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Jumbo Package: Playoffs, LSU, NFL, and Recruiting

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The first playoff rankings, LSU week, recruiting, and Julio Jones. What more could you ask for on a Wednesday?

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Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, Alabama top initial Playoff rankings

Clemson is unbeaten and handed Notre Dame — the selection committee's No. 5 team — its only loss, and is one of 11 unblemished teams in the ranking. Alabama is not one of those teams, having lost to No. 18 Ole Miss, but the committee likes the Crimson Tide despite them having one win against teams in the Playoff top 25.

Selection committee chair Jeff Long said there was great discussion within his 12-person group of ranking a one-loss team ahead of seven of those unbeatens. Long said the committee put the Crimson Tide well ahead of another one-loss SEC team, No. 10 Florida, because Alabama has one more win against a .500-plus team than the Gators.

Let's start with the big one. Alabama was ranked fourth in the country in the first Playoff Committee rankings of the year. Clemson and LSU were no-brainers at one and two, and despite not looking all that great, Ohio State belongs there, too. However, should Alabama really be ranked ahead of unbeaten teams such as Michigan State, TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma State? For that matter, what about the 1-loss Florida Gators, whose only loss was to LSU? The committee has some real faith in the Bama defense, apparently (and it is deserved). If Bama wins this week, does LSU stay in the top 4? Its all pointless this early in the season, but still fun to know how the committee views us. They like the Tide a whole lot more than the national media does.

Alabama practice report: Updates on a few key players as ESPN invades | AL.com

Starting right tackle Dominick Jackson was working with the first team after spraining his ankle Oct. 24 against Tennessee. He appeared to be moving fine in the brief media viewing period. Brandon Greene remains the second-team right tackle.

Safety Ronnie Harrison also practiced a second straight day after also spraining an ankle against the Vols. He was in a full-contact crimson jersey.

There was less concern about Eddie Jackson's sprained knee. He was again moving at full speed Tuesday.

It looks like Dominik Jackson will be ready to go by game time. Despite the criticism he's received around here, I think he gives us our best shot to win at right tackle, and having him ready to go will be a big deal. Harrison likely won't play too much against the run heavy LSU (unless Saban decides to go really big on defense and have him sub in for either Eddie Jackson or Geno Matias-Smith), but having Eddie Jackson at full speed is one of the best bits of news I've seen all week.

Alabama is in a really fortunate position with very few injuries. In fact, the only key contributor still out is wide receiver Robert Foster (who's missing the entire season). Staying healthy is one of the most underrated criteria for a team poised to make a run for pay dirt during the final stretch of the season, particularly with the playoffs extending the length of the season.

Alabama NFL roundup: Julio Jones back to big stats in Week 8 | AL.com

Wide receiver Julio Jones was at it again for the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Jones started the season by catching 34 passes for 440 yards and four touchdowns in the first three games of 2015. Then came hamstring and toe injuries, and he had 24 receptions for 290 yards and one touchdown over the next four games.

Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Jones caught 12 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown. The TD catch came from 8 yards out with 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter and, after the extra point, sent the game into overtime.

Julio has a very good chance to be crowned the best receiver in the NFL at the end of this year, especially with Calvin Johnson beginning to age and pass the torch down. Aside from being an awesome receiver, Alabama fans remember Julio for his effort in run blocking and absolutely destroying DB's that tried to intercept the ball. Well, he's still at it in the NFL... 

Julio

It's ridiculous. He's not even human. The best part is that you can see the surprise in Kwon Alexander's (the former LSU linebacker, I might add) eyes as his dreams of a pick-six are ruined by a bionic being that transcends all laws of reality.

Mark Barron feels at home at linebacker, just don't call him one - NFL Nation - ESPN

Asked whether we can now call him what the Rams' depth chart calls him and avoid the safety or hybrid tags, Barron declines.

"No, nope, nope," Barron said, shaking his head.

So what can we call him?

"Call me, I don’t know what to call me ... how about 'football player'?" Barron said.So long as Barron keeps producing, I'm sure the Rams will let him choose whatever title he wants.

Mark Barron has really come on strong for the Rams this season after being traded to them midseason in 2014. He's gotten double digit tackles the last two weeks in a row, and is an all around disruptive playmaker for St. Louis.

It's getting harder and harder for the media to call Alabama players "busts" in the NFL. Many of the examples that were listed as busted first round picks (Barron, Mark Ingram, Dre Kirkpatrick), have really started to make an impact after a few years of experience. Funny how that works. It's almost like not all rookies are ready to be difference makers in a league of people ranging from 1-15 years older than them from day one.

And safety Rashad Johnson just keeps getting inexplicably better every single season as he gets older. I swear the man will still be playing football by the time he's 40.

Alabama commitment T.J. Simmons talks official visit weekend - Scout

I went to see the engineering part of the school, I had fun over there, it was a different experience for me," he said. "I’m probably going to study engineering (there). The time and money they’ve put into the engineering department is outstanding.

Hosted by fellow wide receiver Deionte Thompson and spending time with Cameron Sims and others at the position during the downtime, Simmons got the best of both worlds while in Tuscaloosa again. He even got to spend time with a fellow prospect pledged to UA, also on his official visit, in four-star California offensive lineman Jonah Williams. "We did Sunday at Saban’s, we went to his house, ate breakfast, went to the lake and checked out his boat, stuff like that," he said. "(WIlliams) is very quiet, he’s real laid back and he doesn’t talk much, but he’s a cool person though. He was there with his dad."

Simmons, who says he enjoyed the game experience against a "good" Tennessee team on Saturday, again affirmed his status with Alabama following the latest trip. He isn’t planning on taking trips elsewhere. "I don’t talk to anybody else, so I don’t think so," he added.

