Just when all seems quiet on the western front, news often times comes out of nowhere by the proverbial ton. That happens a good bit, and today was no different. Coach Saban had a small get-together with some media personnel, and gave a few on-the-record quotes, and that got the ball rolling today. Let's go a bit deeper on the bigger issues that he touched upon.
The biggest news of the day was that Lionel Mitchell's football career at Alabama is officially over as a result of a chronic back condition. As a result he has been placed on medical scholarship, and his days as a football player are done.
I wasn't expecting this now, of course, but I cannot say that I'm overwhelmingly surprised by the news. Mitchell missed effectively all of Spring practice with the back issue, and there was just never any clarification on it. All that was ever stated was that it was a "chronic" condition, and that is never a good adjective to use when describing an injury. You usually see a surprise or two in medical scholarships, and the "chronic" tag made me think he was a possibility. That said, I certainly wasn't expecting anything this soon, I was thinking the first day of Fall camp in August.
As for the impact of his departure, I'm not sure it is a particularly big loss. Going into the Spring, Mitchell needed to have a big camp and really re-establish himself after fading down the stretch in 2007. Obviously that didn't happen, and he was going to looking at a shaky situation going into 2008 anyway. Both Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers had good springs, and with the arrivals of Alonzo Lawrence and Robby Green, playing time for Mitchell was far from guaranteed. At best I think he would have been the nickel corner, and even that was far from certain.
It would be nice to have had Mitchell return, to be sure, simply for no other reasons than depth chart purposes. By the same token, however, it's hard to see his loss being a major one.
As is usually the case, where there was smoke there was indeed some fire. The rumors, with a bit of print screen verification, were that Oakley had broken his foot running while participating during the pass skeletons. That's not entirely correct -- he apparently broke his foot in a weight room mishap; I suppose a weight was dropped on it -- but the injury was stated properly. According to Saban, he may very well be pushing it to return to the field in time for the start of Fall camp.
For Oakley, this is nothing short of terrible news. He's a senior, and this is his last chance, end of story. He has never been able to establish himself as a starter, and this is the last thing he needed. It was bad enough for his sake that Earl Alexander, Mike McCoy, and Darius Hanks all did very well this Spring, but he's also got to contend with the presence of Nikita Stover, plus the influx of guys like Julio Jones and Burton Scott.
For Alabama, though, it's probably not a major issue. Oakley was probably no better than the fourth or fifth receiver on the roster in the Spring, and he will probably fall only further fell down the depth chart with the influx of the incoming recruiting class. Bottom line, Oakley wasn't really in line for any legitimate amount of meaningful playing time, and this most recent news probably only further cements that harsh reality for Oakley. You hate to see it happen to the kid, but that is likely what it entails for him.
Coach Saban announced that Lewis was enrolling in a junior college for the summer, and that he would not be at Alabama this Fall. And this one really has me dumbfounded, to put it mildly.
First and foremost, this one never made sense to me. Everyone thought he would qualify with no problems, and then the news came out that the NCAA Clearinghouse rejected a high ACT score from him because it was too big of a jump, and that he was going to Hargrave. But why? He could have still taken the ACT again at that point, so why not do that?
And now we have Coach Saban saying that he is going to junior college. But of course with him at a JUCO, he must graduate there first. And there were previous reports that he was going to enroll at Hargrave, a prep school. Obviously prep school would be preferred to a JUCO, so why didn't he go that route? Prep schools give out scholarships, but perhaps he came onto the scene too late for that? Perhaps his family couldn't afford the cost of a prep school -- and they are extremely pricey -- and a JUCO was a more affordable solution. On the other hand, though, Saban did not name the JUCO he had enrolled at, so perhaps he simply misspoke?
I'll be honest, I have no clue on this one.