnovers with three interceptions. On the season, the Tide have forced 15 turnovers while giving the ball away just three times.

It was over when: Leading 30-14 in the fourth quarter, Alabama put the game away with a 13-play drive that resuled in a 24-yard field goal from Jeremy Shelley. The drive took more than six minutes and eliminated any chance for an Ole Miss comeback. Eddie Lacy started it with a big run, and Coooper made two key catches to convert on third down.

Game ball goes to: When wide receiver DeAndrew White went down with an injury in the first quarter, Alabama needed somebody to step up in his absence, and Cooper answered the challenge. The freshman wide receiver finished with eight catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper’s performance shows how deep the Tide’s wide receiver corps is this year.

Stat of the game: McCarron passed Brody Croyle’s Alabama record of 190 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception when he connected with Brent Calloway on a short pass in the first half. McCarron finished 22 of 30 for 180 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He now has 206 consecutive pass attempts without a pick.

Unsung hero: Starting cornerback Deion Belue never returned from the locker room for the second half due to a shoulder injury, but he made his presence felt in the first half. Belue had five tackles, including one for a loss, and one of the Tide’s three first-half interceptions. His loss was a clear blow to UA’s defense, as Ole Miss moved the ball better in the second half.

What it means for Alabama: The nation’s No. 1 team had its moments. McCarron continued to be efficient. The defense gave up yards but forced turnovers. Even the special teams got a lift from Christion Jones’ 99-yard kick return for a touchdown. Still, it wasn’t a flawless game. The biggest thing to take away might be the injuries, though. No word yet on the severity, but both White and Belue left the game.

What it means for Ole Miss: The Rebels came into the game as a heavy underdog, but they weren’t intimidated by the hostile environment or the opponent. Ole Miss hung with the Tide throughout the game and put together quite a drive in the third quarter against Alabama’s defense. More than anything, the game should give Ole Miss confidence as it dives into SEC play.

Injuries mount for Alabama

September, 8, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama's 35-0 win over Western Kentucky will look good on paper -- that is, unless you scroll down to the injury and participation report.

[+] EnlargeChristion Jones, AJ McCarron
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAlabama had plenty to celebrate against WKU, but the injury bug bit again.
No. 1 Alabama didn't escape its home debut Saturday without a few players getting dinged up. Junior running back Jalston Fowler had a scare late in the fourth quarter, injuring his knee. The Tide's No. 2 tailback had to be helped off the field and sat in pain on the trainer's table for several minutes. Players crowded around him and offered their support after seeing how serious the injury looked.

After the game, coach Nick Saban had no update on Fowler's knee and said he would get an MRI in the morning. Fowler left the game on a stretcher, emotionally distraught.

"It's really tough when you see a player, no matter what it is or who it is, go down," said receiver Christion Jones. "But one thing you have to do, is figure out what you can do to get him back right."

Sophomore linebacker/H-back Brent Calloway had to leave the game after injuring his shoulder. True freshman linebacker Reggie Ragland didn't dress out after injuring himself during last Saturday's game against Michigan.

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