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Jumbo Package: Friday, 18 December 2015

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We're talkin' about practice, man. Practice!

Big Daron finally got some love.
Big Daron finally got some love.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama returned to practice yesterday after a short break, kicking off preparation for the huge Cotton Bowl matchup against the Michigan State Spartans, with a berth in the championship game on the line along with a chance for redemption. The team is certainly saying all the right things, let's hope that translates to success in 13 days. Plenty for you to read and discuss this morning:

Alabama practice report: Cotton Bowl prep begins, Jeremy Pruitt observing from sideline |

-- Glenn Schumann, who'll be a defensive assistant at Georgia, was also back helping with the secondary. He's a player personnel/player development staffer at Alabama

-- All the players appeared to be present and accounted for after the break.

-- Scott Cochran, who Saban announced would return as strength and conditioning coach, poked a fumble free from Bo Scarbrough as he waited for his turn in a drill.

Smart coaches and Pruitt watches at Alabama practice - TimesDaily: Alabama Football

Saban indicated Pruitt was the only candidate he even considered to replace Smart as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, adding it was a "no-brainer."

"I said it was a no-brainer, so it was a no-brainer. When it’s a no-brainer, I don’t know that there is a process," Saban said flippantly. "What does no-brainer mean to you? I’ll define it: There was no doubt who I was going to hire. (We) didn’t interview anybody, didn’t talk to anybody. (I) just hired the guy."

Given Pruitt’s connections to Alabama, having worked in a support staff role before taking over as defensive backs coach during the first five years of Saban’s tenure (2007-12), the decision couldn’t have been easier. "It’s always difficult to find someone who knows our system and our scheme. So to be able to bring somebody back like that helps," Saban said. "(Pruitt brings) new energy, new enthusiasm, new ideas, but somebody who really understands what we do. So it was a no-brainer for me to bring Jeremy back."

That first link includes a clip of Daylon Charlot making a beautiful catch. He has a great chance to replace Richard Mullaney in the slot next season. Nice to see that Schumann is back and helping with game preparation, and Pruitt taking it all in combined with his familiarity with Saban's program should make for a smooth transition. On Kirby Smart, Saban also had this to say:

"I think it speaks volumes for Kirby’s character and all that he has to want to come back and finish when it might not be the most advantageous thing for him and his future," Saban said, "To do right by his players to come back and finish and do a good job for the guys that have worked hard for him and had a lot of success with our defensive team this year."

While there has been some hand-wringing among Georgia Bulldogs faithful over their new head coach and former DC both participating in Alabama's title run while they have a veritable skeleton crew preparing their team for a bowl game that some of the fans would just as soon not play at this point, they should take solace in the fact that recruits and their families will be impressed by the fact that Kirby stayed true to his word and committed to the players he brought on at Alabama. They will likely benefit from this in the long run, particularly if Alabama wins a title.

Why Nick Saban said Alabama felt 'entitled' before last playoff, how it's different now |

"We certainly didn't do a good job last year," Saban said. "I felt like our players did not approach the game like a playoff game. They approached it more like a bowl game, which was obviously not our intention, not what we tried to sell to them as far as what they needed to do. I think they felt a little entitled when they won the SEC championship and just didn't really want to ― look this is a new season." Saban has praised the mental approach of this team throughout the season. He had good things to say last fall, too. Later, he said the month of December became the issue.

Michigan State's bottom-line mentality for Alabama: 'They're beatable' |

The 2011 loss to the Crimson Tide, the most lopsided of coach Mark Dantonio's career, is behind the program -- but not forgotten. "I remember watching it in high school, and I was like 'wow,' " MSU fifth-year senior offensive lineman Donavon Clark said. "But that was a different team, a different offense and a different defense than we have now. "Alabama is a very tough and physical football team, and they fire to the ball on defense," Clark said. "But any defense can be beat, and Alabama has gotten beat before."

Seidel: Alabama learns from playoff loss, respects Michigan State

Alabama running back Derrick Henry sat down in front of a group of reporters, and he was in no mood to look backward. "I really don’t want to talk about Heisman stuff," Henry said, just four days after winning the trophy. "I want to focus on what we need to do to get ready for Michigan State."

Lots of talk about mindset from Saban and from the players. There are so many veterans on this team that experienced the pain from last season, you have to think that they will come out hungry. Full video of Saban's presser is embedded for you at the bottom.

We ain't just good. We smart too, y'all:

Ryan Kelly the 'heart and soul' of Alabama's offense, a potential early round NFL draft pick |

Kelly, who received his master's degree in marketing last weekend, was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and won the SEC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy. Tide teammates recently voted him one of four permanent team captains. "He has to make sure everybody has the right calls [on the offensive line], everybody's doing the right thing," Henry said. "He does a great job at his job, but he has to make sure other guys are doing their jobs, so that's why I call him the heart of the offense."

Ryan Kelly followed up Barrett Jones in becoming a great leader and a true scholar as well as a great football player with NFL aspirations. Congratulations to him.

