TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 3: Jalston Fowler #45 of the Crimson Tide follows the block of D.J. Fluker #76 against the Kent State Golden Flashes on September 3, 2011 at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alabama defeated Kent State 48-7. (Photo by Greg McWilliams/Getty Images)
The straight facts are all D.J. Fluker needs for confidence heading into the 2012 season. The big right offensive tackle with an even bigger smile started all 13 games last year. The guy who lines up next to him, right guard Anthony Steen, was an every-game starter until an injury disrupted his 2011 campaign. Two spots over at left guard, Chance Warmack has started the past 26 games. All Fluker sees is strength in these numbers. "We're going to have a great team, especially the offensive line," Fluker said. "We didn't lose anybody except for our center."
The second-ranked Alabama softball team swept the series against Mississippi State with a 9-3 victory, Sunday afternoon at the MSU Softball Stadium. With the win, the Crimson Tide improve to 35-1 overall and 12-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Sophomore Kaila Hunt hit a home run while freshman Danae Hays recorded her first career grand slam to pace the Tide offense. Despite being outhit 9-6, Alabama used a six-run fourth inning to race past the Bulldogs (19-18, 3-13 SEC). Sophomore Jackie Traina earned the win to improve to a perfect 21-0 on the season. Traina allowed two runs - one earned on seven hits while striking out five in six innings.
There’s an obvious objection to all these Richardson-related scenarios. He’s a running back. Running backs aren’t worth what they used to be. A team may love Trent Richardson, but does that mean they’d be willing to give up extra draft picks just to have him? It’s a fair question. However, if any team might be willing to make such a trade happen for a running back, it’s Tampa Bay. Their free agent spending this offseason demonstrates a win-now attitude. If they think they’re one top-of-the-line running back away from having a playoff team? And Richardson is the only running back in this draft who has that kind of ability? They could very well pull the trigger. Which would be very good news for the Vikings, because not only would they get an extra pick or two from Tampa, they would also be able to still take Matt Kalil #5 assuming he didn’t go #4 to Cleveland (highly unlikely with Joe Thomas in town) or someone who made a trade with Cleveland.
Another shaky reason why running backs may look less important in 2012 is how little fanfare surrounds the free-agent class. That includes Peyton Hillis signing for one year and $2.5 million. Had Hillis become a free agent after 2010, though, you can't tell me teams would've turned a cold shoulder to him because they see a trend toward increased passing in the NFL. Just because the Browns didn't value Hillis doesn't mean they made the right decision. Getting Richardson would shine a light on why the Browns didn't sign Hillis for what Kansas City paid him. Drafting Richardson gives the Browns a dynamic offensive talent whose contribution is not predicated on the quarterback's arm or his grasp of the West Coast offense.
One of the interesting things about NFL teams losing their minds over Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill's recent pro day is that it means the Dallas Cowboys have a better shot at landing an elite player. Of course, owner Jerry Jones is still capable of undermining the entire process if he takes a last-minute call from one of his cronies and big-foots his hard-working scouting department. But even Jerry could have a hard time screwing up the No. 14 overall pick in this draft, what with all those Alabama players likely available at that point. Head coach Jason Garrett, the master of meritocracy, made a trip to Tuscaloosa for the Crimson Tide's pro day, the only such event he's scheduled to attend in the buildup to the draft. Garrett's only pro day visit last year was to USC to see offensive tackle Tyron Smith in person.
"Finds the ball in the air quickly… Kirkpatrick is a powerful, physical cornerback who can push wide receivers around at the line of scrimmage… Could easily get up to more than 200 pounds with losing quickness…Excellent height and length for a cornerback. Kirkpatrick is one of the more physically impressive defensive backs in this year’s class…By far the best tackling cornerback in this year’s class. Hits like a strong safety…Smartly reads the quarterback and not what the receivers are doing… He’s arguably the physically impressive cornerback in this year’s draft."
Run support. In a league gradually losing defensive backs willing to hit in run support, Barron is a throwback. He doesn't hesitate. He reacts immediately, wasting no time closing fast on running backs. On one second and 10 against Penn State, Barron began the play 12 yards away from the line of scrimmage. As soon as RB Silas Redd turned horizontal, Barron knew where to go. He ran up under control, sidestepped a heap of bodies and stuffed Redd in his tracks for a one-yard gain. There's attitude in Barron's game as the quote above reflects. After this tackle, Barron bounced up and stared down as Redd as he backpedaled away.
"Everyone and their mother has the Texans taking a wide receiver at this pick. I'll be different solely for the sake of being so. Defense got the Texans into the playoffs last year, and I think they'll continue to ride that until it gives out on them (or, until they realize Matt Schaub is an injury prone, mediocre QB). Hightower falling this far is purely the result of teams valuing quarterbacks and pass rushers over anything else. He also provides a significant upgrade over DeMeco Ryans, who Houston just traded to Philly this offseason."