"We're disappointed that we can't continue the quest to an SEC championship," UA coach Anthony Grant said. "But I am very proud of the effort our guys gave. I thought we had great fight in us."
Trevor Lacey’s final play of Alabama’s SEC tournament stuck to the script as the clock ticked toward elimination. The Charles Hankerson pass went straight into the open 3 and a shot at overtime. All rim. No net. The 66-63 quarterfinal loss to Florida means Alabama must wait for Sunday’s release of NCAA pairings instead of a rematch with No. 1 Kentucky today. The Crimson Tide never led, but came an inch or two from a second chance. "It felt good, looked good," Lacey said. "It was just a little short."
"It was a relief to get back on the practice field because the last three or four week we have been doing straight running and conditioning," Alabama senior linebacker Nico Johnson said. "It was great to get back on the field, be around the coaches and just get back to football."
With Jones’ move, sophomore Cyrus Kouandjio gets a chance to take over at left tackle, where he saw considerable action as a freshman before a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee. "We thought he was a starter last year," Saban said. "Obviously, he’s a freshman, but he made tremendous progress. Obviously, his injury set him back a little bit, but he’s worked very hard and made a good recovery. "We think he can be a very, very good player. There’s no experiment involved in Barrett playing center. That experiment was all done last year. He got a lot of reps and played some in games. I don’t think there’s any question about the fact he’ll do a really good job."
Senior Nico Johnson was a part of the 2009 squad that won in the Rose Bowl and remembered the championship fatigue that set in the following year. Johnson said an edict was laid down on Friday to not let that failure happen again. "We still were thriving off the ’09 year," Johnson said of the disappointing 10-3 finish in 2010. "The mindset the leaders have on this team is we don’t want that to happen again. That’s what we’re taking now and that’s what we’re going to roll with. Coach established today in a team meeting that we don’t want that to happen. We can’t let that happen." Johnson said he was impressed with the way his team came out for the first practice, quick on their feet and ready to work. "Having the young guys we do have, I thought we’d come out slow," Johnson said. "But we came out with a lot of intensity throughout the whole day. I’m ready to see how it plays out."
Redshirt freshman Brent Calloway worked with outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson Friday as the UA staff's look at the former running back's defensive skills got underway. UA coach Nick Saban had indicated Calloway would likely open drills at an inside linebacker spot, but for the moment, it appears Calloway will get a look at the Sam (strongside) spot.
Saban made it clear to his team before the first spring drill was over: Don't bank on past accomplishments. "I think it's real important as a team that we understand this is not the team that won the national championship," Saban said. "It's very important that this team dedicates itself and commits itself to develop an identity of its own."
Welcome to the SEC, Missouri. Competing against Alabama for the first time since it was announced that the Tigers would join the SEC next season, the No. 14 Tigers fell to the No. 4 Crimson Tide 197.175 – 195.325 in Coleman Coliseum. While the meet was not officially an SEC meet, it was the Tigers’ first taste of SEC gymnastics before they will officially become a member next season. "They’re a highly competitive team," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "If you look right now, if you put Missouri in our conference right now, all eight teams are ranked in the top 25 in the country."
Back-to-back ninth inning home runs lifted the No. 1 ranked Alabama softball team to a 3-1 victory over Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. Sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina went the entire nine innings Friday night at the UK Softball Complex. Freshman Danae Hays ripped a two-out solo home run in the ninth and junior Courtney Conley followed suit with a homer of her own to help keep Alabama unbeaten and improve to 19-0.
Another SEC school has entered the sweepstakes for the best friend of Robert Nkemdiche, who is the first-ever Georgian to be ranked as the nation’s No. 1 overall college football prospect. Nkemdiche’s teammate at Grayson High School, DB David Kamara, told the AJC he was offered by Mississippi State on Friday afternoon. It was the second football scholarship offer this week for Kamara, who was offered by Ole Miss on Wednesday. Nkemdiche’s older brother also plays at Ole Miss. "Mississippi State contacted me on Facebook, and told me to call them to talk about an offer," Kamara told the AJC. "They think I can come there and play. They’re graduating two cornerbacks this year and stuff. They told me that I should think about where I can play the fastest, and talked to me about how I can play early there. "I was excited. My trainer told me that Mississippi State was thinking about offering me, so it’s exciting that it happened."
"With Nick, probably the thing that really puts Nick over the top is how many players he puts into the NFL, and that he runs NFL systems on offense and defense. That was the one thing about Florida: They were not NFL-based with Urban’s offense and defense. That was an advantage for us in terms of recruiting, where going against Alabama we did not have that advantage because they are NFL-oriented in their systems."
SC: Your Alabama tape was pretty ridiculous, and everyone saw you going very high in the draft, but did you expect to be taken as high as you were? MD: Yes. When I was going through the process, just listening to the media and to NFL insiders, you get a pretty good sense of where you're going to get slotted. Just the way I play and the way Coach [Nick] Saban coaches, I was pretty sure that I was going pretty high. There wasn't a doubt in my mind.
Attendance, a key vital sign in any sport, is slipping in college arenas as fans have digital access to games in ways that would have seemed futuristic just a decade ago. Young superstars — think Texas phenom and now Oklahoma City All-Star Kevin Durant — play at the collegiate level for one year before seeking the riches of the NBA. Scandals have tarnished marquee schools (Connecticut and Syracuse) while conference realignments have buried rich and storied rivalries (Kansas vs. Missouri). All the while, coaches' salaries continue to soar, reinforcing the view — fair or not — that college hoops is first a business. Yet the NCAA tournament remains a showcase, dominating the March sports calendar and pulling rabid and casual fans alike into the annual ritual. But even this crown jewel could be showing some wear. Total attendance a year ago hit a five-year low despite an expanded field and one additional session. Regionals in Newark, New Orleans, San Antonio and Anaheim drew 77.1% of capacity, the lowest since the NCAA started tracking those numbers in 1989.