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Jumbo Package: Few Surprise Entries Into The NFL Draft

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Alabama was not the only team to get good news from juniors contemplating the NFL.

Gonna miss these monsters
Gonna miss these monsters
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Coming back

Alabama Crimson Tide's Jonathan Allen did homework, chose to return - SEC Blog- ESPN

"I know a lot people were saying I might go in the first round, but it’s important that you listen to the right people," said Allen, who had 14 ½ tackles for loss, including 12 sacks this season. "My grade was second round. Nothing’s guaranteed, but I know the people coach (Nick) Saban is talking to and I trust him and I trust the people here at Alabama to steer me in the right direction. They’re looking out for me, and if they felt like it was time for me to go, they’d tell me that."

It was, after all, a business decision. 2016 is a deep year for defensive line talent. Allen can greatly maximize his draft position and earning power after another great season in 2016.

O.J. Howard tweets out that he will return for 2016 season | TuscaloosaNews.com

The University of Alabama’s passing game is getting another top target back for the 2016 season. Tight end O.J. Howard posted Monday on his Twitter account that he will return for his senior season rather than enter the 2016 NFL draft. "8+8=16! Add One More To That 17 Baby!!! #RoadTo17 #RollTide #OneMore," he tweeted from his account, @TheRealOjHoward, while referencing No. 88, his jersey number. He was Alabama’s third-leading receiver in 2015, catching 38 passes for 602 yards and two touchdowns.

We consider the freakishly-gifted Howard to be under-used, and he is, frankly. Still, for the second straight season, Howard will enter Spring Camp as the Tide's third-leading receiver. The impact may not be felt on the scoreboard, but even in his "down" seasons, he has moved the chains.

Conference decisions

Kamara makes NFL Draft decision

Versatile running back Alvin Kamara is returning to Tennessee for his junior season, the player told 247Sports’ Rusty Mansell on Monday.

Great news for the Vols, and a blow to conference foes, Kamara is staying. With Jalen Hurd manning the No. 1 spot, and the dexterous, elusive Kamara spelling him, the Vols enter 2016 with the best running back tandem in the SEC.

How LSU's NFL early entry decisions will impact the program in 2016

The fourth-year junior’s decision was perhaps the easiest to predict among LSU’s underclassmen. Hawkins nearly went pro a year ago before opting to stick around for one more season. He took over La’el Collins’ spot at left tackle in 2016 after starting at right tackle for the previous two seasons. With Hawkins and senior right tackle Vadal Alexander both bound for the NFL, LSU will have an open competition to fill their spots in the spring and preseason.

Bittersweet news for LSU: Jerald Hawkins leaves for the pros, opening up both tackle spots for competition this year. That bitter pill was mitigated by the fact that not another draft-eligible junior left, including LB Kendell Beckwith or C Ethan Pocic.

Auburn's Peyton Barber declares for NFL Draft | College Football

Auburn tailback Peyton Barber says he is leaving early to enter the NFL Draft. The Tigers' surprising offensive star announced on Instagram on Monday that he knows he's "ready for the next step and that this is the best decision for me." Barber led the Tigers with 1,017 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, but junior college transfer Jovon Robinson had a bigger role late in the season.

Now this one was a surprise...initially. Upon reflection, it makes a little more sense. The heart and soul of Auburn's sputtering offense for the first half of the season, Barber saw less playing time as Jovon Robinson got more carries down the stretch. Couple the lack of P/T with an offense that doesn't figure to be much better, a coach in a hot seat season, and a defense that may actually get worse, and you can see why even a mid-, late-round draft grade is a good idea.

Softball

Alabama Softball to Kick Off Season with Trivia & Games Night, Fan Appreciation Day - ROLLTIDE.COM

Alabama Softball will host a Fan Appreciation Day at Rhoads Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 6. Admission to the event is free and the gates will open at 11 a.m. for an open practice. Food, while supplies last, will be served at Noon courtesy of the Bama Softball Walk-Off Club. Tours of the clubhouse will take place every 30 minutes and the team will sign autographs on the concourse following practice.

As I type this at 2:54 a.m., it's 14 degrees in Memphis (26 in Tuscaloosa.) That screams "pitchers and catchers report" to me.

Seriously, though. It should be a great season with two All-American pitchers returning and Coach Pat Murphy having made a concerted effort to recruit more bats in the lineup. Head on out: it's free.

If conference pissing matches are your thing...

CONFERENCE SCOREBOARD: Favorites (and SEC) rule bowl season | College Football

The SEC was favored in nine of 11 bowl games and won all nine of those games. Its nine wins were the most by any conference by far, with the Pac-12 next with a 6-4 record. The Pac-12 also won all six games where it was favored, according to opening betting lines. Despite winning, Alabama didn't cover the point spread for many bettors, allowing Clemson a late touchdown for a 5-point victory. Alabama opened as a 7-point favorite after the College Football Playoff semifinals. The national title game was one of four games where favorites won, but didn't cover the spread.

7-4 against the chalk is still a pretty damned good showing. Like last year's alleged disaster for the SEC, this year was about match-ups. The SEC drew some really good ones, with one loser flat choking (Texas A&M) and the other being overwhelmed, outmatched, out-talented and out-coached (Florida.)

Crootin'

Breaking down recruiting in the SEC | SI.com

Chad Simmons joins the Scout Recruiting Show to talk about recruiting in the SEC. Topics include four-star defensive tackle Raekwon Davis’s potential flip from Alabama to Mississippi State, a pending announcement from five-star DT Rashard Lawrence and a huge upcoming visit weekend for the Crimson Tide.

A very nice breakdown of happenings across the league, including the mercurial Raekwon Davis. I suspect Davis flips eventually, more because Alabama returns some excellent defensive tackles, and his starting as a freshman just simply isn't going to happen. Oh, well. "You shop, we shop." Honestly, at this point, I think it's more a matter of staying home in addition to the playing time -- something both the Magnolia State schools can offer. He's a State commit (for now,) but The Oxford Bagman Hugh Freeze has a shot.

#BuckleUp

Johnson focused on team's effort, less on Alabama-Auburn rivalry | TuscaloosaNews.com

Alabama, meanwhile, is coming off an inconsistent effort in its loss at Vanderbilt. Johnson is clearly more concerned with his team's effort than he is with talking up the in-state rivalry.

"I don't want to cook up anything if both of our teams are bad and not making the tournament," Johnson said at his Monday press conference. "It would be a lot more fun if we were both tournament teams rather than trying to cook up something now. I'm trying to cook up a formula to stop us from turning the ball over. What about that? I think that's what I'm trying to cook up."

Alabama basketball goes to Auburn for Tuesday night game - Alabama - Scout

"We’ve taken pride in being a pretty good road team," Johnson said. "I was surprised at the lack of energy and execution at Vanderbilt." Alabama has three wins over ranked teams this year (Wichita State, Notre Dame, and South Carolina) and goes into the Auburn game with an RPI of 40 and a strength of schedule at 16 in the nation. Bama is 3-4 against teams ranked among the top 50 RPI.

Who would have thought Alabama would sit at No. 40 in the RPI nearly halfway through the season, especially after Ingram went down? Count me among the doubters. Still, the Tide must get far more consistent. We are seeing a pattern of big win-followed-by-doubdle-digit-loss. Losing to Vandy on the road is not shameful; imploding in the second half (something that has carried over from the Grant regime) is of far greater concern.

This is a huge, huge game -- a game that is as loseable as it is winnable.

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We'll have some short forms and content later. For now, go forth and do evil.