"Any time you have freshmen, it's just a matter if those guys are going to be able to play with the consistency, persevere, continue to improve, not get frustrated, not be up and down because they don't have the maturity to sustain things," Saban said. "I think that will be key to how those guys will develop but I do think both those guys can make a contribution next year."
Receiver Kenny Bell, who figures to be among the top targets for quarterback A.J. McCarron, said the past can't factor into the present. "We're trying to create a new identity for this team," Bell said. "We don't want anybody saying we're the national championship team. We just want to make a new identity so everyone will go out and compete."
A bases loaded walk in the seventh inning helped lift the second-ranked Alabama softball team to a 5-4 victory over Mississippi State, Friday night at the MSU Softball Stadium. With the victory the Crimson Tide improve to 33-1 overall and 10-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina earned her 20th straight victory, allowing four runs - two earned on six hits while striking out nine.
Denzel Devall signed to play with the University of Alabama this coming fall, even though he's from Louisiana and much closer to LSU geographically. But his heart is closer to Alabama. "It's always been the relationship that I had with all the coaches and basically everyone at Alabama," Devall said. "I just didn't feel comfortable with the coaches down at LSU. I just didn't feel like that was the place for me. You know how you get a certain vibe whenever you step on a certain campus? That vibe just wasn't for me. When I stepped on Alabama's campus, it was like 'Man, this is where I need to be.'"
Nkemdiche's list of top five schools changes often. He takes a visit, offers effusive praise, and shuffles the rankings. His most recent personal top five poll came out about two weeks ago, after the trip to Baton Rouge, when he listed his preferences as Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss. For all the heartbroken recruiting fans, he has also listed Florida, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and USC at one point, as well. For Rivals, naming Nkemdiche No. 1 was "pretty easy, to be honest," Niebuhr said. "He can do so many things well. He can put his hands down or stand up. He can play linebacker. At the Hoover 7-on-7 tournament last summer, he was deflecting passes like a cornerback. And the guy throwing some of those passes signed with South Carolina."
Coach Derek Dooley wanted to incorporate the 3-4 and when defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox left, the opportunity knocked. Enter Sunseri, from Alabama's staff. "You try to slot the bodies in the right spots," Dooley said.
Davis, returning to the field after an ankle injury cost him all of last season, has taken part in all of the Razorbacks spring practices. Petrino said Davis' status will be taken on a week-by-week basis. "He's been doing everything full speed," Petrino said. "He's been cutting, making everything, looks good. There's just something in consulting with our medical staff, and we made the decision that let's not tackle him today."
The Aggies start spring practice Saturday. They'll be the last of the 14 SEC teams to buckle chinstraps, and that is part of Sumlin's design. Instead of kicking off his four-man quarterback competition early or giving defensive coordinator Mark Snyder a head start on installing his scheme, Sumlin wanted his players to get to know strength coach Larry Jackson intimately. Jackson, a former Aggies linebacker, worked with Sumlin when both men were at Texas A&M in the early 2000s under R.C. Slocum. A year after Sumlin went to Oklahoma, Jackson got hired as an assistant strength coach in Norman. When Sumlin left Oklahoma to become the head coach at Houston, Jackson went with him to run the strength program. By giving Jackson eight full weeks to work, Sumlin could be sure his new players understood the culture of his program before they ever ran a play. That would provide a stronger foundation. It also might help cut down on the choking. "I just thought it was more important that our strength and conditioning coach had more time with them," Sumlin said. "If you go back and look at the results of last season, to be ahead in five of the six losses at halftime, you would have to put your head in the sand to not say strength and conditioning had to be a factor."
The final straw may be the cost-of-attendance debate. The Division I board pushed through a well-intentioned rule allowing schools the choice to provide up to $2,000 a year more to athletes' scholarships. But enough members opposed it to suspend the rule. Some have-nots view extra stipends as a slick way to price them out while the haves gladly accept the moral high ground. The have-nots don't necessarily oppose the idea. They just don't like how much more it will cost to play in Division I. "Ours is a philosophical argument that says, from now on, if you're going to increase costs some places, then by God reduce costs some place," Tulane President Scott Cowen told SI.com recently. "They never seem to reduce costs."