The Jumbo Package | 02.26.14

Alabama guard Trevor Releford - Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Your daily dose of Crimson Tide news and notes.

Trevor Releford improving after 'hurting pretty bad' in Saturday win over Missouri |

"I'm going to practice (Tuesday) and see how it feels," said Releford, Alabama's leading scorer who averages 19.0 points a game. On Saturday, things were different. "It was hurting pretty bad, but I just had to fight through," he said.

Three reasons for hope with Alabama basketball, three more to lose it (analysis) |

2. The talent is returning. After losing two former top recruits before this season (Trevor Lacey and Devonta Pollard), Alabama has a top 25 class coming to Tuscaloosa in the fall. Point guard Justin Coleman has the potential to step into Trevor Releford's place while Devin Mitchell adds a 3-point shooting threat that's been lacking.  Transfer Ricky Tarrant could also step in at point guard while Michael Kessens, also a transfer, will add a presence inside.

A little basketball optimism to start your day.

Wrapping up former Alabama CB Deion Belue's trip to the 2014 NFL Combine |

On Sunday, Belue said he planned to do most on-field drills with the exception of the 40-yard dash. Ultimately, he passed on everything but the bench. A last-second change of heart is common, and he certainly wasn't the only one. Alabama's first Pro Day is March 12.

Wrapping up former Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri's trip to the 2014 NFL Combine |

"Me and my dad talked about it. We talked about how I had an All-American year this year before I got hurt. I was a midseason All-American, I had great film. All I could do is come back to another year and reimplement that, have another All-American year. I just thought that I did enough this year to prove to professional teams and prove to coaches that I was ready to take that next step."

I was hoping we would get a more thorough explanation from Vinnie about his decision, and now that we have, I just don't see it.  The point of coming back wouldn't be to prove you are capable of being an All-American, it would be to prove you are still capable of being an All-American, despite the injury.  As it is, the injury concern will be hanging out there as an open question for teams that are considering drafting him.

Five burning questions: SEC letdowns - ESPN

The offense will miss running back Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson, but eight starters return to give Marshall a strong supporting cast.

The big question is on defense. Auburn lost five starters from a defense that was suspect to begin with. The good news for the Tigers is that veteran defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has had a knack for making improvements from Year 1 to Year 2, and this looks to be his latest reclamation project. The schedule doesn’t do Auburn any favors with trips to Kansas State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama, but with the talent returning and the current coaching staff, the Tigers should expect to be one of the SEC favorites again next season.

Do you guys consider Auburn to be SEC favorites?  I don't think I do.  If not for a freak injury to Manziel and two once-in-a-lifetime game-ending plays, this was a 4-loss team with a decent story, but still an afterthought where the SEC race was concerned.  I also don't think the loss of Tre Mason can be so easily discounted.  That is a player that will be sorely missed.

FWAA, NFF partner to form new 'Super 16' college football poll -

The Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation have partnered to form the FWAA-NFF Grantland Rice Super 16 poll beginning in 2014. The announcement was made Tuesday morning. Beginning this season, the top 16 teams will be ranked weekly by a roster of 36 voters. Twenty-six of those will be FWAA members, “current or past writers of national stature," according to the press release.

The 10 NFF voters will consist college football hall of fame players, coaches and administrators. The voting roster will be released in the early summer. Given the history and influence of both organizations, the new poll could be considered a third major poll along with the AP and coaches' polls.

I don't really see the point of this.  I think polls provide for fun discussions, so I'm fine with this creation, but it doesn't seem like it serves any real purpose.  Also, it seems redundant for the Football Writers Association of America to have a separate poll when the AP poll already exists.  I would imagine there is a ton of overlap between AP voters and FWAA members.

Former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier receives sizable pay bump at Michigan |

Former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier received a $150,000 pay raise when he left for the same position at Michigan. According to, Nussmeier will make at least $830,000 in his first season with the Wolverines. His salary will increase to $860,000 in his second year and $880,000 in 2016. The three-year deal is worth $2.57 million.

Good for Nuss, but I don't know that this makes a lot of sense on Michigan's part.  That's a whole lot of money for a guy that doesn't immediately spring to mind when you think of the leading offensive minds.

Will SEC defenses improve in 2014? Don't count on it - ESPN

The last couple of seasons only continued a trend toward more explosive offense and away from the suffocating defense that was the SEC's trademark for many years. Just a few seasons ago, nearly every SEC defense ranked among the nation's top half in terms of yards allowed. That's no longer the case, as about half of the league's defenses trended toward the bottom in 2013 -- with Arkansas (76th), Missouri (81st), Tennessee (83rd), Auburn (86th), Kentucky (91st) and Texas A&M (109th) all ranking 75th or worse nationally in total defense.

Yikes.  I do think it's pretty reasonable to expect a measure of improvement, considering more than half the conference will be starting a new quarterback this year.  Also, some of those terrible defenses listed (Arkansas/Tennessee) are in the early stages of a coach rebuilding the program, and both of those coaches seem to be pretty capable of getting those defenses to at least be respectable.

Concussions and college football: The game must change -- or perish -

It may take 10, 20 years to adjust -- legally, medically and athletically -- but we're still going to recognize the game we love in a couple of decades. Perhaps without kickoffs. That once-outrageous concept advanced by former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, after Eric Legrand was paralyzed, now has a bit of traction.

Roger Goodell advocated the concept late last year. We're already headed that way. Thanks to rule changes, there are less kickoffs to return. Concussions on kickoffs were reduced by 50 percent last season. It's not that far a jump to eliminate them altogether by doing away with the kickoff.

We've hashed out the value of getting rid of the extra point attempt following touchdowns, but the elimination of kickoffs may well be the next major change to the sport.  There's no denying that the kickoff has effectively been phased out for the most part by recent rule changes.  Maybe it is time to revisit the entire idea of kickoffs.

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