Before mingling with VIPs and then addressing a large crowd, he took 10 minutes to meet with members of the news media. Many topics were covered. As the first question was being asked, Saban interrupted. "Is this about the lake house?" he asked, referring to erroneous reports that he is selling his vacation home on Lake Burton in northeast Georgia. (The house for sale is an investment property.)
"There's no question about the fact that we don't have a backup quarterback now that has any significant experience," Saban said. "We need for some young players to really develop and grow and maybe get some opportunity to play early on." Alabama's de facto backup at the moment, Phillip Ely, didn't take a snap last season during his first year with the program. Incoming freshman Alec Morris, a three-star prospect from Allen, Texas, won't be on campus until the end of the month. That's why an athlete like Sims, who doesn't appear to be in the mix for significant carries at running back this season, could very well help the Crimson Tide at another spot on the field. "Last year, we actually had a plan for Blake Sims to play quarterback," Saban said. "He played quarterback in high school and was a different style of quarterback than what we have. We also have the flexibility on offense to maybe utilize him at that position as well."
During the last academic year, Alabama’s football program led the SEC (in what is believed to be a conference record) with a total of 38 student-athletes on the Academic All-SEC Honor Roll. A total of 22 players were on the bowl roster who had already earned their degrees, which was tied for first nationally in terms of graduates on bowl rosters.
Count LSU coach Les Miles in Steve Spurrier's camp to choose SEC division champions based on division record instead of overall conference record. Miles said the SEC will eventually realize that LSU and Florida's annual cross-division game doesn't help either team. "I want the schedule to be fair and I want it to give everybody the same opportunity," Miles said today in Birmingham at a luncheon for the Changed Lives Christian Center. "I'm for the Western Division deciding the Western Division champion and the Eastern Division deciding the Eastern Division champion."
Forget about the BCS mulligan Alabama received last fall. The Tide got it and Saban took advantage, winning his second national in three years. That's three BCS national championships in nine years for the game's ultimate program builder. LSU was among the nation's elite when Saban coached in Baton Rouge and left for the NFL after the 2004 season, and Alabama will be on top when he eventually leaves (or retires in) Tuscaloosa. He has won 22 of his last 26 SEC games, with the four losses by a combined 21 points. An NFL scout says: "Winning is important, and strictly speaking football, his players are ready to go in our league from the moment they step on the field. For the most part, they're good character kids. Nick won't put up with crap, and that shows with the way they perform week after week."
"That is one of the most difficult things I have had to deal with this year," the University of Alabama football coach said Tuesday night at a Crimson Caravan event in Birmingham. "It's really difficult to think that there might have been something you might have done to help him." Saban only coached Seau, the future Hall of Famer for one season (2005) in Miami, and Seau was sidelined seven games into the schedule with an Achilles' tendon injury. That didn't stop Saban from developing admiration for the former Southern Cal star in their brief association. "You always have these guys, if you're fortunate, that are really special people that you have an opportunity to coach. "Junior was the most popular guy on the team, the most upbeat, the most energetic, a great practice player, a great football player. So it's difficult."
Alabama will be loaded again and it should be even stronger in the passing game, but can the running game continue to shine without Trent Richardson? Can the defense be the same sort of killer it was throughout last year without seven starters? Will the kicking game come through when it has to in the big games? Can the offense shine without offensive coordinator Jim McElwain? The answer to all of the above is probably a resounding yes, but that still might mean a really, really strong two-loss season.
The SEC is thought of as a lot of things these days, but a quarterback's league is not one of them. Even with two Heisman winners in the last decade or so, defense still comes first and when we think of the league's top talents, they usually lie on that side of the ball. Could that be changing in 2012?
Eddie Lacy just missed the cut because he finished the year ranked 11th in the SEC in rushing and now takes over for Richardson. He'll have a couple of other players to work with, but Lacy will be in charge of Alabama's running game and if he can overcome some nagging injuries, he'll be tough to stop this fall.
