TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 24: Eddie Lacy #42 of the Alabama Crimson Tide breaks a tackle by Zach Stadther #61 of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
5. Eddie Lacy, Jr., Alabama: Lacy takes over for the very talented Trent Richardson, but he's no slouch. Lacy has shown pretty good explosion and strength when he's had the ball, averaging 7.1 yards per carry last season. Nagging injuries have slowed him in the past, but if he's healthy he'll make plenty of defenders miserable -- and sore -- this fall.
Saban is simply not a quarterback-centered coach. He would much rather work with the cornerbacks and safeties, drill reads into the linebackers and motivate his defensive ends. "You know, A.J. had a good spring," said Saban, with all the enthusiasm of someone reviewing cucumber-flavored ice cream. "A.J. still has to stay within the structure of the offense in terms of taking what the defense gives. You can't force plays. You have to be patient, and that is the key for him to be successful. He can make the throws. It's just continuing to make the right ones." No one will know how McCarron has progressed until the first snap on Sept. 1 in Cowboy Stadium vs. Michigan. Nor will anyone know what he thinks about his team or his prospects until his head coach makes him available. And, like the quarterback position itself, that doesn't appear to be high on Saban's priority list.
Arkansas will win the SEC: That offense is still very good. Sure, quarterback Tyler Wilson lost three NFL wide receivers from last season and stud Marquel Wade's status for the upcoming season is unclear. But as a whole, this team is still very talented and very explosive on offense. Wilson is the SEC's top quarterback and could have easily been a first-round draft pick in this year's NFL draft if he had decided to leave school early. But he's back and so is that cannon of a right arm. Oh, and who will be by his side? None other than the dynamic Knile Davis. He's one of the best running backs in the country and it sounds like he's going to be 100 percent this fall after that gruesome ankle injury he suffered last fall. This is the league's best QB/RB duo.
Alabama senior Michael Williams and Auburn senior Philip Lutzenkirchen were on the John Mackey Award preseason watch list, while Crimson Tide senior Barrett Jones and Tiger sophomore Reese Dismukes were on the Rimington Award watch list. Jones, a senior who won the Outland Trophy last year as the nation’s best interior lineman, moves to center this season and is one of 51 players named to the Rimington Trophy watch list, awarded to the nation’s best center. He’s among 10 Southeastern Conference players on the preseason list, among them LSU’s P.J. Lonergan, Kentucky’s Matt Smith, Texas A&M’s Patrick Lewis and South Carolina’s T.J. Johnson.
So how does one become a communication coach to star athletes? Pretty much by accident. While majoring in drama at Northwestern, Shenbaum had to choose from three tracks. He wasn't serious enough for serious drama. He didn't have the voice for musical theater. But he did have an elastic face and a quick wit, so he gravitated toward the comedy track. That led to improvisational training, which eventually became the basis for many of the exercises Shenbaum uses with the athletes he trains. That exercise Alabama's mental coach used to teach Crimson Tide players how to identify when to lead and when to follow? He learned it working alongside Shenbaum.
"You become the target when you're the champion," he said. "Everybody wants to knock you off the top of the mountain and you have to be prepared for it. Human nature is to be a little complacent sometimes. That's something we fight with our players and everybody in our organization. "Obviously, in 2010, we didn't do a good job of managing that," Saban continued. "Hopefully we'll do better this year."
Sarrell put on the camp free of charge while furnishing attendees with a t-shirt as well as top-notch instruction from guys they see on television all the time. "Most of the kids that come to this camp can’t afford to go to the Alabama basketball camp. These are tough economic times and this is our way of giving back to the community." While it was philanthropic, it was also a ton of fun. In between drills, Randolph, Lacey and Gueye played some impromptu games of 1-on-1. Gueye, all 7-foot, 280 pounds of him, showed off his power in the post, Lacey, a Huntsville native, flashed the high-arching, dead on 3-point shot that made him a two-time Mr. Basketball award winner and the Tide’s biggest basketball signee in the Class of 2011. Randolph, also from Huntsville ended the session, by bouncing the ball off the floor, catching it and throwing down a windmill dunk.
Dooley has had three years to increase the talent on Tennessee's roster, but even that hasn't been long enough to get the Vols out of a hole dug from the poor recruiting classes of Fulmer's final years and the nightmare that was Kiffin's one and only class. There are enough holes and depth concerns that makes the Vols more of a one-year-away team than an immediate title contender. No one in the SEC was worse at running the ball than Tennessee was in 2011. There's probably no way this can be worse in 2012, but the Vols aren't exactly loaded at the running back position. Rogers' status with the team has seemingly been up in the air since the end of last season. He currently appears to be in good standing, but his situation will be one that is constantly monitored. The transition to the 3-4 should make Tennessee better in the long run, but there likely will be a few growing pains (See Georgia in Todd Grantham's first year) during games it has to win during the early part of the season. Devrin Young could be one of the better punt/kick returners in the nation, but the Vols could again be inconsistent on punts and kicks if Michael Palardy doesn't figure out what has made him struggled during his first two seasons. And though the schedule is much more forgiving than last season, UT draws both South Carolina and Georgia away from Neyland Stadium.