In the Allstate BCS Championship Game on Jan. 9, McCarron threw for 234 yards and was 23-of-34 passing in a 21-0 shutout victory over LSU at the Louisiana Superdome. Many now point to that game as a potential coming-out party for McCarron and say the quarterback could be poised for an even bigger year this season. "I don't think there's any doubt about it," said FOX Sports and NFL Network analyst Charles Davis. "I think he came into his own last year, and now there will just be a continuation with what A.J. did as he progressed and as he saw the trust they gave him as the year went on. He's going to carry himself differently, and he's going to be more confident. He's going to be fine."
Tony McCarron said he noticed a difference in AJ's off-the-field demeanor after last year's camp. "He wants to be a positive role model for every kid he meets," Tony said. "I tell him all the time, 'You can meet 500 kids after a game and you probably won't remember two or three of them, but I promise you all 500 are going to remember you.' "That's what you got to take away from that. You're going to make a huge difference in people's lives even when you don't mean to because of the position you're in."
5. Alabama: Jesse Williams moves from end to nose guard and has the strength and power to develop into an NFL first-round draft choice. He shouldn’t have any problem making the transition. Damion Square is an accomplished pass-rusher at one end, and talented guys like junior end Ed Stinson have patiently been waiting their turn.
2. Jesse Williams, Sr., Alabama: He has incredible strength and tremendous size. Williams’ move to nose guard from end will make him a force in the middle for the Crimson Tide.
Molly Fichtner, the 2012 Southland Conference Student-Athlete of the Year in softball and a two-time all-conference selection, will join the Crimson Tide program as a transfer from Texas-San Antonio. She will be eligible to play next season as a junior and will join an incoming class that includes outfielder Andrea Hawkins, rated as the No. 1 prospect in the country by ESPN.com, and top-50 recruits Haylie McCleney, Kallie Case and Leona Lafaele. Fitchtner carries a .346 career batting average with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs in two seasons. She played shortstop as a sophomore and catcher in her first year, when she was named Southland Conference Freshman of the Year. With Kaila Hunt returning at shortstop for UA after hitting 21 home runs last season, Fitchtner is expected to compete with Chauncey Bell and Jordan Patterson for the starting job at catcher. “Honestly it’s the chance of a lifetime to play for Alabama softball,” Fitchtner said. “Amazing coaches, amazing girls, it’s just a chance I was willing to take to play with the best team in the nation. I’m looking forward to it.”
That was quick. The Big Ten/Pac-12 football scheduling partnership planned for 2017 is over before it ever started. Big winner: The MAC, which can continue to regularly purchase cupcake games from the Big Ten. Small winner: The SEC, which must no longer worry about teams from two rival conferences annually playing nine major-conference opponents. The SEC may view this as further evidence that it doesn't need to shift from eight games to protect itself in playoff selection debates. Big loser: Fans. You're not going to get to see a cool annual series.
Josh Rutledge's major league debut was a memorable one tonight with the Colorado Rockies. The former Alabama star started at shortstop and batted eighth in a 6-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in Denver. He delivered an RBI double in his first at-bat and finished 2 for 2 with two runs batted in. He singled in his second at-bat, drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, walked and stole a base. Rutledge, 24, was called up from the Class Double-A Tulsa (Okla.) Drillers when the Rockies placed first baseman Todd Helton on the disabled list because of a hip injury.
Southeastern Conference Media Days begin Tuesday in Hoover, where hundreds of media members will gather and rank the league's teams in a poll of their own. Alabama and LSU are expected to garner much of the frontrunner attention for league play, and the preseason polls suggest nothing different. USA Today ranked Alabama No. 1 in the nation, while Lindy's (No. 3), Athlon (No. 3) and Steele (No. 5) each had the Crimson Tide in the top five. "You always start with the SEC," USA Today's Mike Lopresti said. "You can see the personnel losses, but it's to the point now where you can't talk about a top five without starting with the SEC. For USC, with (quarterback) Barkley coming back, you can start there as well. "It's the same teams in the race, but it's a different feel this year with the conference realignment, Ohio State being ineligible for a bowl, Texas and Florida retreating a little bit, there is a lot going on.
The purpose behind the camps was simple, Gilberry said, once again noting the excitement of the youngsters participating in fundamental drills and enjoying being on the field with Gilberry, former Williamson High and Auburn star Antonio Coleman and other instructors. "We're just giving these kids something to do, a different avenue," he said. "Sometimes you take it for granted, the platform that I have. You see a lot of athletes do something like this in the state that they're playing in. You don't see too many people come back home. That's what I wanted to do. "We have a good group in this area that have gone on to the NFL and they come back to the area and give back. Here in Baldwin County, I felt like I needed to do it. "I feel like this a blessing that God has given me and it's only right that I give back. It is said that to whom much is given, much is required. I kind of feel like it's my duty to do this and I enjoy doing it. It's a free camp. I'm not gaining anything from it except the fact we're putting smiles on these kids faces and hearts and that's what it's all about."
Running back Corey Grant will also be eligible this fall at Auburn after transferring from Alabama. Grant hasn't played in two years. He redshirted in 2010 at Alabama and sat out last season at Auburn to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. Another transfer to watch is Tennessee defensive end Darrington Sentimore, who started his career at Alabama. Sentimore spent last season at Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College before returning to the SEC and signing with the Vols in December.
Richardson's will to succeed in the face of skepticism comes from advice his mother, Katrina, gave him, and it's the underlying theme in the messages he hopes to pass along to about 240 children who are participating in his first youth football camp this weekend at Strongsville High School. "She always told me to never let nobody tell me what I can't do," Richardson said Saturday. Richardson still hasn't forgotten a naysayer from his middle school days. "I had a seventh-grade teacher tell me I wasn't gonna be nothin' and I was gonna always be a failure in life," said Richardson, the third overall pick in this year's draft. "And look where I'm at now."
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones recorded 54 catches for 959 yards and eight touchdowns during his rookie season, despite missing three games. The Falcons expect growth from Jones in his second year and incumbent top receiver Roddy White anticipates a lesser role for himself, which suggests Jones may be the focal point of Atlanta’s new offense. Appearing on SportsCenter Wednesday, ESPN’s Jerry Rice nominated Jones as his top breakout wide receiver for 2012. “I love this kid,” said Rice. “He’s awesome. He’s big, he’s fast. … I think he’s gonna have a breakout season this coming year.”
Saban, whose passion for the game is surpassed only by his disdain for complacency, has retooled Alabama into the football machine it was decades ago, and there's no end in sight in terms of where this dizzying run may end. He's had so much success so quickly at Alabama that he's done what most of us once thought was impossible. That ominous shadow cast by Bryant, the same shadow that has lingered for more than a quarter century, has actually started to disappear. In fact, Saban is well on his way to casting his own shadow, one that will only grow longer as the Crimson Tide continue to rack up championships.