Congratulations, you made it! Today is officially the Monday of game week, accompanied by a virtual smorgasbord of interesting things to talk about in the college football world and specifically pertaining to our beloved Alabama Crimson Tide. Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy a start to an unproductive week. I mean, who could expect you to do things like work on a week like this, right? We'll kick it off by whetting your appetite with some opponent stuff. Here we go...
Curt: As a whole, I was surprised by how often the Badgers threw the ball deep in practice. Jordan Fredrick made a whole lot of plays, and McEvoy emerged as the next-best deep threat to redshirt senior wide receiver Alex Erickson. The injuries to the offensive line were obviously a (not positive) surprise. Nobody expected that to happen, but offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph was high on the abilities of Deiter and redshirt freshman Micah Kapoi. I'll include Deiter emerging with a starting job just two weeks into camp as one of my surprises.
Make no mistake, the Wisconsin Badgers offense will go as RB Corey Clement goes. This is an offense that is predicated on a stout running game to take the pressure off of a passing game that has shown flashes of competence but has been inconsistent overall and terrible at times. It's not surprising that the coaches would want to emphasize the deep game a bit in effort to keep the safeties back. The question is going to be whether a beat up line can protect long enough to allow for a vertical attack.
I'll go a step further and say the inside linebacking corp in general surprised me, in a very positive light. This was an area where six of the nine position players listed on that roster were redshirt or true freshmen, and when projected starters T.J. Edwards and Leon Jacobs were injured early in camp, it could have been ugly for the Badgers. Not only did Orr step up, but another true freshman, Alec Ingold, stepped up and played very well.
Wisconsin is going to be breaking in some new guys in the front seven, which should portend well for the Tide rushing attack that will undoubtedly look to take some pressure off of the potential QB carousel in the first game. By all accounts, the Wisconsin secondary is the strength of the defense.
And, some Alabama notes:
On the defensive side, Marlon Humphrey continued with the first-team dime defense at cornerback opposite Cyrus Jones. True freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick was also on the field along with Maurice Smith and safeties Eddie Jackson and Geno Smith. The linebackers were Reuben Foster and Reggie Ragland.
Lester Cotton has immense potential so it's not surprising to see him working up the depth chart quickly. Good chance he pushes to start at RT next season then to replace LT Cam Robinson in 2017. The dime defense seems to be rounding into shape and features, count them, six players who all came to Tuscaloosa as CBs. This secondary isn't going to be perfect, particularly early on, but it is going to be the most athletic secondary we've seen in some time. Considering the pass rush we expect to see, opponents should tread carefully when matriculatin' the ball down the field through the air.
"I'm a guy who is super, super competitive," Jones said. "I take a lot of pride in my play. I know criticism is something you have to let go in one ear and out the other, but it's hard when you're constantly hearing the same things, whether it's personally or with your group, my group being the secondary. "It's definitely something the secondary takes personally."
Cyrus Jones seems to have grown into a real leader in this year's secondary. Hopefully the entire unit feels the same way.
There will be no October surprises for the Crimson Tide this season, just potential nightmares with games at Georgia, against Arkansas and at Texas A&M. And before getting a Halloween week bye, Alabama plays host to an up-and-coming Tennessee team on Oct. 24 before entertaining LSU on Nov. 7. Bama has to take on Dak Prescott and Mississippi State in Starkville the following week before having to go to Auburn for the always tough Iron Bowl in its regular-season finale.
Most ranking systems I have seen show Alabama with the toughest schedule in the nation this season. While this is obviously all speculative since the jury is still out on, well, everyone, this should be a very entertaining season for Tide fans. For all the great memories of the 2011 and 2012 teams, it is easy to forget how boring long stretches of those seasons were.
Cate isn't kidding about the fast feet, either -- Bateman has run a 4.5 40 before. Add that quickness to the improved throwing he's shown in fall camp and it's easy to see how the Utah native has worked his way into the competition. He's the most similar out of the three options to Blake Sims, last year's starter, and offers a different component to the position than either of the two other options. His ability to get the ball out to the receivers quickly is an advantage in Kiffin's scheme. "Watch how quick his throw is," Cate said. "He's constantly trying to get faster in his release and more accurate."
Bateman's 40-time has seemingly become a running fish tale as he gets faster by the day, but all indications are that he has taken a huge step during camp and is ready to contribute in some fashion, whether as the starter or running a special sub package. For all the hand wringing, it could be that we have three good QBs who are all ready to go, folks. Kiffin will undoubtedly play to the strengths of whoever is in the game.
Since Cam Newton was selected with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Auburn has had one offensive player chosen in the first round: Greg Robinson. Alabama has had seven: Julio Jones, James Carpenter, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Chance Warmack, DJ Fluker and Amari Cooper. Newton included, since Auburn's last Heisman winner led off the 2011 NFL Draft, the Tigers have had eight total offensive players drafted by the NFL. Alabama has had 19.
