OT D.J. Fluker (rJr.)
2011 season: Started all 13 games at right tackle. Received Up Front and Commitment to Academic Excellence Awards at annual team banquet.
2012 spring practice: Jerry Duncan "I Like to Practice" Award recipient.
What he brings to the table: Teams with Anthony Steen to provide two lanes of Alabama's four-lane, downhill running game. Mix in a pulling Chance Warmack and the road gets even wider. Impressive work ethic has had more to do with Fluker's success than talent. Three years ago, he struggled to keep pace on the practice field. Having lost approximately 60 pounds since arriving at UA, he's now being mentioned as a potential first-round draft pick.
Perhaps the easiest pick on offense was Howard at tight end. He caught everybody's eye on the first day simply because he looks like a million bucks and one player joked with one media member that he was a "10-foot tall tight end ." More than his size tough were his hands that could have been mistaken for oven mitts with the giant Nike gloves on them. He made one of the catches of the tournament by one-handing a touchdown in the back of he end zone and made routine plays look great. At full extension he can catch everything and clearly Alabama is getting a good one.
Alabama is also actively recruiting one of the top defensive backs in the country, Virginia star Holland Fisher, despite the four-star safety's commitment to Virginia Tech. Fisher said that during a recent phone conversation with Saban, the Tide coach pitched the 6-foot-1, 200-pound athlete on how well he would fit in the Tide's defensive system. "He (Saban) called my head coach and I talked to him on the phone," said Fisher. "He likes me at safety. He said his linebackers are usually bigger, like 6'3 or 6'4 and 240. He said he sees me as a prototypical safety. From what I have seen from them on television, I know I would like their defense as it is technical and uses a lot of combinations. I am a flexible player who can do it all, so I would like to play in a defense like that."
In surveying the winningest coaches at all 14 SEC schools, some of what you find, especially when you take away each school's all-time wins leader, is telling. For instance, Bryant is actually the winningest coach at two different SEC schools. He was 60-23-5 at Kentucky from 1946-53, and led the Wildcats to eight consecutive winning seasons. Since Bryant’s departure from the Bluegrass following the 1953 season, the Wildcats have had 10 other head coaches, but only one of them compiled better than a .500 record, Blanton Collier, who succeeded Bryant, was 41-36-3 in eight seasons.
It's not like Alabama doesn't have a lot of talent on defense, but there's no denying that this team lost a lot from last year's defense. Seven starters, including three first-round draft picks, are gone. Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower and Josh Chapman weren't just relied on for their playing ability. They were major leaders for this team, and that's something Saban has said he needs to see more of from this group. These defenders say they're motivated by the comparisons to 2010, but that group also didn't lack in talent. It did lack in the leadership department and that's currently a concern for this unit. Linebackers Nico Johnson, C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard are guys who have to step up more and not just lead by example. Veteran safety Robert Lester will be counted on more and so will senior defensive linemen Jesse Williams and Damion Square.
The University of Alabama had six players chosen for the watch lists for two of college football's major awards Monday, with two candidates for the Maxwell Award and four for the Bednarik Award. Quarterback AJ McCarron and running back Eddie Lacy, both juniors, are on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given annually since 1937 to the nation's outstanding college player. Linebackers Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley joined defensive lineman Jesse Williams and safety Robert Lester on the watch list for the Bednarik Award, established in 1995 to go to the nation's top defensive player.
One area of college football not performing well is the bowls. Even the BCS bowls have had declining attendance numbers. Bowl season is a different animal from the regular season for a number of reasons. First, there isn’t the emotional tie to a city hosting a bowl game as there is to a college campus. Second, fans typically travel further for a bowl game which means it’s a larger allocation of cash to attend. Traveling to a bowl game is a larger trip more than just a day excursion to a college campus. As such, bowl attendance like all forms of leisure travel has been impacted by a weak economy. Interestingly, this could be the main reason we don’t see a 4-team playoff expanded into an 8-team playoff. Even BCS bowls today find it hard to sell all their tickets with participating schools often left holding the bag on unused tickets
On some level, Nkemdiche is correct that he never presented Carter's offer as a requirement for his Clemson signature. But as much sympathy as we have for a teenager who hasn't even begun his senior year of high school and is trying to do his best for a friend with the glare of the national media squarely on him, that doesn't mean he didn't issue Swinney an ultimatum. "If Clemson doesn't offer Ryan, it would make me look at Ole Miss a little more, it would," Nkemdiche told the AJC. "It's very important that I have my boys with me." Maybe that's not an ultimatum as regards his final decision, but the message to Swinney here is as clear as clear gets: offer Carter, or I'm going to consider Ole Miss. Debate all you want whether that's a demand Nkemdiche was within his rights to make, but despite his later objections, it really can't be mistaken as anything but a demand.
Now that Crowell is gone, "That kind of thing will unite a team many times," Dooley said. "Historically when things like this have happened in the past, they tend to have a unifying effect on teams. They go on to have an even better season than they were predicted to have." Georgia, of course, is generally considered the favorite to repeat as the SEC Eastern Division champions and play in the SEC Championship. That is, if the Bulldogs are still able to field a team. With Crowell out and linebacker Brandon Burrows’ recent decision to transfer in search of more playing time, Georgia has dipped below 70 scholarship players heading into next season. The NCAA allows 85.