Alabama Crimson Tide: Crimson Tide

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. -- Kevin Norwood leaped over the Honey Badger on Jan. 9 and made it known to the world how far he planned to go. The picture-perfect catch over LSU's Tyrann Mathieu was a seminal moment in Alabama's win at the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans, and could prove to be just as dramatic a moment in the junior receiver's career.

"As you saw in the championship game, he could be one of those guys that can be a great receiver at Alabama," said cornerback Dee Milliner of his teammate. "He's been working this summer and coming now to the fall camp, he's working to become one of those guys that stands out at wide receiver."

[+] EnlargeKevin Norwood
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireKevin Norwood is working to earn a starting spot for the Crimson Tide.
Milliner said Norwood is easy to overlook at first, but like his catch over Mathieu, eventually you'll get the picture.

"He has great hands," Milliner said of Norwood. "You'll probably underestimate him when you line up in front of him, but when you get going he's got great routes and when the ball comes he can go up and get it or go down and get it."

Norwood said he has spent the offseason getting stronger and improving his route running as he prepares to battle for the starting job at wide receiver. Last season, he was buried on depth chart by seniors Marquis Maze, Brandon Gibson and Brad Smelley. This time around, those players are gone and it's Norwood's time to develop into a leader on offense.

"Me and Kenny [Bell] have been looking forward to this," Norwood said. "We’ve waited, basically, three or four seasons now to be leaders."

But, according to Norwood, who said he's in the mix in the return game as well, don't expect the job to be handed to both veteran receivers on a silver platter. The competition is just now beginning to ramp up as Alabama enters its first full week of practice.

"It's a battle," Norwood said. "We're basically getting ready to put the pads on tomorrow so we can go out and play up to Coach [Nick] Saban's speed."

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Practice report: Aug. 6 

August, 6, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama football team took the field for the second consecutive days of practice in shells on Monday. It's the fifth day in a row that the Crimson Tide have practiced, and they will continue through the week before a scheduled off day on Sunday.

Here are a few notes and observations from the media viewing period of Monday's practice.

  • For the second consecutive day, no players other than quarterbacks started the practice in black no-contact jerseys. On Sunday, both Eddie Lacy and Arie Kouandjio switched into the black shirts after a few periods of practice. Lacy and Kouandjio are both recovering from offseason surgery. Coach Nick Saban has given no indication that either have had setbacks in their rehab. Lacy is nearly full-go, still not working on cutting. Saban said he hopes Kouandjio will be available for the season opener against Michigan.
  • Sunday's practice did have some casualties and Monday we got a glimpse into the fallout. Receiver Chris Black and cornerback Dee Milliner were out at practice after their respective tumbles at Fan Day, but only Milliner appeared to be back to 100 percent, working out in all drills. Black, on the other hand, was dressed out but did not work out with the other receivers. He walked through drills and jogged from station to station.
  • Quinton Dial continues to work with the first group on the defensive line with Williams and Damion Square. Dial appears to be in very good shape.

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University of Alabama players reported for the start of preseason camp Thursday morning, and what greeted them that afternoon was the first major college football poll of the season. The Crimson Tide, fresh off beating LSU in New Orleans for the BCS National Championship, came in second in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches poll.

Alabama finished just four points behind the No. 1 team in the country, LSU. Seven SEC schools, including Georgia (6), South Carolina (9), Arkansas (10) Florida (23) and Auburn (25), made the top 25.

The Crimson Tide have a lot of work to do if they're to finish the season third or better. Coach Nick Saban must overhaul three-quarters of the defense, replacing five first- or second-round NFL draft picks: linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, defensive backs Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick, and running back and former Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson.

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Never question the value of leaving a good impression. It's what University of Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley did on Jan. 9 against LSU, nailing five field goals to beat the No. 1 team in the country and give the Crimson Tide its 14th national championship.

Today, that performance was rewarded as he was named to the Lou Groza Award watch list. The award is handed out annually to the nation's best kicker by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. Texas A&M's Randy Bullock took home the honor last season.

Shelley is entering his junior year at Alabama. Last season, he connected on 21 of 27 kicks and accounted for 86 points in total -- enough to finish second on the team behind Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson. Shelley finished the season tied for 11th in the country in field goals.

He and fellow kicker Cade Foster shared placekicking duties in 2011-12, with Foster coming out for mostly long-range attempts. The unit was much maligned heading into the national championship game against the Tigers, but Shelley's strong performance was enough to quell those criticisms. Had it not been for a late touchdown by Trent Richardson in the fourth quarter, Shelley would have accounted for all of the Crimson Tide's points en route to claiming the BCS title.

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There's no reprieve when it comes to expectations. On the heels of winning the Outland Trophy Award for his play at left tackle, Barrett Jones is already being hailed as a potential award-winner at center, his new starting position. The University of Alabama fifth-year senior was named to the Rimington Award watch list today.