Though not extremely highly rated, Simmons is considered by some to be the top receiver in the state, and it's good to have him affirm his pledge to the Crimson Tide. It is always interesting to see which current players are stepping up and hosting the recruits. It's especially encouraging to see that the extremely talented freshman, Deionte Thompson, is doing what he can to help his team while being redshirted. It speaks volumes about his attitude.

As with the trend in recent years, more and more football players are coming to Alabama with plans to study engineering. As a current chemical engineering student myself, this is great to see. Alabama's engineering program is getting better every year, and it's great to see that players are even beginning to consider Alabama for the academics and not solely their football prowess.

5-star Kendell Jones says Alabama 'a better fit' over childhood favorite LSU - Scout

"When I committed, my word is my bond. I don't want to be known as a flip-flopper or not sticking to my commitment," he said. "It was a long, hard, thought-out process but with prayer and my parents we decided to Roll Tide.

"I'm going to continue to enjoy this process, go to a few more games and eventually set up my officials and count down the days until I get on campus."

The star Texan, Alabama's highest-rated verbal commitment in 2016 as the No. 20 overall prospect in America, has kept close tabs on the program this fall. He's been impressed with the team's noted defensive front. "We've been improving each week offensively, but we're cutting these games close.

"A win is a win," he said. "Them boys keep dominating up front, I can't wait to get there and contribute and be a part of a dominating force."

Jones is, so far, the most important recruit of the 2016 class. He seems to be a solid lock for the Tide, despite being a childhood LSU fan. He has said that Alabama is just a better fit for him than the Tigers, and is already referring to Alabama as "we."

With Jarran Reed, D.J. Pettway, A'Shawn Robinson, and Jonathan Allen all being upperclassmen, Alabama need to grab as many difference makers on the defensive line as possible.

Early look at key recruits visiting for Alabama's game against LSU | AL.com

Greg Little, 5* OT, Allen, Texas - The nation's No. 2 recruit is expected to make his verbal commitment on Nov. 13 following this official visit and Alabama could be the favorite.

Janarius Robinson, 4* DE, Panama City, Fla. - Alabama has been trying to flip Robinson's year-plus commitment to Florida State for quite some time and gets another chance to impress the 6-foot-6 defensive end on his official visit.

Mecole Hardman, 5* ATH, Elberton, Ga. - The nation's No. 21 overall player told AL.com he plans to be in attendance. Alabama hasn't been mention much with the elite Georgia standout, but don't count the Crimson Tide out if he's going to this game.

Isaac Nauta, 5* TE, Bradenton, Fla. - The IMG Academy standout tight end announced he would make an official visit to Alabama, changing it up from USC after Steve Sarkisian's firing. Alabama may be climbing uphill here, but it's a step in the right direction

Brandon Burton, 4* WR, Gardena, Calif., - The elite receiver is listed by the recruiting sites as an official visitor for the weekend, though he told AL.com he wasn't sure if he would make the trip. If so, it's another talented receiver in a deep pool of prospects Alabama has left to choose from.

Ahmmon Richards, 4* WR, West Palm Beach, Fla. - Alabama, Auburn and Georgia are heavily in play for the 6-foot-2 receiver after he backed off his Miami commitment. Richards said this trip to Tuscaloosa would be an unofficial visit.

Miller Forristall, 3* TE, Cartersville, Ga., - The talented tight end said earlier this season that this weekend would be his official visit, but that official may be a couple more weeks from now. Forristall committed to Alabama over the summer, but California isn't backing off.

Devin White, 4* RB/LB, Springhill, La. - Remember that this is the recruit who rode shotgun with Nick Saban to a spring scrimmage. Alabama is battling LSU and Arkansas for the 250-pound back.

Dylan Moses, 5* LB, Baton Rouge, La. (2017) - Moses is the top prospect in the class of 2017 and said he'd visit Tuscaloosa for this weekend and more unofficial visits. Moses decommitted from LSU this summer after being committed there for two years and Alabama is poised to be the top challenger to LSU for his services.

Jaquan Yulee, 4* LB, Chesapeake, LB - The Alabama commit has made a big impact since he was slowed by injury to start the season. He'll get another chance to see Alabama on an unofficial visit, he said. Watch and see who Virginia Tech hires as its head coach, as the Hokies are still after Yulee.

Velus Jones, 3* WR, Saraland, Ala. - The explosive USC commit hasn't been offered by Alabama yet, but could be as he's had a strong season for the Spartans.

Chauncey Gardner, 4* DB, Cocoa, Fla. - A few months back, Gardner announced he would make an official visit for this game. Gardner has been committed to Florida since April, though, and seems pretty solid in his Gator commitment. He did confirm his visit with a tweet, though.

Mykel Jones, 4* WR, Patterson, La. - Jones, a prep teammate of Alabama freshman receiver Daylon Charlot, has the Crimson Tide and LSU in his top four.

If none of you have heard me talk about him before, I really, really want running back Devin White. He's basically Jalston Fowler, but ran a sub 4.5 forty yard dash. The 250 pound bowling ball is a punishing running back who is just as dangerous as a linebacker and edge rusher. He's thought to be down to between Alabama and LSU, so this is an important game for him.

5-star Gregory Little has been a favorite to talk about around the internet and would be a huge addition to this class, but I still think he ends up with A&M.

Obviously, most every prospect in the state of Alabama and many others will most likely be in attendance too, so, as fans, making the stadium atmosphere electric needs to be a top priority.

While strong in the trenches and at safety, this recruiting class could still really use another linebacker, running back, and some receivers/corners. Losing the commitments of five stars Shyheim Carter and Demetris Robertson earlier in 2015 really did some damage to the perimeter skill positions of the upcoming recruiting class, and Saban will need to make a real push to solidify those areas by February.