"It's just a great moment," Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. "You have to come out and win today to win it outright. It's just a great feeling. I'm proud of these young ladies. Everyone has just done an incredible job, and to come out and do this is just awesome. And for those six seniors, they've really worked extremely hard for four years and they really earned this SEC championship."
Not many back-to-back conference champions get the chance to play the "no respect" card during their pursuit of a three-peat. Alabama, despite a loaded returning class that included an All-American pitcher, received that opportunity when not one of the SEC's coaches voted the Crimson Tide to win the regular season title for the league's preseason poll. It didn't slip by Alabama's coaches and players. It lingered all the way until the final out of Sunday's 5-3 victory over Florida at Rhoads Stadium, a win that eliminated anyone else from sharing the Crimson Tide's third consecutive regular season championship. "That gave us momentum and motivation to play better and to prove everybody wrong a little bit," leftfielder Kayla Braud said. "So what if we're the underdogs? I'd rather be the underdogs than expected to win. We get to come out, have fun and play. "That's exactly what we did the last two days."
Only two things really mattered on a hot and muggy afternoon with 3,659 rowdy fans in the stands and the SEC championship on the line: Alabama ace Jackie Traina was too tough for Florida, and the Crimson Tide's offense was too much for Florida ace Hannah Rogers. UA overwhelmed Rogers, knocking her out after just 19 pitches. Traina, on the other hand, sweated through her third complete game in a span of less than 48 hours, throwing 128 pitches to take her pitch total to 355 on the weekend. "She's incredible," Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. "I don't think any other kid we could do that with, throw every pitch in a crucial situation as a sophomore."
“To have a great defense, you have to have a bunch of guys who want to make every tackle,” Holt said. “It’s the competition among the teammates that takes a defense to another level. That’s one of the things that made the 1961 bunch so good. We were all so selfish that we wanted to make every tackle. You see that same thing with Saban’s defense.” Some outstanding linebackers have preceded Johnson, and Holt believes he has the makings of something special. “Certainly Nico is good because he does a great job of taking care of his responsibilities, covering his territory,” Holt said. “But he also does the extra things. It’s that desire to do the extra that makes him such an exceptional player. With his ability, there’s no reason he can’t be an All-American this year.”
“I think the fact in ’09 we had 13 guys sign NFL contracts and this year we had 14 [helps],” Saban said. “I think the most important thing we do in our program is we help our players develop personally and academically. We had 38 guys make the SEC Honor Roll last fall, which is one of the highest ever in the conference. We have a high graduation rate, and we have a high level [of winning] on the field. I think our program’s success is about being able to do all three of those things well.”
Everybody will have to wait a little longer for the nation’s No. 1 football prospect to make his college decision. Robert Nkemdiche told the AJC that he has officially pushed back his tentative announcement on May 18 to a later date. “I’m just not ready yet,” Nkemdiche said. “This is one of the biggest decisions of my life. I want to go see some new places, and go back to some other places to spend more time with the coaches and to check out the campuses. It’s a big decision, and I want to get it right.”
Understanding concussions and how best to prevent and then treat them, however, isn't easy. As Dr. Margot Putukian, one of four panelists at the Arizona Biltmore, said, concussions are "a moving target." Each one is different, and each person is different. They are not anything like a torn ACL. Yet there has been recent research progress that is particularly meaningful for football. Said Dr. Michael McCrea, "The news is promising." McCrea's research found that 28 percent of athletes suffering a concussion no longer show symptoms from their injury after 24 hours. Sixty percent are asymptomatic after a week to 10 days. So nearly 90 percent of athletes passed tests that showed their symptoms were gone inside of 10 days. But that's not the good news. Passing tests that show symptoms are gone doesn't mean the brain has fully healed -- achieved full clinical recovery. The good news is this: Those numbers, it turns out, do indeed run roughly parallel to a full clinical recovery. Using a multi-dimensional approach -- symptoms tests as well as MRI -- for assessing the recovery process can, McCrea said, "take the guesswork out of concussion management."
The most plausible route to the death of football starts with liability suits.1 Precollegiate football is already sustaining 90,000 or more concussions each year. If ex-players start winning judgments, insurance companies might cease to insure colleges and high schools against football-related lawsuits. Coaches, team physicians, and referees would become increasingly nervous about their financial exposure in our litigious society. If you are coaching a high school football team, or refereeing a game as a volunteer, it is sobering to think that you could be hit with a $2 million lawsuit at any point in time. A lot of people will see it as easier to just stay away. More and more modern parents will keep their kids out of playing football, and there tends to be a "contagion effect" with such decisions; once some parents have second thoughts, many others follow suit. We have seen such domino effects with the risks of smoking or driving without seatbelts, two unsafe practices that were common in the 1960s but are much rarer today. The end result is that the NFL's feeder system would dry up and advertisers and networks would shy away from associating with the league, owing to adverse publicity and some chance of being named as co-defendants in future lawsuits.
Junior Alexis Paine continued her breakout season on Saturday afternoon by breaking the Alabama school record in the women’s pole vault by clearing 13-5.25 at the Samford Invitational. Paine’s vault bettered the previous record by 3/4ths of an inch and added an entire inch to her previous personal best to finish second in the event. Paine was one of six members of the UA women’s track and field team that participated in the meet prior to next weekend’s Southeastern Conference Championships.
The NFL may feature more pass-happy offenses these days, but the fact of the matter is that a number of teams find it hard to be successful if there is not an offensive balance between passing and rushing. If there is not a threat in the backfield, defenses will focus more on the receivers, thus clogging up passing lanes. While some teams may subscribe to the running-back-by-committee approach, the teams with truly dominant rushing attacks have elite-level players at the position. A few of these players come out of nowhere, causing people to believe players at the position are a dime a dozen, but the numbers and statistics don’t lie. The best runners at the position are found early in the draft.