"What about Alabama's SEC-leading 3-point defense?" Grant was asked by one reporter. "We've lost three games in a row," Grant said. "That's the only stat I care about." That sums up tonight's game succinctly. The Crimson Tide, one of the teams picked as an SEC contender in the preseason, is now 2-3 in the league with a three-game losing streak, having dropped games against Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Those are three of the better teams in the SEC, and even though UA is now 13-6, its RPI - currently at No. 24 nationally - has suffered no great harm. But the schedule gets less rigorous now. The Crimson Tide needs to start winning again, particularly against teams like South Carolina. The Gamecocks are 8-10, 0-4 in the SEC and are currently No. 194 in the RPI, so a loss to them would be a vicious blow to UA's NCAA hopes, even with the game being played in Columbia, S.C.
Grant was asked if shooters are born or made. "Basketball's a game of repetition," he said. "Anything you do that requires repetition, you can get better at." How much of shooting is mental? Is it important for a player to sink one of his first shots to boost confidence? "Well, I was never considered a shooter," Grant said with a grin. "You'll probably have to ask a shooter." Freshman guard Trevor Lacey can identify with what Mitchell is going through. "Slumps just happen," Lacey said. "It could be something we don't know about."
When South Carolina takes the floor at the Colonial Life Arena Wednesday night against Alabama, it does so as the only Southeastern Conference team without a league win. Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn says his team remains confident, but it will have to make sure to clean up a deficiency that surfaced Saturday at Auburn: USC had 23 turnovers. "We had a stretch the other day where they made their run and it was in large part due to turnovers on our part," Horn said. "(We’d have) a great defensive possession, get a rebound, get a ball knocked away from you – little things you can’t let happen. "When those things start to happen, then I think confidence obviously becomes an issue.
Upshaw is working at defensive end after playing a hybrid linebacker/end role in the Tide’s 3-4 defense. He already has an impressive resume: Butkus and Lombardi Award semifinalist, defensive MVP of the national championship game against LSU, second-team AP All-American. He has been in demand in Mobile. Officials from several teams stopped to chat after Monday’s opening practice, then a security guard dropped by summoning him to visit with Saban. Upshaw said moving up to the line is an easy transition since he spent plenty of time there at Alabama. He said he still wants to prove that he can do more than just use his power and explosiveness to try to plow through opposing offensive linemen with the bull rush.
Former UA cornerback DeQuan Menzie said he has been pleased overall with his performance after two days of practice working against the South receivers. Among them has been former Florida running back Chris Rainey, who has been asked to practice at wide receiver. "It's been a great experience coming down here with all these players, especially after playing against some of them," said Menzie. "It's crazy here." Menzie also revealed he has marriage plans.
"He called me and asked if I wanted to play (defense)," Sylve recalled. "I was like, 'I don't know, Coach, I'm feeling this wide receiver position.' Then he said, 'I really need you to come on this other side,' and I said, 'I'll go ahead and do this for you' - even though that's what I wanted to do anyway. "He said it was up to me whether I wanted to play DB or not, so I told him that's what I felt comfortable at and that's where I wanted to play. So I moved over, and that's where I'm at now." At cornerback going into 2012, Alabama will be replacing Dre Kirkpatrick, who opted out of his senior season to make himself eligible for the National Football League draft, and both DeQuan Menzie and Phelon Jones, who just completed their senior seasons. The early returns on Sylve's chances to work into the playing rotation are positive. "Bradley did a great job transitioning over," UA defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said before the BCS game. "He didn't go to camp with us. He was a wideout, and now he's becoming a good corner for us, taking a lot of reps.
Last July, Alabama running back Trent Richardson agreed to participate in a project for The Mag’s college football preview. We asked him to write down his goals and to copy them each day for the rest of the year. "I taped them to my bathroom mirror, so every morning they were right there," he says. "It was hard to look myself in the mirror after we lost to LSU in November. During the BCS game, I had a mirror with me so I could remind myself of my goals. I wanted to look at myself the next day knowing I helped us win a national title."
What Alabama was missing this past season was that big, physical receiver who could go over the middle and keep the chains moving on key third-down plays. Obviously, Julio Jones was that guy in the past, and he was also an explosive big-play threat. It’s premature to think that anybody is ready to fill his shoes, but the wild card next season is Duron Carter. He wasn’t eligible to play this season and redshirted, but wowed more than once in practice with his ability to go get the football. The 6-4, 210-pound Carter figures to make an immediate impact next season as long as there are no more snags with his eligibility. This will undoubtedly be a big spring for him. Two other guys poised to make big moves next season are DeAndrew White and Christion Jones, both of whom will be sophomores.
Not surprisingly, Alabama’s 12 ESPNU 150 commitments are the most of any team. Florida State is the closest to that number with 10. Even with a great recruiting class already rounded up by the Crimson Tide, they aren’t done yet. Here is a few guys that Saban and company are still going after with just a little over a week left until National Signing Day on February 1st.
