Beefy. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Of all the positional groups on Alabama's football team, the offensive line changed the least from January to April. Only one season-long starter graduated. Expect more of the same, right? Sure. Well, almost. The departure of center William Vlachos and left tackle Barrett Jones' shift two spots complicates the transition slightly. Four starters return, but only three are in the same spot they were in a year ago. There are still advantages to the new alignment. Size tops the list. Swapping the 6-foot-1, 294-pound Vlachos for the 6-6, 322-pound left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio gives this unit a little more curb appeal. The five starters average 6-feet, 5.2-inches and 316.4 pounds. By comparison, Stack.com reported the average offensive lineman at the 2011 NFL combine stood 6-4 and weighed 311.5 pounds. "We have good size on the offensive line, but I think we're very athletic in the offensive line," Saban said. "I think we have a chance to have a really good offensive line. … "We have how many games started by the guys that we have back, and Cyrus did play a significant amount last year as a freshman."
"He certainly has matured in terms of his junior college experience," Saban said of Belue, who is also in the mix to return punts. "He has done a nice job of developing this spring. He's a really good man-to-man cover guy. At times, he gets a little bit unsure of himself in terms of what he's supposed to do. "I think he's definitely going to be a player that contributes and has the potential to be a starter on our team next year."
SEC: There are 14 nonconference games against Big Six opponents, an increase of two from last season. Missouri and Vanderbilt are playing two such games, while Mississippi State and Texas A&M are playing zero. There are 15 games against FCS opponents, three more than last season and the highest total in the nation; each league school has at least one such game and Texas A&M has two.
For the second consecutive week and the third time this season Alabama sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina (Naples, Fla.) was named the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week, the league office announced Monday. Traina continued her winning ways as she earned the win in two of the three games this weekend, and pitched an inning of relief in the other. Both her wins came by the way of shutout to extend her consecutive wins streak to a school record 25 straight decisions.
After earning its 30th consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships final site last Saturday by winning the Seattle Regional Championship, the Alabama gymnastics team learned on Monday that it will compete in the evening session of the NCAA semifinals on Friday, April 20 in Duluth, Ga. starting at 6 p.m. ET. The team also learned its competition and rotation order. "I think being in the evening session on Friday works to our advantage," UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. "The excitement and energy that comes from competing at night is electric and will mirror the atmosphere at the SEC Championships."
"Alabama coach Nick Saban predicts Upshaw can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or "put his hand in the dirt and play defensive end" in the NFL. Based on his play in college, regardless of where Upshaw lines up, he will probably wind up in a quarterback’s mug. Used as an edge rusher, sometimes as the Tide’s so-called "Jack" linebacker and sometimes as an end, Upshaw thrashes blockers with great hand and arm action and shows ample speed and agility to find his way into the offensive backfield. He has instincts beyond that of a pure pass-rusher, with an uncommon awareness for draws, screens, counters and reverses. Although he was not asked to drop into coverage often at Alabama, he has a fluid athleticism that may allow him to adapt to such a demand."
The Alabama Crimson Tide has already made an impression on Norcross, Georgia running back Alvin Kamara when it sent the four-star recruit more than 100 letters in a single day. The tactic may have seemed extreme to some but it intrigued Kamara enough to convince the 5-foot-10, 195-pound back playmaker to spend most of his spring break last week in Tuscaloosa. "I was on spring break and I thought I would like to get there and see Bama for everything that it is outside of football, like a typical school day," Kamara told BamaOnline. "I got a chance to see everything, like morning workouts. I just wanted to get a better feel for Bama."
It’s time to update his speech material. Saban’s offseason speaking tour will kick into high gear with two A-Club events, the first on Friday and then his annual Tide Pride speech as part of Saturday’s A-Day celebration, before Crimson Caravan begins its barnstorming tour. This year’s caravan will feature eight stops beginning with Huntsville on April 17, and will include a visit to Dallas, where the Crimson Tide will open the 2012 season against Michigan on Sept. 1.
Bo Mattingly, a sports radio host on 92.1 FM-The Ticket in northwest Arkansas and syndicated throughout the state, said he has fielded a steady mix of pro- and anti-Petrino callers since last Thursday, when a state police report revealed the Dorrell's presence on the motorcycle during the accident. Mattingly said his callers are torn between emotions, with many feeling that Arkansas "shouldn't put up with this" and those who believe "we can't do any better for a coach." He said the situation has put Long in an "impossible" situation, and that he's had boosters on both sides of the debate tell him they'll pull their support — whether Arkansas keeps Petrino or not. "Most people acknowledge that it's a bad deal, but the majority of calls we get are people trying to come up with a way to keep him, rationalizing in their own mind," Mattingly said. "They are coming up with ways Jeff Long could discipline him but still keep him."
College football in Florida was about swagger. About bravado. About Danny and Tim. About the U and Prime Time, about Bobby and Steve and Howard and Jimmy. About ridiculous speed. About NFL talent. About every single program in this country being forced to change, just to keep up with the teams set on warp speed at Miami, Florida and Florida State. But do you know who is changing now? The three revolutionaries. Or former revolutionaries. Rather than leading the pack, Miami, Florida and Florida State are collectively playing catch-up -- not just to everybody else, but to the former versions of themselves. Mediocrity has replaced excellence. Last season, Florida State was the only one of the Big Three to finish in the final AP Top 25, at No. 23. A 28-year streak of having at least one team from Florida ranked in the Top 25 was snapped during the regular season. The next-best team in the state, record-wise? FIU.
Multiple sources told Sporting News that Meyer—who won two national championships in six years at Florida and cemented his legacy as one of the game’s greatest coaches—told the Diggs family that he wouldn’t let his son go to Florida because of significant character issues in the locker room. Character issues that we now know were fueled by a culture Meyer created. Character issues that gutted what was four years earlier the most powerful program in college football. It was Meyer who declared the Florida program "broken" at the end of his last regular season game in Gainesville in November of 2010. But why was it broken? "Over the last two years he was there," one former player said, "the players had taken complete control of the team."
Without saying why, CSU football Coach Jim McElwain announced Saturday that he suspended three student-athletes for violation of team rules: junior defensive end Nordly Capi, junior linebacker Mike Orakpo and junior defensive end Colton Paulhus. Orakpo and Capi were involved in a fight on St. Patrick’s Day after leaving a party. McElwain has told reporters not to contact football players without his permission, and refused to elaborate on his decision to suspend the players.
In a move that has been speculated over the past several week, Georgia State officially accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference starting in 2013. An official invitation was extended to the school on Monday during a press conference in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome. "On behalf of the presidents and chancellors of the member institutions of the Sun Belt Conference, I am pleased to welcome Georgia State University home to the league that it helped start in 1976," said Sun Belt Conference President and Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins. "The Sun Belt Conference has never been stronger athletically, academically or financially, and today we took action that makes us even stronger. For the Sun Belt Conference-- the best is yet to be!"