The Crimson Tide are coming off their second national championship in three seasons, have the hottest coach in football (Nick Saban) and a steady stream of elite talent pouring into Tuscaloosa. With everything pointing to a possible dynasty in the making, Alabama is enjoying that breathtaking view. But Saban is leery, knowing there are no guarantees on how long it's going to last. Saban has been passing that message along to his players throughout the offseason. He passed it along again Thursday at SEC Media Days. "Having success in a football program can have two effects," he said. "You can demand more success or you can get a little complacent and be relaxed about what you have accomplished, really think more about what you did rather than what you're going to do.
Former Pickens County High School star and senior Alabama tight end Michael Williams said Thursday that he's looking to change people's perception of him this season. "I'm looking forward to being more of a leader, to start off with," Williams said. "Also, being more of a red-zone threat, and just being an all-around tight end. Ever since I was a freshman, people say I've been on the field because I can block. You can say there's a little chip on my shoulder." The departure of Brad Smelley, who played a hybrid version of tight end at H-back, leaves Williams as the most experienced tight end on the team. Smelley was second on the team in receptions with 34 for 356 yards. Williams caught 16 passes for 191 yards. "I want to be on the field on third down," Williams said. "I don't want to be the guy who has to come out for a third receiver or another tight end."
There is some inexplicable need to demolish the rubble. There has been so much written lately about what the NCAA (of all groups) needs to do to "punish" Penn State which means, along other things, punishing players who had nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky or any other scandal. How about the NCAA working with Penn State to encourage institutional control, benefit victims and educate everyone going forward? Wouldn't that be better? Yes, there are lessons to be learned, and a right way to do things. Saban expressed confidence that the lessons had already been learned here, that the Sandusky/Paterno scenario would not have played out in the same way, statue or no statue. "I can't speak for everybody but I can speak for the University of Alabama," he said. "I think if we had any kind of issue, it would not be my decision as to what we did. It would be a bigger issue than me, and I would want it that way." That perspective is what matters. It keeps the man from confusing himself with the statue - and it keeps the statue-destroyer in all of us at bay
The Big Ten may respond to a centralized authority failure, with even greater centralized authority. A proposal under consideration, in response to the Penn State scandal, would give Jim Delany and a council of conference presidents the power to impose sanctions on coaches and other officials, including fines, suspensions and outright firing. This will be pooh-poohed by many, but it makes sense. Delany would not assume dictatorial power. The Big Ten presidents would give Delany more power to execute their interests. His role would resemble the commissioner of a professional sports league, with the presidents serving as powerful owners. That structure fits the present incarnation of the Big Ten. This is no longer a friendly association of schools. It is an assembly of partners invested in an enterprise worth billions. Having a strong, centralized authority to ensure all parties act for the collective self-interest is incredibly sensible.
The proposal, which has not been approved, is part of an 18-page plan prompted by problems at Penn State, where a former assistant football coach repeatedly molested children on campus property while university leaders turned a blind eye. The ideas are designed in part to root out problems that could include coaches or athletic officials who interfere with normal admissions, compliance, hiring, or disciplinary processes, the document says. The plan calls for Big Ten universities to empower presidents and athletic directors and have policies to dissuade rogue boosters and trustees with inappropriate involvement in programs from trying to influence university leaders’ decisions. Big Ten officials are still in the early stages of debating how to handle fallout from the scandal. Among other ideas, the league’s presidents and chancellors could consider removing Penn State from the conference, one Big Ten leader told The Chronicle.
Mark Richt ignored the red flags and was among the nation’s coaches who lined up around the block for Isaiah Crowell. He already has seen seven members from his vaunted 2011 recruiting class either kicked out, flunked out or never academically qualified to begin with ("Dream Team"? Anybody?). Arrests and suspensions likely will lead to four defensive starters missing games next season. There is a problem again at Georgia — and it matters little that it’s a different one from the past.
Talking to reporters Thursday at SEC Media Days, UGA coach Mark Richt said he expects Mitchell to be about "50-50" on offense and defense over the course of the season, likely focusing on the latter early on to ease the suspension-ravaged depth chart at cornerback and gradually filtering back into the wide receiver rotation as the year goes on. Both of last year's starting corners, seniors Branden Smith and Sanders Commings, are already on thin ice: Smith on the heels of a misdemeanor marijuana arrest in March, Commings as a result of domestic violence arrest in January that will keep him out of the Bulldogs' first two games, against Buffalo and Missouri. Combined with even lengthier suspensions for safety Baccari Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree, the Bulldogs will start the season with 79 career starts sitting on the bench. "By time [the] season's over, we will have seen a lot of Malcolm playing offense," Richt promised. "Early on, I don't know how much."
Some notable trends quickly emerge. First, four of the top five defensive back states come from the South (Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas, with Maryland as the fifth) while four of the bottom six come from the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, with Oregon and New York rounding out the bottom six). The trend reverses for offensive lineman, with the bottom five all coming from the South.
A coach from Georgia is lurking outside the Kimball High School gym in Dallas. Inside, Justin Manning, a defensive tackle who stands six feet two inches tall and weighs 275 pounds, looks beat. It’s not his social studies final. No, the kid’s vacant eyes are a sign of the burden—or, you might say, the privilege—of being a highly coveted high school football player. This year, Manning’s school has become a pilgrimage site for college coaches with a story to sell. Manning sighs. "It seems like they’re telling me what I want to hear," he says. Let’s not use the word "recruiting" to describe the strange thing happening to Manning. Recruiting is a fairy tale about a college coach and a kid in a letter sweater. Manning’s situation requires a word that conveys its high stakes, its enormous perils. Let’s call it the Negotiation. The Negotiation is pure business. Manning has a skill that’s valuable to a multibillion-dollar industry called college football. But he is bargaining at a severe disadvantage.