"It's going to be real intense," said linebacker Nico Johnson, who is going into his senior season. "Around here, we've won two national championships. Being a young player - I was one before - and having that mindset, 'I want to be part of that.' So it's going to be a lot of intensity."
Another newcomer working with the linebackers isn’t new at all. Running back Brent Calloway is playing linebacker this spring as Saban and his staff evaluates where he can best help this team. "When he first got here I thought he’d play linebacker instead of running back, personally," Johnson said before the team broke for spring break. "I think he’s a better linebacker than a running back – no offense to his running back skills. "He’s catching on to it fast. Coach moved him there last week. He’s improved from last week to this week. That’s what they played at his high school. He likes it. He’s not down about the position change. He’s ready to roll. He’s willing to learn.
"You know, we practice on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday," Saban said. "I like to space out spring practices and not have multiple days in a row. You don’t have as good a teaching time, the players don't have the recovery time."
The top-ranked Alabama softball team used a leadoff home run from junior Kayla Braud to spark its offense early and cruise to a 12-1 victory in five innings over Mississippi at Rhoads Stadium Sunday afternoon. With the victory, the Crimson Tide improves to a perfect 25-0 overall and 6-0 in Southeastern Conference play. The 25-0 start equals the second best start in school history as the Crimson Tide rattled off 25 wins to start the season in 2007.
That isn't to say this was a bad year, at least in some ways. Alabama did get back to the NCAA tournament, a program threshold whose importance cannot be overstated. The Crimson Tide did overcome off-the-court adversity. It did maintain its reputation for fierce defense, right up until the end (Creighton scored 21 points under its season average.) But for most of the season - arguably from the point that it left San Juan in November - it never came up with a magical moment. Alabama fans had to look at the team with grudging admiration, and give Anthony Grant abundant respect for imposing discipline and consistently sticking to a course with a team that was often powered by freshmen and sophomores. But grudging admiration is different than exhilaration, and Alabama never got that exhilarating win. It never surpassed expectation.
The problem is this: Social media is ever-changing. The rules of recruiting are specific and strict -- often too strict, unless you're in favor of regulations on the color, size and design of recruiting materials mailed by schools to a prospect. In general, according to a senior Division I administrator who formerly directed compliance, implementation of NCAA bylaws require three to four years to catch up to society. Nothing that affects recruiting has changed as fast and dramatically as social media. While several proposals under consideration this year address electronic correspondence between institutions and prospects, NCAA legislation continues to lag in trying to apply old rules to new venues such as Twitter.
On page two of the NCAA Committee on Infractions public report in the case of the North Carolina football program, committee members offer some helpful advice to other programs. "This case," committee members wrote, "should serve as a cautionary tale to all institutions to vigilantly monitor the activities of those student-athletes who possess the potential to be top professional prospects." That's not quite correct. The North Carolina case actually provided more of a road map. Remember, for those who don't consider it an ethical decision -- this includes most of the people who can get rich off the deal -- the decision to break the NCAA's rules is a pure risk/reward calculation. The penalties handed down Monday proved once again that the reward is still far greater than the risk as long as coaches and athletic directors understand a few things from the outset. A program can spit all over the NCAA rule book in an effort to reach or remain at the highest echelon of college football, and as long as that program cooperates with the NCAA during the investigation of its alleged "crimes," the Committee on Infractions will respond with a suite of penalties that contain far more bark than bite.
[T]he market [for tailbacks] remains soft because the teams know that they can use an ultra-low-cost draft pick on a running back, locking up a kid with plenty of tread on his tires for at least four years. It’s another harsh reality of the rookie wage scale. It was supposed to make more money available for veterans by holding down the cost of rookies. And while that’s now the case, more money is indeed available for established players, it’s going to be harder for running backs who aren’t truly elite to cash in. For many veteran ball carriers, life likely will become a box of one-year deals, with fewer and fewer tailbacks ever becoming superstars. Which means that fewer and fewer of them will ever strike it rich.
In November, Big 12 interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas steeled for battle as the conference that was temporarily placed in his hands continued to fracture. His secret weapon would be a legal document that he could "wave around" in a meeting with Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive with the goal of keeping Missouri in the Big 12. "We need to discuss litigation idea with Slive even if we do not intend to file," Neinas wrote in a Nov. 8 email to Kansas City-based lawyer Kevin Sweeney and Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis, who replaced Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton as the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors. "Remember, Slive is a lawyer and was sensitive to what the SEC has done to B12. … Taking two members within a year appears to be designed to purposely weaken a conference that challenges for BCS positioning."