"We’ll go to it someday because we’ll run out of money," Bryant said of a playoff. "It costs so much now to put on a football game with fuel and energy so high," he continued, in words that could have been spoken verbatim of today’s economy. Bryant felt the exposure a playoff would create for college football would generate money that would help it compete with the NFL, which he saw as competition. "They’d be coming to our house once in a while instead of to the Super Bowl," he said. "But someday it will come down to money, and when it does, we’ll win over the academic people."
The surprising reality with the Big East — if it stays together in its intended 13-team and 18-team formats — is that it could still be a lucrative league. Football drives the financial bus, and basketball provides boundless inventory. While there have been plenty of jokes about who would want to watch San Diego State and Connecticut play football, apparently someone is willing to pay to find out. Neal Pilson, a media consultant and former president of CBS Sports, predicted that the Big East could surpass the deal it turned down last year, which was considered similar in value to the A.C.C.’s $155 million annual deal. "I think if they stay together and negotiate as a single unit, I think they can come away with a reasonably favorable result," Pilson said. "Even more than what ESPN offered a year and a half ago. I think the competition will drive it."
Timing is everything. As I mentioned a few days ago, SMU and San Diego State don't get called up to the Big East five years ago. Missouri isn't getting an SEC bid ten years ago. With a playoff in place in 1971, it is at least slightly possible that the football balance of power in the state of Florida comes to look completely different. If there is a successful Tampa program pulling in decent Florida-area recruits in the mid-1970s, does Bobby Bowden's Florida State program ascend as high, or for as long? Does Howard Schnellenberger's magic work with Miami in 1983? (And if it doesn't, does what we know as The U ever come into existence?) College football's Butterfly Effect can take us in so many different directions. And for that reason, it really is the ultimate sport for What-If obsessives like me. College football's powers-that-be have never been interested in a playoff. Even now, they aren't unanimously sold on the idea and seem to be pursuing even a four-team playoff out of obligation as much as motivation.
The NFL on Tuesday morning sent an e-mail to about 3,200 pre-1993 players that included an update on some retirement issues. There was some normal business chatter in the e-mail, including news that former New York Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik is now interim president of the Alumni Association and Jim McMahon won the association's golf tournament. But also in the letter, obtained by me, was a bit of a blockbuster. The letter included a four-page summary of a recent record-based study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of all retirees who played in the NFL for at least five seasons from 1959 through 1988. The main conclusion of the NIOSH study, which it says was commissioned by the union, is that players in the study had a much lower rate of death overall compared to men in the general population. This means, on average, NFL players are actually living longer than men in the general population which contradicts a popular notion that former NFL players live into their mid-50s.
I can think of several valid reasons why Texas A&M’s running back situation has gone overlooked before, during and after Kevin Sumlin’s first spring with the program. One reason is Sumlin himself, who steps in for Mike Sherman at a crucial juncture in the program’s history; this juncture doubles as the second reason, with A&M mere months away from its SEC debut. Then there are more nuts-and-bolts reasons, such as Ryan Tannehill’s departure and the ensuing quarterback competition and the move from Sherman’s pro-style system to the Air Raid-themed offense favored by Sumlin and new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. So the Aggies’ stable of running backs has been lost in the shuffle — both in big-picture themes, like the coaching change and conference shuffle, and in the positional power structure, behind the team’s search for Tannehill’s replacement. But it’s hard to ignore just how much backfield talent A&M has on the burner heading into this season. In addition, with two high-profile transfers likely taking a redshirt this season — one for sure as the other applies for a hardship waiver — the Aggies look set at running back in 2013.
The lawyer for four men injured in a bar brawl involving a group of LSU football players are suing them and the owners of the bar where it happened. The men filed suit against former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns, as well as DBJ Interests LLC, doing business as Shady's Bar. They claim Jefferson and Johns seriously injured them in a fight outside the bar last August, and that Shady's didn't do enough to make sure people in their parking lot were safe.