What is Saban’s plan for Justin? "The plan is to make sure he gets some rehab for his knee. They said he can take some classes at a community college in the fall, three or six hours, where he won’t be a full-time student. Or he can go to a prep school if he wants. Actually, it was Justin who brought up the idea of a prep school. Coach Saban is fine with it as long as the doctors clear him to play. They don’t want him to get him injured again. They don’t want him playing again until he’s 100 percent. Alabama said they have contacts at prep schools if he wants to go there in the fall. But Justin is already academically qualified. He doesn’t really have to go to a prep school."
Did Saban mention anything about the public reaction to the situation? "Yes. He said he caught a lot of flack for it and took a lot of criticism. He wasn’t mad at Justin for anything. He said stuff like this is just the nature of the beast. That’s really all that was said about it."
Everyone likes to mock the coverage of college football recruiting as pointless, overhyped and a testament to all that is wrong with modern sports. They may very well be correct. For all its obvious issues, it’s still something fun to follow, even if you don’t have a specific team in the hunt. So this week, the Dan Wetzel Podcast welcomes Mike Farrell, the lead recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. If you like recruiting, this discussion is about as good as it gets.
Recruiting is all about hope, and posts like this are designed to dash hope to a certain degree. Still, it is unfair to most prospects to expect something like Julio Jones or Sammy Watkins right out of the gates. The median player is more like Terrance Toliver, Patrick Turner or, if you are lucky, DeVier Posey. A good percentage of blue-chip receivers will become stars eventually, but few will do it as freshmen. Receivers appear more advanced and are more likely to make quick contributions, but as is typically the case with recruiting, tamping down expectations now will result in less anxiety and, let's be honest, hurt feelings later. The 2011 breakthrough of freshman receivers may have been a sign of things to come -- we can certainly figure that the prevalence of the spread offense in high schools could result in receivers more advanced than in a previous day -- but for now, it was a one-year surprise.
This week, Shanahan's Redskins staff is coaching the South team, which has five Alabama players. He said he knows what the SEC offers based on his experience as Florida's offensive coordinator (1980-83) and from scouting the nation's most talented conference. "We know what type of program the SEC is in general," Shanahan said. "When you can dominate in the SEC, you're gonna be usually national champs. Spending four years at Florida, having a chance to be around the SEC, knowing what type of athletes are in this region and the competition year in and year out, and how Alabama has dominated, you just take your hat off to them because that doesn't happen very often in collegiate sports. (Saban's) got a good system going. He understands football extremely well, and you can see it paying off with some of the players he's brought in."
What rankles most, Peterson said, is the notion LSU deserted its game plan. Though he declined to offer specifics, Peterson said the Tigers inexplicably tossed aside some of the plays the team prepared for the Tide. As a result, some of LSU's most potent weapons were left to smolder over what-might-have-been." "I just think, the offense, we didn't have a chance to put the ball in our playmakers hands to do something," Peterson said. The game plan that we had, that we were working on in the weeks before the game and everything, I don't think we used it.
"The play-calling bothered the whole offense," said Peterson, who is playing on the South squad in the Senior Bowl this week. "We felt like we had a good game plan that would work, that would help us do things, and I feel like the coaches didn't use the game plan. They were doing stuff that we never did all year. "The game plan was to spread the ball out, get the ball to me, get the ball to Rueben (Randle), let Russell (Shepard) run the ball every now and then, give the ball to our running backs. In that game, Russell played like two plays, Rueben had like one ball, I had one ball. I think they went away from the game plan. ... I feel like if they had went to the game plan and given the playmakers the ball, they would have done something with the ball."
Best postseason performance: Alabama. The Tide played lockdown defense, allowing just 92 yards, and breezed to a 21-0 victory over LSU in the BCS national championship game. That’s the second-fewest yards allowed in a BCS title game, behind the 84 given up by Florida to Ohio State in the 2006 contest. The offense bogged down in the red zone, but Alabama still rolled up 394 yards and held the ball for 35:26 en route to the school’s second national title in three seasons.
The Crimson Tide have two players in the lineup for Super Bowl XLII, both defensive ends for the Patriots: Mark Anderson and Brandon Deaderick.
As first reported by the Michigan football blog Tremendous and It's Always Sunny in Detroit, Michigan commitment Kyle Kalis received numerous threats from Ohio State fans after he committed to play for the Wolverines this fall. In fact, the threats were explicit and incredibly brazen, with more than one fan chiming in to say they hoped the offensive lineman tore his ACL. Of course, there's a reason why the hatred for Kalis was particularly fierce; he had previously committed to Ohio State before opening his future back up after the firing of Jim Tressel.
University of Texas regents are considering making changes to football coach Mack Brown's contract. Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said last month he wanted to extend Brown's current contract, which runs through 2016, by a couple of years to help end rumors Brown would soon retire. The regents scheduled a Thursday telephone meeting. Brown's contract is the only agenda item and details were not released.