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Jumbo Package: T.J. Yeldon, Defensive Tackles, and the Freshmen

We celebrate Gump Day with some great Alabama stuff for you.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

First, lets get some bad recruiting news out of the way.

Alabama commit Eddy Pineiro: ‘absolutely awesome’ time in The Swamp - Scout

"Honestly, I wanted to see what The Swamp was all about," Pineiro said after he surprised everyone one and showed up on Twitter with a picture of himself at the game. "I heard great stuff about the program on game day and with the sold out stadium and stuff. I wanted to experience it. Honestly, it is the best college experience and my first college experience in a sold out stadium.  It was absolutely awesome and I really loved it. I want to thank all of the coaches for giving me the opportunity to be there."

Our future savior may be wavering. Pineiro has looked the part of a phenomenal, borderline-cocky kicker who might could turn around the kicking game woes for Alabama. The elite kicker is set to enroll in January, but just had a visit to Florida during their best game in years. Fortunately, Pineiro has not officially visited the Tide, and plans to come to Bryant-Denny for a game soon. That should solidify his commitment.

Speaking of program saviors,

Film study: Alabama's DBs starting to look like NFL prospects again

As it pertains to technique, I’ve heard players say, specifically Kirkpatrick, that Saban doesn’t have them backpedal. "I never backpedaled," he said in discussing his struggles his rookie season with Cincinnati Bengals (h/t to "We were always press man, Cover 2. It was never just sit there and reading the receiver on his route. It was something new."

Here's a pretty cool read from SDS. For as much as we've always heard about Nick Saban's prowess with defensive backs, this kind of makes me wonder about his methods. According to Dre, not only did they never use backpedaling in Saban's defense, but they were also specifically taught to try and obscure vision as opposed to trying to turn and make a play on the ball. However, that seems to be changing under the guidance of new defensive backs coach, Mel Tucker. The nation is starting to take notice of the play of Cyrus Jones, Marlon Humphrey, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Inside Minkah Fitzpatrick's rise from 'peanut butter room' to one of Alabama's top young players |

Teammates and coaches at Alabama have regularly commended Fitzpatrick for his maturity, focus and work ethic — characteristics that have helped him make an uncommonly significant early impact as a defensive back for the Tide. Those attributes have been strengthened through the process following the hurricane.

"He comes from a hard-working family," Fitzpatrick's father, Minkah Fitzpatrick Sr. — a truck mechanic — said. "He's not a stranger to struggling a little bit. He definitely wasn't handed what he's got. He's worked hard for it, whether it was in the classroom, on the football field or out at the job where he worked on the truck with me."

Minkah Fitzpatrick. Man, I can not say enough about this guy. Back around January, CB969 and I had a frantic email chain between the two of us worrying that Fitz might de-commit, and how huge of a loss it would be to the program. Fitzpatrick was the best athletic tester of the 2015 class, and was an absolute playmaker at every single position in high school- some recruiting services even expected him to play offense. The only knock was that he was still inexperienced with the techniques of the cornerback, but he apparently grasped it all quickly over the summer and is now becoming one of the top playmakers on the Bama defense as a true freshman.

Alabama freshman DT Daron Payne is a 'grown man' along D-line

Junior defensive end Jonathan Allen said Payne’s strength is rare for his age. "You’d think he was a redshirt junior, an upperclassman. You wouldn’t think he was a freshman." And Allen and his teammates have been impressed with the Birmingham native’s contributions to the team.

"Oh man, he’s made quite an impression," Allen said. "He’s very mature for his age, great understanding of the playbook, a physical specimen. He’s done a good job adapting to our program and he’s sitting there quite nicely."

Speaking of true freshmen, Daron Payne has really begun to flash the last couple of weeks. He's not only a powerful-two gapping lineman in the typical Nick Saban mold, but is also a disruptive playmaker. He's powerful, quick, and apparently very mature for a freshman. The freshman made rounds over the summer by establishing himself as one of the top weightlifters on the team within months of enrolling.

Bama Players in the NFL

'Bama DTs Reed, Robinson show NFL strength in bulldozing Bulldogs -

Draft-eligible run-stuffers Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson stood out among the wave of Crimson Tide defensive linemen who ate up Georgia blocks and provided opportunities for 'Bama's linebackers to deliver heavy hits on the Bulldogs skill-position players, including Chubb and quarterbacks Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey.

Reed, in particular, performed well showing terrific strength and balance to hold up at the point and even pull down the 5-foot-10, 220 pound Chubb one-handed. He's best known for his power as a two-gap defender but also showed surprising quickness in pursuit.

Two other defensive linemen, Reed and Robinson, are getting plenty of attention from NFL analysts. Robinson has been pegged as a first round pick since his freshman year, while Reed has slowly been garnering more extensive attention. In fact, if you care about PFF's mysterious ratings (I personally don't put that much stock into them, but this one supports my narrative), Reed has actually graded out as the second best run-stopping defensive lineman in the nation. Mark this down now, it would not surprise me at all if Jarran Reed ends up being selected before Robinson in the 2016 NFL draft.

Bills pass on Trent Richardson, sign Boom Herron -

Richardson averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in three NFL seasons. For perspective of how much Richardson has struggled, Rams rookie Todd Gurley had more runs of more than 20 yards in the second half of Sunday's win over the Cardinals than Richardson did in three years with the Browns and Colts.

Its well documented at this point, but Richardson was given a tryout with the Bills, only to be spurned in favor of a former Ohio State back. This is probably the last we hear of Richardson in the pros, though there have been some rumors connecting him with a Seattle team that is down to a single undrafted rookie at RB with its top two backs out with injuries.

When it comes to T.J. Yeldon, I have to say I underestimated him coming out of the NFL Draft. I thought he was a lot slower and a lot less physical than he turned out to be. I thought we'd keep our "running back by committee" approach this year, and spending an early-second round pick on a running back who would presumably only be getting 10-12 touches a game just didn't make sense to me.

I'm really, really glad I was wrong.

Yeldon is far and away the best running back on this team, even including the injured Denard Robinson. He's 12th in the league with 259 yards, and even though he doesn't have any touchdowns yet, I think that's more on offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who hasn't called a lot of run plays near the end zone and the inefficiency and immaturity of our offense as a whole. (And serious injuries along the offensive line.)

You really don't need to know a lot about football to know Yeldon is good. He's fast, he's a good pass-catcher, he's strong enough to pick up blitzes (even if he makes mental mistakes), and he's big enough to run inside the tackles.

I talked to Ryan Day over at, and asked him his thoughts on T.J. Yeldon with the Jaguars. Yeldon has done amazingly for a rookie on a team that does not have much support for a running game. Yeldon has already surpassed my expectations, as I firmly believed he would not get drafted higher than the fourth round, and would never be more than a decent 3rd down back in the pros. Keep proving me wrong, T.J.

Lastly, a bit of relevant SEC West news:

Ole Miss LB C.J. Johnson will miss 4-6 weeks with a torn meniscus - Red Cup Rebellion

So if you've been following along at home, Ole Miss' defense is now

- without star defensive tackle Issac Gross for the rest of the season,

- without Tony Conner, one of the best defensive backs in the country, for at least two more games,

- on the verge of having cornerback Tee Shepard quit the team

- and missing its starting middle linebacker for at least a month.

As we know, Ole Miss is not a terribly deep team to begin with. Odds that they are able to win out diminish by the day. Have to like the Tide's chances if they can build on what we saw Saturday.