Feb 27, 2012: Indianapolis, IN - Crimson Tide linebacker Dont'a Hightower runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE)
To boil it down between these two, Hightower showed it on the field, leading the nation's best defense to a national championship, but won't be the best athlete available, should he be on the board when the Steelers pick at 24. Poe's production on the field doesn't match his freakish workout skills, and there are defensive tackles in this draft who played at a higher level and produced more. Some argue Poe had little help around him and constantly faced double if not triple teams. Nose tackles in 3-4 defenses who are not double-teamed on every play are simply not very good pro nose tackles, and the guys doubling him will be better than what Poe saw in Conference USA. It's going to be a hot debate over the next two months leading into April's draft.
"Courtney Upshaw for me might end up at the defensive end position before this thing is over with," he said. "I think ultimately Upshaw might be a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end even though at Alabama he played that 34 rush linebacker position. The reason I still have him at linebacker is because that’s the position he played and that’s where a lot of teams are grading him right now.
Alabama OLB/DE Courtney Upshaw, perhaps the best 3-4 OLB in the draft, didn't run a 40. He will run next month at his campus pro day. Upshaw performed well in other drills, although Mike Mayock and Willie McGinest of the NFL Network both remarked that he seemed a bit tight in the hips. Upshaw did 22 reps on the 225-pound bench press, which is nothing to write home about. On the field, Upshaw is known as a stout run defender on the edge.
The only safety to receive first-round consideration this year is Alabama's Mark Barron. He had a great career for the Crimson Tide, and he was one of the leaders on a very talented defense. Barron racked up 229 tackles and 12 interceptions in his college career. He has plenty of big game experience and the leadership qualities head coach Jason Garrett will be looking for. Barron has really good ball skills for a traditional strong safety. At 6-1, 213 pounds, he has the size and build to be a durable safety in the NFL. His skill set of athleticism and power is exactly what the Cowboys need in their secondary. Barron has displayed that he can be a ball hawk, but has also shown that he is a physical hitter. He is one of the most physical safeties in the draft, but I like that he also has the range to play in coverage.
One would think Barron may not be around when the Pats select. But the double-hernia surgery that knocked Barron out of the NFL scouting combine drills may also cause him to fall into Belichick’s lap. Barron was optimistic about his health. "I’m pretty good, I feel good," said Barron, who played through the injury for two seasons. "I’m basically just going to rehab, I feel like I can do whatever I need to do, I just haven’t been cleared to do certain things."
Alabama's Mark Barron, the top-rated safety in the 2012 NFL draft, will have to deal with stricter safety rules once he recovers from hernia surgery. "I don't like them," Barron said flatly when asked about rules against dangerous hits. The rules have opened the middle of the field for offenses by protecting receivers the NFL considers defenseless. The idea is to limit concussions and other serious injuries with long-range consequences for athletes. But some players factor those risks into the game and would prefer to play under the old rules. "The way I have been taught to play the game, I hit and I hit hard," Barron said. "I guess I'll have to make some adjustments. Hopefully, I'll be able to make them. I'm not sure I will because that is how I was taught to play the game. I guess we'll see what happens with that."
Combine meetings really don’t mean much. Every team meets with several players. It’s just an example of teams doing their due diligence. That’s why the Chiefs talked to quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. They are expected to be the first two players off the board. The Chiefs have little chance of getting either player, but they are still doing their homework. Yet, it is fairly interesting that Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said two of the five teams that interviewed him at the NFL combine were San Diego and Oakland. He is expected to go in the 15-20 range. The Chargers, who pick at No. 18, have other needs and the Raiders don’t have a pick until the fifth round, although they are expected to get a compensatory pick at the end of the third round.
With the Colts looking like they'll have at least one roster spot available at Wide Receiver to be filled by the draft, and with so many holes on Defense, the receiver position may have to wait until later in the draft. Thankfully the WR depth in this year's draft is quite good, which means a talent like Alabama's Marquis Maze could potentially fall into the 5th or 6th round.
Anthony Grant's teaching moments have led to more wins at Alabama. The Crimson Tide (19-9, 8-6 SEC) have an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament within their grasp after a tumultuous two weeks off the court that, ultimately, only helped them grow on and off the court in the middle of a three-game winning streak. "We've got some players who had an opportunity to step up and get some extended time and I think our team has gotten better like you want to see your team over the course of the year do," Grant said.