The Boomer Esiason Foundation hands out the award annually to the nation's top center. Jones, who started two years at guard before playing left tackle last year, hasn't started a game at center.

But while the physical evidence to name Jones one of the country's top centers might not be there, the circumstantial evidence certainly is. Despite playing three positions in four years, the 6-foot-5 Tennessee native has earned All-SEC honors twice, a unanimous All-American selection last season and has blocked for two Heisman Trophy finalists since his freshman year in 2009.

Jones joins seven teammates who were named to award watch lists this week. On Tuesday, tight end Michael Williams was named to the Mackey Award watch list, given annually to the nation's best tight end. Quarterback AJ McCarron and running back Eddie Lacy made the Maxwell Award watch list. Nico Johnson, Robert Lester, C.J. Mosleyand Jesse Williams were named to the Bednarik Award watch list.
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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AJ McCarron and Eddie Lacy were both named to the Maxwell Award watch list Monday. The award is given to the country's most outstanding offensive player. Last year, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck took home the honor.

McCarron, who was often labeled a game-manager in his first year as the starting quarterback, threw for 2,634 yards and 16 touchdowns. His 147.3 quarterback efficiency rating was fourth-best in the SEC. Lacy was a backup to Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson in 2011, but had a heavy hand in the offense when healthy. He ran for 674 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Lacy is the presumed starter at running back for the Tide this season.

The defense did even better in Monday's awards release. Nico Johnson, Robert Lester, C.J. Mosley and Jesse Williams were named to the Bednarik Award watch list, tied with LSU and Michigan State for the most nominees from any college. Last year, LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu won the award.

Johnson and Mosley figure to start at linebacker. Johnson finished fourth on the team in tackles last season and fourth in tackles for loss. Mosley tallied 37 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Lester's return to the Alabama secondary was big considering the losses of Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and De'Quan Menzie to the NFL. Lester rebounded from a strong sophomore campaign to finish sixth in tackles and tied for second on the team with two interceptions.

The Bednarik announcement made it two major watch lists with Williams' name on it. In May he was named to the Lott IMPACT Award Watch list, despite playing a new position this season. With the departure of Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry, Williams will likely slide into the nose tackle spot for the Tide.
Each week at TideNation we will speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's 2012 opponents. Today we spoke with Dave Matter, who covers all things Missouri for the Columbia Daily Tribune. He's the co-author of The Mizzou Fan's Survival Guide to the SEC.

Question: It's the place everyone starts and I'll be no different: How do you see Missouri's transition to the SEC going in Year 1?

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireIf Missouri QB James Franklin gets fully healthy, SEC defenses will be challenged.
Matter: Missouri has the roster to compete in 2012, especially in the Eastern Division. Having a returning starting quarterback is crucial assuming James Franklin will be fully recovered from shoulder surgery he underwent in March. The Tigers return enough first-team talent and experience on both sides of the ball to compete with the best teams in the SEC East, —but I'’m not convinced they have the depth to win the division while going through the grind of the SEC schedule. There will be some adjustments against the typical style of offense in the league, but Missouri has historically played better against physical, run-first, pro-style offenses, on the rare occasion it faced that kind of attack in the Big 12. Texas would be the best example of late, and MU had its best defensive game of the year last season against Texas.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The season is more than four months away, but University of Alabama coach Anthony Grant was ready to talk all things Crimson Tide basketball on Monday's SEC teleconference. Grant addressed the commitment of Devonta Pollard, the NBA hopes of JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, and more. Here's what the coach entering his fourth season in Tuscaloosa had to say:

[+] EnlargeAnthony Gran
Denny Medley/US PresswireAnthony Grant is excited about Devonta Pollard coming to Alabama.
Opening statement: "We're excited about the upcoming season. I think we have a good group of guys returning to our team. We obviously lose a few key pieces: JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell and the departure of Charles Hankerson to a transfer. But I think our guys that will be returning are looking forward to the challenge that our league will impose upon us. Obviously, it will be a new look to Texas A&M and Missouri coming into the league, playing 18 league games. I'm excited about the future of the SEC. I think we've got some very good teams, the potential for this year to be one of the best in quite a while is there. I think if you would poll coaches across the league, you'd hear consistently that this could be a banner year for our league in terms of numbers of teams that we could potentially get into the postseason."

On the commitment of Pollard: "Devonta is someone we've recruited for quite a while. Probably someone we recruited from the minute we started to recruit when I arrived. Certainly we feel like he has a chance to be a major player in our league and a big asset to our team. He brings a variety of things to our team, from his skill set in terms of his ability to score, to affect the game defensively, to play multiple positions. He's a great teammate. He has a high basketball I.Q. in terms of understanding what needs to go on in the course of a game. So, I've been really impressed getting to know him and his family over the course of recruiting him. Certainly for us, the big thing for me as we continue to build our program is that we add pieces that have an opportunity to come in and make significant contributions to our team. I think Devonta does that. He's the only guy that we signed this year, but certainly fills a need we have. We fill the needs for our program."

