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Jumbo Package: Thursday 22 January 2015

Your daily dose of Crimson Tide news and notes.

Roll Blake Roll.
Roll Blake Roll.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Evolution of spread offenses taking hold in SEC - ESPN

In each of the last two seasons, the SEC has had six teams finish the year allowing more than 390 yards per game. From 2008-12, only nine teams allowed more than 390 yards a game. The disintegration of defense is apparent in the SEC, and how long it lasts is unknown. Offense is having a trickle-up effect with high school teams adopting the spread more and more and ramping up the tempo. Running quarterbacks feel like more of a necessity in the sport than a luxury.

Interesting statistic that underscores just how much the game has changed in an incredibly short time frame. Like it or not, high octane offense is here to stay. Alabama will have to continue to evolve in order to stay on top in the SEC.

Why Middle Tennessee State needs to play Alabama in football to cover rising costs |

"We scheduled Alabama as an additional guarantee game in anticipation of the expenses this year to give us another year to buffer ourselves not knowing what all the autonomy legislation might bring for us," the Middle Tennessee State athletic director said. "The revenue generation for Group of 5 conferences is a critical piece for us."

There are no easy answers when it comes to scheduling. Rarely discussed is the dependence of smaller programs on the paycheck games. As the Power 5 moves toward more autonomy, more aggressive scheduling, and increasing benefits to players, one has to wonder what will come of the smaller programs who will be even harder pressed to stay afloat.

Alabama hoops: Tide prepare to face SEC’s leading scorer

"I said earlier this week I think he’s one of the leading candidates for player of the year right now for what he’s able to do," Tide coach Anthony Grant said Wednesday. "At 6-foot-11, he’s got great size and physicality. It looks like he’s put on some good weight. He’s got the ability to stretch to the three-point line, and also post you inside, we’re going to have to do a great job as a team defensively in terms of limiting him offensively."

Containing Portis will require a team effort, but we will certainly get to find out just what Kessens and Taylor are made of. If those two have a great game defensively the Tide has a decent chance of pulling off the upset. Look for Saxon's statistical analysis and Bamabrave4's game preview later on today.

Alabama head coach Anthony Grant: 'We need to rebound better' |

Alabama was outrebounded 30-21 in a 70-48 loss to No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday. That should be no surprise, as the Wildcats have a distinct size advantage on everyone. Earlier last week, South Carolina out rebounded Alabama 33-23, and got 13 offensive rebounds in a 68-66 win. Alabama is last in the SEC at rebounds per game at 32.9. Arkansas is sixth at 36.8.

Lack of interior presence has been a problem for the Tide for a while now, which is obviously a concern playing an Arkansas team with a legit superstar inside. Here's hoping they can improve in this area as the season goes along. An NCAA tournament bid and Coach Grant's future with the program may depend on it.

Alabama, Auburn players joke about championship rings, Kick Six at Senior Bowl |

For the most part, these players don't take this rivalry as seriously as some of the fans. It's intense on the field, but it stops there. "I don't take that kind of stuff to heart," former Alabama offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio said. "It's easier to for me to take it because we won last." Fowler feels the same way. "When you're in the game, it's a different feeling," the Mobile product said. "There's no friends on the field, but when it's off the field, some people actually have friends and cousins who play on the (other) team. So we don't take it as personally as everybody else does."

Alabama practice notes: Blake Sims improves, Iron Bowl rivalry continues in intense blocking drills |

"They were pretty fun, pretty competitive," Kouandjio said. "Coach wanted to see different techniques, so I did that and it took me a couple of reps to really get it down."

Blake Sims opens up about tears, hugs after Sugar Bowl and how they fuel NFL dream |

"It was bad," Sims said. "I was crying pretty bad. I didn't cry just because we lost the game and it was my last year. I cried because I feel like I let all my teammates down because maybe there was something I could have done better. They were just reaching out for that trophy and they just couldn't get it. Maybe I could have done something better."

Coaches, players share their thoughts following Senior Bowl's second day of practices |

On Alabama quarterback Blake Sims: "He's done a good job. He's a guy who sits in the front row and takings all the notes. Really, you can see his leadership traits; he's a really strong leader. ... It just seems very natural for him to lead. I love his spirit and his energy that he brings to the team. He's going through some different things. This is more pro style now. He did some of those traits with Lane Kiffin too, and coach (Nick) Saban. The big challenge for the quarterbacks is you're working with a whole different set of receivers.''

Some nice coverage of  the Senior Bowl practices. Shepherd has been worked out both inside and outside, Arie Kouandjio has had some tough battles with Auburn DL Gabe Wright, and Blake is coming along in his quest to prove that he can play quarterback at the next level.

Alabama Opens Season with Strength in the Middle Distances - ROLLTIDE.COM - University of Alabama Official Athletic Site

"We had some incredible performances on the track last weekend in regards to the middle distance races," said Crimson Tide head coach Dan Waters. "Opening up that well in the mile and the 800 gives me a lot of confidence in our athletes as we progress through this season."

Coach Waters sounds optimistic about the track and field season.

Women's Basketball Readies for Matchup with Auburn on Thursday - ROLLTIDE.COM - University of Alabama Official Athletic Site

The women's basketball team (11-9, 0-5 SEC) returns to Foster Auditorium for the first of back-to-back home games on Thursday when it hosts the Auburn Tigers (9-9, 0-5 SEC). The game is slated for an 8 p.m. CT tipoff, which will air on Fox Sports South.

Tide looks to rebound from a tough stretch to open the conference season. Roll Tide, ladies.

Alabama A&M assistant coach James Wright passes away | CollegeBasketballTalk

"We’ve lost a great coach, a great man and a great person," said head coach Willie Hayes in a release from the school. "I’ve known him since high school." "I’ve lost a great friend."

Sad news out of Huntsville. Condolences to the Wrights and the entire Bulldog family.