Alabama's three-game surge came on the heels of six losses in nine games, a skid that was impacted by the suspensions of the team's top four scorers -- senior forward JaMychal Green, junior forward Tony Mitchell, junior guard Andrew Steele and sophomore guard Trevor Releford. All four missed a 67-58 loss at LSU on Feb. 11, which dropped the Tide to 5-5 league play. Steele and Releford returned for a 61-52 home loss to Florida, which preceded the 62-50 win over the visiting Volunteers on Feb. 18 that turned things around. "I think any time you can win, that helps in everything," third-year Tide coach Anthony Grant said. "Obviously we've had a couple of wins here, and our guys have always worked hard. What you're seeing as a group is the level of confidence maybe that we didn't see when we were going through a rough patch.
The reason Mississippi State is in this position is because of three straight losses to lower division SEC teams Georgia, LSU and Auburn earlier this month. The Bulldogs flashed their tantalizing potential again in pushing top-ranked Kentucky to the final two minutes before reverting back to their previous form on Saturday in a 67-50 loss to fellow bubble team Alabama. At a time when players from losing teams are insisting they still have hope of making an unlikely conference tournament run, Moultrie's lack of faith in Mississippi State is very damning. Heck, many mock brackets still have the Bulldogs in the field and their two remaining regular season games against South Carolina and Arkansas aren't exactly daunting. If Mississippi State wins those two games and maybe a game in the SEC tournament, it's hard to envision the selection committee leaving the Bulldogs out. On the other hand, given the fractured state of the program right now, that strong finish isn't something anybody should count on.
College basketball has essentially become a six-week sport. In the big picture, it might as well not even exist before the Super Bowl. So why not change? Football owns the winter, but college basketball can own the spring. March Madness is great, but you know what would be even better? May Madness — a 4½-month season, starting around New Year’s and ending just before the NBA playoffs take center stage.
"Everybody has an appreciation for a high standard of excellence and seeing people play to that standard," Saban said last week. "It's not about the potential you have. It's about how you perform to it."
Florida maintained its No. 1 ranking for the second consecutive week, while Oklahoma stayed at No. 2. UCLA jumped three spots to No. 3 while Georgia fell to No. 4. Following Alabama is No. 6 Nebraska, No. 7 Utah and No. 8 Arkansas. Oregon State fell one spot to No. 9 and LSU, coming off a loss to the Tide, moved to No. 10 this week.
In putting together this list, we weren't focusing on players who stayed at the same school for the duration of their careers but never quite lived up to their recruiting ranking. Instead, we wanted to find the classes that were hurt the most by early defections unrelated to star players forgoing their senior seasons to enter the NFL Draft. These classes were hindered because of players who transferred, got kicked off the team, failed to qualify or suffered career-altering or career-ending injuries. We weren't as interested in graduate transfers who played their final season at another school only after earning their degrees. We focused more on Brown and other transfers who switched schools much earlier in their careers. This list helps explain why two of the biggest national powers from the 1990s - Florida State and Tennessee - have struggled for much of the last decade despite often signing highly ranked recruiting classes. Those two schools account for five of the top six classes on our list
Sources have confirmed to the Journal Star that Corey Raymond is leaving the program to take the vacant secondary coaching position at LSU. Tigerbait.com first reported the news. Raymond just completed his first season on the Husker staff, taking over the position vacated by Marvin Sanders. Raymond will be returning to his alma mater. He was a corner for the Tigers from 1987-91. The coach could not immediately be reached for comment by the Journal Star.
Though LSU’s spring football games have never drawn anything close to a capacity crowd in Tiger Stadium — attendance for last year’s Spring Game was 25,032 — LSU officials are planning a series of events and promotions in conjunction with the Spring Game with the target of attracting 90,000 fans for the event.
This week, a student-body vote at Texas A&M University could make Samantha Ketcham the first female cheerleader—make that yell leader—in school history. "At A&M, we don't cheer. We yell," says Ms. Ketcham, a junior biology major. By any name, the sideline noisemakers at A&M have always been as male as the football players they root for, and Ms. Ketcham's bid to topple that tradition is no less rancorous than the Republican presidential primaries. Past yell leaders at A&M include Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, who declined to be interviewed for this article. To make clear that she would need neither megaphone nor microphone—rarely used among yell leaders—Ms. Ketcham, 20 years old, has adopted as a campaign slogan of sorts: "I'm very loud!"
EA Sports announced via a press release Monday morning that the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner will be featured on the cover of NCAA Football 13. The popular game will go on sale in stores nation-wide July 10.