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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 Parrish Alford, who covers all things Ole Miss for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

Question: What has been your impression of Hugh Freeze in his first year at Ole Miss? How are players reacting to him personally, as well as his change in coaching philosophy?

[+] EnlargeRandall Mackey
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisRandall Mackey is expected to play a number of different positions in 2012.
Alford: My impression of Hugh has been one of a tireless worker with an incredibly difficult task. He's a high-energy guy who relates well with players. There seems to be more accountability for the players and therefore more effort from the players. He seems to have gotten off to a good start in recruiting. If he can keep it up, that will serve the Rebels well in the long term.

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The rundown
2011 overall record: 2-10
2011 conference record: 0-8
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

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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 Arkansas beat writer Robert Neiswanger of the Arkansas News Bureau/Stephens Media.

[+] EnlargeJohn L. Smith
Beth Hall/US PresswireNew Arkansas head coach John L. Smith will have to get his players meshing quickly for 2012.
How have players reacted thus far to a tumultuous offseason and an unexpected coaching change? And how would you gauge their response to John L. Smith?
Robert Neiswanger: The good news for Arkansas is this team has plenty of veterans. Especially on offense. There’s no doubt the spring has been challenging for everyone, but by all accounts guys like Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis haven’t let it become a distraction. And players really do like John L. Smith. They’re happy to see him back. In fact, defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell told us the players gave Smith a standing ovation when he walked into the team meeting room after being named Arkansas’ coach.

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Q&A with U-M writer Rothstein 

May, 24, 2012
5/24/12
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Each week at TideNation we'll speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's opponents this season. Today, we spoke with WolverineNation beat writer Mike Rothstein.

[+] EnlargeAl Borges
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIU-M offensive coordinator Al Borges will have his hands full against a talented Alabama defense.

Q: Michigan closed the season out strong in January, beating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. How has that momentum carried over during the spring?

Mike Rothstein: Michigan's offense, save Junior Hemingway, struggled against the Hokies. But the win definitely gave the Wolverines more confidence heading into next season. I think it also started to set up the leadership core for this upcoming season: Denard Robinson, Jordan Kovacs and Taylor Lewan. If anything, however, the Sugar Bowl gave Michigan an idea of how far it needed to go to continue to compete on an elite level nationally. The season-opener against Alabama is such a test.

Q: Denard Robinson is obviously the biggest threat on offense for the Wolverines. What do you expect from him in his senior year?

M.R.: For much of the spring, a lot was made of Robinson's improved accuracy and decision-making. Whether it is true or not remains to be seen. Robinson played one series in the public spring scrimmage and Robinson was made to look very good in the pre-packaged highlights of practices Michigan put on its website. It'll be interesting to see how he deals with pressure from Alabama.

Q: The defensive line lost a lot from last year. How do you see the defense as a whole coming together in 2012?

M.R.: The defensive line lost a lot but everyone else returns for Michigan. The secondary, which was once a weakness for the Wolverines, now has its top six cornerbacks returning from last season and also has a strong pair of starting safeties in Kovacs and Thomas Gordon. With a Greg Mattison-led defense, though, much of what he likes to do comes from defensive line pressure. It is a defensive line with three new starters and four guys playing different positions -- senior Craig Roh moved from rush end to strong side end in the offseason. Roh is going to have to have a big year as the rest of the line is untested. Jibreel Black has shown flashes, but is moving inside from an end spot. Will Campbell has always had potential, but never shown it with any consistency during his first three seasons. Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark will play rush end and should form a strong tandem. It'll be a place, however, where Alabama can attack on Sept. 1.

Q: We’ve got months to dissect everything about Alabama-Michigan. What do you think of the hype behind this game? Can it live up to the talk?

M.R.: Yes and no. If people understand that it is an opener and both teams are going to make some errors, I think it'll be a pretty good football game. Hype always concerns me because very rarely do games live up to it -- Kentucky-Indiana in last season's Sweet 16 was an exception -- but this will be two of the top teams in the nation playing. I'm expecting a competitive game.

Q: Give me your argument for Michigan beating Alabama in Cowboy Stadium.

M.R.: If Denard Robinson has improved as much as he and offensive coordinator Al Borges say he has, he'll be a tough player for Alabama to deal with, especially as it breaks in new players on defense. Robinson is usually good for two or three long runs a game. If those long runs turn into touchdowns, especially early, Michigan will have confidence.

Q: And, now, what are some obstacles that might prevent that from happening?

M.R.: Speed and overall talent. Alabama is perennially one of the top recruiting teams in the country and whenever Nick Saban looks like he might have a team taking a step back, that team ends up in the middle of the SEC conference title talk anyway. Michigan also is replacing David Molk at center and if snaps don't go well the first few series, confidence in the shotgun could become an issue with new center Ricky Barnum. There are still major questions about Robinson's accuracy so if he hasn't improved like Michigan claims, it could be a long night because he is prone to making a few bad decisions a game with the ball.


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