Breaking: Alabama has a lot of NFL talent. Good points though as the QB should be well supported no matter who is taking the snaps.
Scott was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award after leading the nation's punters with a 48-yard average. Perhaps more impressively, his punts went for a net average of nearly 45 yards and only 12 were returned — for a total of 83 yards. His punting and net punting averages would have led the NFL last season, too. The 6-foot-5, 198-pounder can still stroll around campus anonymously, unlike many of his teammates. It comes with the position, and perhaps the lanky build.
After the third or fourth game last year I started telling folks that JK could immediately walk into any NFL camp and put the incumbent out of work. The fact that he didn't win the Ray Guy is an utter joke. This kid is literally the best punter in the country right now, at any level.
AJ's big night:
In case you missed it, AJ McCarron had a great night after being forced into action early this week due to a minor injury to starter Andy Dalton. Here are a couple of links from SBNation's Cincy Jungle covering it:
Dalton left the game with a neck injury in the first quarter after just one offensive series, and that led to McCarron getting a lot of run with the starters, and he did not disappoint. McCarron completed his first eight passes, including a 6-for-6 first half with two touchdown drives as the former Alabama Crimson Tide star showed he belonged in the NFL.
"Playing with those guys is unbelievable. It's a special group from the o-line, those guys, it feels like you got forever to throw the ball. And then all the receivers did an excellent job of making plays and halfbacks included. It was just an overall good effort by us and we did a really good job of putting some drives together."
Hmmm, crediting his teammates for his success. Wonder where a cocky, arrogant high school kid like AJ learned such things?
National analysts like to talk:
What is the toughest conference from top to bottom this year? Danielson: Probably the SEC. For the first time since I have been doing it—I have been doing games since 1991—I don’t ever remember a situation where you might have a returning Heisman candidate in [Mississippi State quarterback] Dak Prescott on a team being picked to finish last in a conference division. I think any of the teams in the SEC West and four teams in the East could win the [SEC] championship.
Long read, but lots of good stuff in there from several heavyweights in the football broadcasting world. Gary Danielson in particular loves the SEC this year.
Perhaps the most jarring aspect of this offseason Playoff debate is the impact that a single season -- 2011 -- had on the process. As we have seen through this exercise, different factors and obstacles arise in different seasons. But we saw a push for a "conference champions" qualification because 2011 Alabama made the BCS Championship, and we saw a push for a selection committee, in part, because people were scared of the thought of 2011 Stanford making it in over Pac-12 champion Oregon, which won at Stanford.
More great work by Bill Connelly. Everyone knows that the rematch in 2011 was the impetus for an emergency change to a playoff system, but nobody talks about Stanford, who would have been in the top four using the old BCS formula despite losing to their conference champion. This Pac-12 scenario would actually have been much worse, as the conference champ would have been left behind in favor of the runner-up.
The standout from Morton, Miss., also holds offers from Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. The 247Sports Composite ranks Bowie as the nation's No. 10 wide receiver in the 2017 class and the No. 1 prospect in Mississippi.
Roll Tide, D.D.
Marques Bolden — a coveted 6-foot-10, 240-pound Class of 2016 center from Desoto, Texas — is taking an unofficial visit to Alabama Saturday, a source confirmed. Rivals ranks Bolden as a five-star recruit and the 14th-best prospect in the 2016 recruiting class. Bolden — who played AAU ball under new Tide assistant Scott Pospichal — is one of Duke's top 2016 targets, according to a June report from ESPN.
So, Coach Avery Johnson has already beaten out Kansas for the services of #10 overall Terrance Ferguson and is now going head-to-head with Duke for an elite big man. Whether he lands Bolden or not, he is already raising the bar. The atmosphere at Coleman is going to be amazing.
No one wants to see your selfie stick:
Once at the stadium, security restrictions strictly prohibit fans from entering Bryant-Denny Stadium with the following items: oversized bags, backpacks or purses larger than 8.5 inches x 11 inches (the size of one sheet of paper); video recorders/camcorders; outside food and drink, including coolers; firearms and weapons; computers; umbrellas; artificial noisemakers; strollers; chairbacks larger than 16 inches; cameras and telephoto lenses larger than 6 inches; flags or banners on poles; selfie sticks.
And, last call on the Bama/UGA ticket sweepstakes:
This will be the final time we link to this as the drawing is this Friday. Still time to get in there at the link below, help these good folks out, and take your shot at some seriously good Bama/UGA tickets. Once again, each $25 donation earns one entry into the drawing. Good luck!
Well, that was a long one. Soak it up, folks. College football season is upon us and as we all know, it will be gone again in an instant. Savor every moment. Roll Tide.