7. OLB Courtney Upshaw: Alabama (6-2, 265) I like him as a 34 outside backer who can play on the strong side, take on linemen at the point and also rush the passer. He's at his best attacking downhill, using his strong hands to disengage and always is around the football. Looks like a year one starter to me at the next level with scheme versatility.
Mayock said he was impressed with Upshaw in Alabama's 21-0 win over LSU in the BCS championship game and believes his skills will fit in any defensive scheme, which makes him a valuable draft commodity. "I think he's one of the few guys where you can line him up as a 4-3 defensive end and he'd be great, and I think the 3-4 teams are going to love him at outside linebacker," Mayock said. "I just watched the national championship tape the other day and what jumps off the tape is, No. 1, the talent and ability, but No. 2, they really coach them well. Their kids are so fundamentally sound it helps them at the next level."
Players anticipated Saban's arrival Monday but Upshaw also noticed his former coach was late. "It feels good," he said. "I think he does it every year to see his players. It feels great to see him again. That's the reason I went to Alabama because of him. I thank the guy a lot for what he did for me." Saban sought out Upshaw after practice. Upshaw stopped short of hugging Saban because he was drenched in sweat and he told Saban he didn't want to mess up his nice suit. Saban smiled and asked his former star linebacker if he had a good practice. Upshaw responded, "Yes, sir."
Courtney Upshaw, Alabama Upshaw was a thick 273 pounds at the weigh-in and appeared stiff during team stretches before practice. But he looked athletic during drills and held his own well in the same swing two and three point stance role that Ingram was using. He’s not going to be an elite off-the-edge rusher, but he competed hard on every repetition.
Two players from Alabama's national title winning team are mending injuries and won't be on hand, including safety Mark Barron and defensive tackle Josh Chapman. Chapman played the last part of the season with a knee ligament injury, which he further worsened during the title contest against LSU. He's now looking at a rehabilitation process that will take at least four months. Scouts were pleased to see the bulk of the Tide's senior prospects opting to participate in the Senior Bowl less than two weeks after the title game. Courtney Upshaw, Marquis Maze, William Vlachos and DeQuan Menzi are all on hand and ready to take the field for Monday's practice.
NFL scouts, coaches and front office personnel descended on Mobile, Ala., on Monday to start watching practices for Saturday's Senior Bowl, the first showcase of draft season. "We've gone through all the evaluations during the season and now we're going to get in a situation where there's nothing but players," new Titans General Manager Ruston Webster said. "We'll be looking to see if they match up with what we thought about them during the year, and see who stands out. "Usually the guys that stand out in those practices and games turn out to be good players because it's the cream of the crop. That's what you're looking for."
Maze said the choice to accept his invitation to the Senior Bowl was an easy one. But what was an easy choice for Maze would have been the wrong choice for others. Invited players who are nursing injuries frequently pass on the chance to play in the game out of concern that their draft status would suffer if they performed at less than full speed in front of a contingent of NFL scouts and coaches that annually numbers in the hundreds. In every respect, it is a business decision. Money, in the form of NFL Draft status, is made and lost on a daily basis during Senior Bowl week. "I think Marquis did a great job for us and was a great competitor, a good leader for us," said UA coach Nick Saban, who made his annual appearance at the Senior Bowl's opening South team practice at Fairhope Municipal Stadium. "Fortunately, the injury wasn't too bad. It was more than he could come back from in the (title) game, but he's rehabbing and wanted to give it a try here. We're here today to support him."
If some consider Saban to be a taskmaster, Smart considers himself fortunate to have learned under a coach who demands accountability. "To me, that's probably the greatest feature I've learned or will take with me when I become a head coach is you have to be demanding," Smart said. "You have to be able to confront people if they're not doing their job or not doing it the way you want it. "It's hard sometimes. Just like asking these players to be leaders to go in front of their peers and challenge a guy, that's tough. And these guys have done it. Coach Saban does it and it flows down into our organization. He's been a great asset to me, and I'll take a lot of things with me if I ever get the opportunity."
Next, Stewart instructed his players on the art of maintaining a uniform body posture before, during and after the break. He demonstrated that he wanted every receiver to keep his head down and over the knee while accelerating from his release, entering his break, and finishing his turn. He emphasized that the head and shoulders should stay as still as possible so defenders weren’t alerted to the beginning of a break. The receivers then ran a series of hook routes to practice the skill. Once there was actual execution of offensive plays against a defense during the practice, watching the North receivers incorporate these concepts into their performances was a revealing way to observe the session.
