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Jumbo Package Shows Some Love To The Gulf Coast

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...and that means LSU, too. No refunds, no exchanges.

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I, like most people in the South, have a Katrina story.

I was living 1100 miles away as Katrina was making its landfall across the Gulf, destroying most of Mississippi, a lot of Alabama, and utterly devastating Louisiana.

Sitting in a trial course, we were free associating on words to build themes for opening arguments and whatnot, when someone threw out "Katrina." It came my turn to participate, but I was transfixed on the increasingly dire reports trickling in from New Orleans on CNN. My mind and heart were quite literally one thousand miles away, when the first word I threw back was "home."

I am not ashamed to say that I wept like a child as I left the class and went home to watch New Orleans die.

The Gulf is not my home, but the South is. I have several close friends in the area. Cell communication was non-existent. Landline connections may as well have been unicorns. All I could do for days was hope and pray and agonize over their fates, and the fate of the Coastal South, knowing that there was not a single thing that I could do to help from afar. Fortunately, everyone I knew survived.

Six years later, that same fear, heartbreak, and impotent horror would be revisited as a place that is my home was destroyed in the worst natural disaster to ever befall the Druid City. This time, I dined even more from that plate of horror, as I sat in Hawaii watching a place I love be destroyed and reading the rolls of the dead.

That day, I lost two friends and a former lover.

What did eventually help was seeing how the city, the state, the nation rallied to our side. In particular, I was very impressed with the almost-instantaneous help that players from Kent State provided. The milk of human kindness goes a long way to easing that pain. So, it was with great interest that I read Billy Gomilla's piece yesterday on LSU football and what it meant to a grieving state. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Take your time. Digest every word.

We as Alabama fans or residents have been in their shoes, and we will be there again, no doubt. And it is amazing that something as adversarial as a football game also can draw us together. Billy's piece is an amazing testament to what this "silly" little game can and does mean.

Hurricane Katrina & Les Miles at 10: Still Weathering the Storm - And The Valley Shook

"Everybody was just exhausted," Stringfellow added. "I mean some of us still didn't have power, people had their parents living with them, living in this building, basically. So we get out there and it just reminds you that the world did not end, the world is still moving, so we need to make sure that that's how we play. So I think it helped us all focus."

Practice notes

O.J. Howard of Alabama Crimson Tide working to earn more targets - College Football Nation Blog - ESPN

In one exchange captured on video, a fan said he'd like to see more of the tight end used on offense. Howard asked, "If there was a tight end you could think of that could stand out next year, who would it be?" The fan and his friend standing next to him nearly winced in response. There was a long pause followed by, "That’s a good question" and "I’m going to say [Ty] Flournoy-Smith."

I expect we'll see a lot from both players this season. Howard has had a great Spring and Fall, while Ty is probably the most unheralded of the receiving group, though probably will be the best check-down, safety valve that a new QB will ever have.

Alabama practice report: Notes on QBs as Wisconsin prep nears | AL.com

-- All eyes remain on the quarterbacks. There wasn't much to read from the order of throwers in the two periods open to reporters Thursday.

-- Each of the five QBs competing were dead on target throwing the quick slants. (There aren't defenders involved in any of the drills during media viewing).

-- Throwing deeper across the middle, Alec Morris had the only over-throw, but it was slight. He came right back with a perfect throw to Calvin Ridley.

-- Overall, the passing accuracy was as good as it's looked from our viewing periods.

Look, I'm not piling on. But Coker had three TDs to one INT in one scrimmage...and that's because two INTS were dropped. Note also that Calvin Ridley is getting looks already too. The true freshmen looks to be the next great one, if he can live up to his considerable hype and skills set.

Practice report: Alabama lines up in 'dime rabbits'

Toward the end of the viewing portion of practice, the Crimson Tide defense appeared to line up in its dime rabbits package. Cyrus Jones and Marlon Humphrey were the cornerbacks, Geno Smith and Eddie Jackson were the safeties, Maurice Smith and Minkah Fitzpatrick were the extra defensive backs, Denzel Devall, Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster were the linebackers -- with Dillon Lee shadowing Foster -- and A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen were the defensive linemen, although they were standing up.

What's interesting here is that Fitzpatrick is also already working with the starters in extra personnel packages over veterans Jabriel Washington and Hootie Jones, as well as over heralded athlete Ronnie Harrison.

Misc

Top breakout players in 2015: Nos. 30-21 - Travis Haney Blog - ESPN

Replacing All-American receiver Amari Cooper won't be easy in Tuscaloosa, but sophomore ArDarius Stewart has stood out so far in camp.

This is behind a paywall, so if you have ESPN Insider, click that. If you don't, the relevant sentence is above. There were times earlier last season when Stewart looked to be the clear No. 2 opposite Cooper. He looks to be more consistent and lock down that spot. He'll have to as well, with the emergence of other options like the aforementioned Mr. Ridley.

Hoops

Avery Johnson finalizes Alabama coaching staff with ex-Tide staffer | AL.com


Hobie Baker had been an associate director of amateur certification and assistant director of enforcement basketball development at the NCAA headquarters since 2012. "I am extremely excited about the opportunity to return to the University of Alabama and work for coach Avery Johnson," Baker said. "I have been impressed with his leadership and commitment to a championship program. My time at the NCAA has provided me the opportunity to grow and learn under exceptional regulatory leadership, and my time spent as an assistant basketball coach has given me the necessary campus experience.

This is a great hire. Baker has regulatory and compliance experience that Johnson simply cannot match, and which he will need, particularly given the state of hoops recruiting and the players for which Alabama is at play. That may seem cynical, but pre-signing casualties, the AAU circuit, street agents and a million other factors require extra due diligence in hoops recruiting.

That's it for now. Go forth to evil.