College Football Top 25, Ranked by Academics | TIME

As it did last year, New America compiled the rankings by beginning with each school’s football graduation success rate (GSR). The GSR is an NCAA measure that, unlike the federal graduation rate, doesn’t penalize schools for having players who transfer or leave for the pros–as long as those players depart in good academic standing. The higher the school’s graduation success rate, the higher they start out in New America’s rankings.

Alabama is #6 nationally in this metric. They made a list, I checked it twice, and Auburn is nowhere to be found. Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be Barners.

'Crootin News:

Hoover's Christian Bell signs with Alabama after spending fall as grayshirt |

After winning three state championships at Hoover, Christian Bell spent the fall away from playing, but got himself better for a college career at Alabama. Bell, now up to 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds and prepared to play the JACK linebacker position for the Crimson Tide, was asked by coaches to grayshirt - delaying enrollment until Jan. 2016 despite being a 2015 high school graduate. Bell signed his scholarship papers on Wednesday and will report to Tuscaloosa on Jan. 9 or 10, he said.

Bell approached this the right way, worked hard to add some weight. Hopefully he does well and shows everyone that grayshirting doesn't have to be an evil thing.

Alabama football legacy Kivon Bennett talks recruitment

Bennett’s son, Kivon, is an up-and-coming defensive tackle out of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas. The 2017 prospect is coming off a Class 7A state championship, and a flurry of offers all in the last two weeks. The Crimson Tide legacy spoke with BamaOnline about his recruitment, among other topics. "It’s really picked up lately," Bennett said. "I got seven or eight offers in a like one week, two major ones from Michigan and Ohio State. So you know, I’m humbled by the process."

Biscuit's boy doesn't hold an Alabama offer at this point, but with Michigan and Ohio State offering, you have to figure that there is a good chance that he will be on the radar. It will be interesting to watch his career in any case.

More on Awards/Recognition:

Phil Savage defends decision to invite Alabama's Jacob Coker to Senior Bowl |

People are going to focus on Jacob Coker, I suppose," Savage said. "I don't know what the big uproar is about. Since 1958, virtually every Alabama quarterback (has played) except for Kenny Stabler, who had an injury, and AJ McCarron, who either opted not to play or had an injury. He had a shoulder injury. ... "I don't know why it is such a big deal now that a Mobile native that's undefeated as the starting quarterback at Alabama, was part of an SEC championship and stands 6-foot-5, 232 pounds (is invited.)"

Jake has all of the measurables and the arm strength. It wouldn't shock me at all if some team took a late-round flier on him as a prospect.

Texas, Alabama lead the 2015 True Freshman All-America Team

DT Daron Payne, Alabama Even though he didn't put up big numbers, the 6-2, 315-pound Payne was a force in the middle of the Alabama defensive line. When the Crimson Tide started a nose guard, he was the guy, which speaks volumes considering how deep and talented Alabama was up front defensively.

Those who have been clamoring for Payne to get some love, here it is. Joining him on the list are Calvin Ridley and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Calvin and Coop: How a freshman replaced a Heisman finalist at Alabama - College Football Nation Blog- ESPN

It’s scary how similar the circumstances were. The same stakes. The same stadium. The same side of the field. It’s 2012 and Alabama is playing Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. It’s 2015 and Alabama is playing Florida for the conference title. Alabama trails in both games. In both instances, the offense is at midfield when a play-action pass is called. AJ McCarron spots Amari Cooper. Jake Coker spots Calvin Ridley.

I wouldn't necessarily equate the two plays because Alabama had a much greater chance of losing to Georgia than Florida, but comparisons to Amari Cooper are going to happen. Hopefully Calvin develops as well as Coop did.

National News:

Is college football's bowl system broken? And if so, how can it be fixed? - Chicago Tribune

Are they snub-worthy? Last season Temple was among a handful of 6-6 teams left home for the holidays. Apparently that bothered some people. So two games were added — thanks, again, to ESPN — but there were not enough 6-6 teams to fill them. And, thus, the problem. "To have a 6-6 team left at home," said Wright Waters, executive director of the Football Bowl Association, "that is a scarlet letter for a conference." When people complain about 5-7 teams making the postseason, Wright counters that the number of 6-6 (or better) teams changes every season, and that total is not determined until the final week.

Wait, rules were changed because a couple of .500 teams were "snubbed"? If you lose six games, you get what you get. The fact that 5-7 teams are going to bowls as a result is simply absurd.

Quarterback Kyler Murray transferring from Texas A&M Aggies

Texas A&M freshman quarterback Kyler Murray has elected to transfer and will not play in the Aggies' bowl game, the team confirmed Thursday. Murray has been released from his scholarship at Texas A&M. He can transfer to any school, as long as it isn't in the SEC or a team on Texas A&M's schedule over the next four years.

Murray has officially decided to transfer. The stench of smoldering garbage emanating from College Station begins to intensify.

Merry Gumpsmas (you're gonna be so jealous):

Saban Press Conference:

That should do you for today. Only a week until Santa comes.

Roll Tide.