The key for McCarron is picking up where he left off in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game. The Alabama offensive staff showed a lot of faith in McCarron and had him come out throwing in that game to keep LSU’s defense off-balance. He responded with a 23-of-34 night for 234 yards and didn’t turn the ball over en route to earning Offensive MVP honors. McCarron will be an even bigger part of Alabama’s offense next season, and with a new offensive coordinator in place, will need to have his best offseason yet. From a pure talent standpoint, he’s the most gifted quarterback Alabama has had under Nick Saban.
Murray State head football coach Chris Hatcher announced the hiring of former Alabama standout linebacker Freddie Roach as the new defensive line coach for the Racers. Roach comes to MSU after spending the 2011 season as the defensive line coach at East Mississippi Community College. He helped the Lions to a perfect 12-0 record and the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship. "Freddie brings a wealth of championship experience to our staff," said Hatcher. "He has been successful at all levels of his career and I expect him to be a great fit to our coaching staff."
Winston also told Sentell that Auburn is no longer a factor in his recruitment and has not spoken to him for some time. "Auburn is no longer in the running," Winston said. "Auburn does not even recruit me anymore. ... If Auburn would have recruited me the way that Alabama has, they would be in my final group."
Coming off a win at the Penn State Quad Meet on Saturday, the Alabama gymnastics team is ranked sixth nationally this week while junior Ashley Sledge jumped one spot in the vault rankings, landing at No. 1. Arkansas and UCLA are tied for No. 1 in the team rankings, followed by No. 3 Utah, No. 4 Nebraska and No. 5 Oklahoma. Following the Tide at No. 6 is Georgia in seventh and Florida in eighth. Penn State, who hosted Alabama's first road meet of the season last Saturday, is at No. 9 while Oregon State rounds out the top-10. The Tide's next opponent, Auburn, checks in at No. 16.
Justin Taylor said Monday that he was still committed to national champion Alabama but was listening to other schools after head coach Nick Saban told him earlier this month that he would have to delay his signing with the Crimson Tide by a year. Taylor, a senior running back at North Atlanta High School and a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com, tore his right ACL in September and missed nearly all of his senior season with the Warriors. "It’s been kind of crazy," he said of the past few weeks. Taylor said he was contacted by Wake Forest Monday, and he has also heard from Ole Miss, Tennessee and Purdue, but one of the schools would have to make quite an impression for him to forgo Alabama’s offer.
In 2011, opposing teams ran a total of 720 offensive plays against Alabama's defense (386 rush, 334 pass). On those 720 offensive plays, Alabama compiled a total of 13 interceptions, 7 fumble recoveries, 29 sacks, and 95 tackle for loss. Adding up the turnover total and tackles for loss (sack totals are included in tackles for loss), you come up with a sum of 115 drive-killing plays. So of the 720 offensive plays ran against Alabama in the 2011 season, the Crimson Tide defense had a drive-killing play 115 times, or a ratio of one drive-killing play every 6.3 plays. The Crimson Tide's drive-killing play ratio, or DKPR is 6.3:1.
Kelly says he has "unfinished business" to attend to at Oregon, which one can only assume means building upon Oregon’s three consecutive conference championships and subsequent BCS bowl berths. Yet, I surmise the true meaning of Kelly’s words strike far deeper than simply a desire to extend his run of success. For Kelly, "unfinished business" means national championship, if not national championships, plural. It means leaving an indelible mark on Oregon football that stamps a proud legacy for himself and the program, possibly validating to Kelly that he is in fact ready to move on to the next challenge. If that isn’t the case, why stay?
In December, Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told CBSSports.com Navy would be joining the Big East as a football-only member but wasn’t sure when. The Midshipmen have made that decision. On Tuesday, Navy will announce it is joining the Big East as a football-only member in 2015, sources told CBSSports.com. After more than 130 years playing as an independent, the Midshipmen will join a conference. In 2013, the Big East is adding Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members and UCF, Houston and SMU as all sports members, but Gladchuk previously said it was unlikely Navy could solve a myriad of its scheduling problems and television contracts in that short of time. Navy has games scheduled through 2017 and television contracts with CBS College Sports and CBS Sports (Navy-Army game) through 2018, Gladchuk said.