Ding dong, the offseason is dead. At long last, the horror of a college-football-less life has subsided and we once again find ourselves standing at the threshhold of the promised land.
IT'S GAME WEEK!
/plays video clip on loop for 6 days straight
/pauses video loop to watch this hype video
/runs through a wall
SEC Football Preview 2014: Alabama's Schedule Isn't Cause for Much Concern - Team Speed Kills
At some point, you have to wonder how much Alabama's schedule looks unintimidating because of scheduling practices and how much it looks unintimidating because of Alabama. There's no doubt that it's a little bit of both; you don't put Florida Atlantic, a down Southern Miss team and an FCS team on the docket because you want to challenge your team. (The Tide should get some credit for trying with West Virginia, given that no one knew that the Mountaineers were headed for a Dana Holgorsen-sized black hole when the game was agreed to.) On the other hand, it's hard to get too concerned for the Tide in October against a slate that would prove at least a little bit tricky for most teams.
There's no defending a couple of those teams, and I'm not sure when exactly Southern Miss was scheduled, but it is worth noting that USM was 12-2 in 2011 and 8-4 in 2010. Now, the last two years, USM has been as bad physically possible (where they've compiled an improbably bad 1-23 record), and they were never going to be considered a powerhouse regardless, but it all likelihood, this game wasn't nearly as bad when it was scheduled.
Of course, I'm not here trying to make Bama's schedule out to be murderer's row or anything. After all...
Alabama a double-digit favorite in season opener for 5th straight year | AL.com
That jives with the majority of other oddsmakers, which list Alabama anywhere from a 25- to 27-point favorite over West Virginia in the Atlanta-based neutral-site clash. The Mountaineers went 4-8 last season and were picked by the media to finish eighth out of 10 teams in the Big 12.
This marks the fifth straight year Alabama's been favored by double digits in its season opener. It's won by no fewer than 25 in its past four.
Alabama practice report: Tide fortifying depth at LB 1 week before season opener | AL.com
Junior Dillon Lee spent the entire viewing period working with Alabama's inside linebackers. This was common from Lee last year, but he's been working almost exclusively with the outside linebackers since camp opened. The move comes on the heels of Alabama coach Nick Saban saying inside linebacker was one of the positions Alabama needed the most improvement heading into the season opener. Senior Trey DePriest's conditioning has also been a concern. Lee's versatility makes him a valuable commodity on Alabama's defense. (Hat tip to eagle-eyed Marquavius Burnett of the Anniston Star for spotting this Friday.)
Any move that results in more playing time for Dillon Lee is A-OK in my book.
How Leon Brown, Dominick Jackson can still impact Alabama's O-line after injury-shortened camp | AL.com
Both [Leon Brown and Dominick Jackson] are healthy enough to practice now, but their respective absences eliminated some potential competition, especially when it applies to right guard. That spot has been occupied by third-year sophomore Alphonse Taylor, who converted to offensive line shortly after enrolling at Alabama in 2012 and gained experience as a backup last season.
When Alabama coach Nick Saban talked about Brown and Jackson after Thursday's practice, he used the past tense to describe their hopes of starting -- "would have been a starter" ... "we thought could certainly challenge for a starting position" -- but emphasized their importance heading into the season.
"How those guys develop," Saban said, "will determine to a degree the kind of depth we have on the offensive line."
What did we learn? Our best answers to Alabama's 5 biggest preseason questions | AL.com
2. How's Alabama going to fill its two spots on the offensive line? The Crimson Tide is swapping out one five-star, top-ranked left tackle for another, as Cam Robinson is poised to replace Cyrus Kouandjio and become the first Alabama freshman to start a season opener since Julio Jones in 2008. Robinson, who enrolled in January, hasn't budged from the spot since A-Day and is being backed up by another true freshman, Ross Pierschbacher. Right guard's a different story, as third-year sophomore Alphonse Taylor has primarily worked with the first team while senior Leon Brown (foot) and junior-college transfer Dominick Jackson (ankle) missed significant portions of practice. The crunch on time gives Taylor the edge, but this competition is far from over.
Nick Saban explains how former top recruits Tony Brown, Marlon Humphrey will contribute | AL.com
Brown, who enrolled in January, has been impressing since spring practice. Saban said he'll play early on special teams as well as rotating at cornerback.
"But he's still a guy who needs to progress, not get frustrated by what he doesn't know, and be able to focus on — you know — knowledge and confidence," said Saban who works with cornerbacks specifically in practice.
Alabama QB battle a guessing game - SEC Blog - ESPN
Nick Saban knows who will win at least one of Alabama’s position battles heading into next week’s anticipated season-opener against West Virginia. The problem is, it is not the quarterback. J.K. Scott, the Crimson Tide’s true freshman punter, has "separated himself," according to his head coach.
"He’s the best punter we have," Saban said this week. "I mean, have you seen him punt?"
We had not. Practices and scrimmages are closed to the media, remember.
"Well, that’s an easy one," Saban said.
WE GOT A PUNTER, PEOPLE.
Alabama veteran explains biggest difference between current QB competition and 2011's | AL.com
"I think last time there was a competition it was kind of clear-cut who the favorite was and who took command of the offense – no offense to Phillip Sims or anything like that," Vogler said after Thursday's practice. "It's kind of harder to tell right now. Both guys are just taking control of the offense and they want it so bad. "We're all comfortable with whoever it is that's out there at the end of the day."
It's interesting to hear that, in 2011, the team seemed to know full well how the competition was going to shake out, even while the media and fans gnashed teeth about how close the race was. Not that any of us got that impression then, of course. The team/coach are quite possibly (likely?) toting the party line that this is a neck-and-neck race, but there it is just as likely that one player has already distanced himself and we just don't know it yet.
NCAA denies Oklahoma's waiver for Dorial Green-Beckham - CBSSports.com
If Dorial Green-Beckham is ever going to play a game for the Oklahoma Sooners, it won't be this season. The school announced Friday evening that the NCAA had turned down its waiver request to give Green-Beckham eligibility for this season.
"The University of Oklahoma has learned that the waiver request it entered on behalf of Dorial Green-Beckham has been denied by the NCAA," said Oklahoma in a release. "The University accepts that decision and will continue to provide the appropriate assistances to Dorial, just as it does with other students, in helping him grow personally from the many opportunities available to him at OU."
Kudos to the NCAA to making the right call on this one.
Friday practice footage (inside linebackers, outside linebackers, defensive backs)
Saturday practice footage (running backs, offensive line, quarterbacks)
Tight end Brian Vogler on quarterback competition