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Jumbo Package: Friday, 22 January 2016

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Your daily dose of Crimson Tide news and notes...

Breakout player?
Breakout player?
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

As most of the eastern half of the country braces for a combination of snow and ice courtesy of some jerk named Jonas, we have a few Alabama football notes for you to peruse this morning:

On the Rise: Predicting 12 SEC standouts for 2016 | Lindy's Sports

Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama: Nick Saban has a history of utilizing big, fast running backs and Scarbrough fits that criteria (6-2, 235 pounds) to a T … and then some.  Scarbrough was in line for playing time last season behind Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, but a torn ACL suffered in the spring delayed his much-anticipated debut. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Scarbrough, a major physical presence,  since he arrived in Tuscaloosa, and he could show you what that’s all about in 2016.

For the first time in recent memory, Alabama will go into a season without a clear starter at the running back position. Bo Scarbrough got plenty of attention coming out of high school, and with good reason:

The obvious concern with Bo is the ability to stay on the field. Hopefully his knees will cooperate and he can become the next great Alabama running back.

Why Alabama is encouraged about future of QB Blake Barnett |

Serving as a scout team quarterback, Barnett had periodic eye-catching moments like that in practice throughout the year against Alabama's first-team defense despite working with mostly fellow freshmen and walk-ons, enough that Tide All-American linebacker Reggie Ragland said the California native is "going to be a monster." "Once he learns everything and gets stronger and all that stuff and does the things he has to do, he's going to be a monster in college football," Ragland said of Barnett

Glowing words from Alabama's defensive captain. Article says that Blake has added 15 pounds for a current weight of 205, still quite wiry on a 6'5" frame. Hopefully he comes into the season ready to reach his vast potential. All-Access: Can Nick Saban keep Alabama's recruiting dynasty alive? |

But there are a number of factors working against the Tide in this recruiting cycle. Alabama fans celebrated the return of some of the top stars from the 2015 squad but that also means fewer opportunities for early playing time for top recruits, something that other schools could use against Alabama on the recruiting trail. There's also the matter of Kirby Smart. Once considered the Tide's ace recruiter, Smart has moved on to Georgia, where he's already made a massive impact on the recruiting trail. Smart has the Bulldogs ranked 7th nationally in the recruiting rankings, one spot ahead of Alabama, and is battling with the Tide on some of the top prospects from both Georgia and Alabama.

Only in Alabama would the Chicken Littles come out over a merely top ten recruiting class. The fact is that the 2015 class was the deepest of Saban's run of number one classes, so it stands to reason that some of the top players in the 2016 class would look elsewhere in search of immediate playing time. For those worried that this class could be the start of a downward trend, Alabama already has commitments from one five-star (#1 RB Najee Harris) and seven four-stars in the 2017 class.

JUCO DL Jamar King meets Nick Saban, prepares for Alabama official visit |

Mendocino (Calif.) College defensive lineman Jamar King said Alabama was "like the first school that really started recruiting me," and the Crimson Tide came through with an offer last month. This weekend, he'll make the trip to Tuscaloosa for an official visit. On Monday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban visited King. "It was good visit," King said. "It was pleasure to meet a legend. He was telling me that they've got a need for me to come in for a position where they need some more people."

This would be the perfect year to bring in a couple of juco defensive linemen. This guy's tape looks strong.

Alabama the early favorite to win the 2016 title and USC season opener | FOX Sports

Given that information, it's no surprise to learn the Crimson Tide are also the favorites to beat USC in the 2016 season opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. However, the margin of the current week one spread is somewhat surprising, as Alabama opens as a 14-point favorite over the Trojans per 5Dimes.

A lot can change between now and then, but 14 points is about what I expected to see for the opener.

Kicker Adam Griffith considered entering NFL draft before deciding to return to Alabama |

Griffith, who has already graduated, made 23 of his final 28 field goal attempts as a redshirt junior last season after starting the year 0 of 4, including 17 of his final 20. He made a 55-yard field goal during the Tide's win over LSU. He also ranked 26th nationally in kickoff touchback percentage and had a successful onside kick during the fourth quarter of Alabama's win over Clemson in the national championship game.

This would have been a big loss for a team poised to compete for another title. Roll Tide, Adam.

Alabama rising star Da'Shawn Hand confirms impressive bench press feat |

"They said, 'Man, you can't hit 225 42 times.' I said, 'Bro, I really can. I did it. I ain't going to lie to ya'll,'" Hand said. "They said, 'Come on, man.' I said, 'You're really going to make me do it?' Because whenever someone challenges me to something, I've got to do it, especially when it comes to lifting weights, so I just got it done." Like he did at Alabama, Hand, who posted 16 tackles, 6.5 stops for a loss and three sacks as a reserve last season, got 42 reps.

To put this in perspective, the top guy at the NFL Combine managed 37 reps last season. Only 13 players in Combine history have managed 42 reps or more. Mr. Hand is a beast.

Chip Kelly discusses trip to Alabama before title game |

"I was home in New Hampshire, and Nick asked me if I would come down just to watch football," Kelly told reporters in California. "I had nothing to do with them playing Clemson or give them any insight into playing Clemson. You hear things about Nick Saban. The classy maneuver on the Tuesday before the national championship game, to invite me down to Alabama just to spend time with them, him taking 45 minutes out his day to talk to me about his experience in the National Football League and what's it's like at Alabama, we all gravitate toward each other. "We all love the game, have a passion for the game and want to see it played the right way."

This is interesting. Perhaps Chip's visit was more about him struggling to decide whether to take another run at the pros or come back to the college game. Saban has obviously done both and has mentioned on several occasions that he prefers coaching in college for a few different reasons, so he would be a logical sounding board.

Why the free safety is the most important position against the spread - Football Study Hall

It's interesting that we haven't seen more teams, especially in the Big 12 where safeties are regularly abused, opt to move their better DBs to the FS position. Ideally this position would be held by a veteran DB who has excellent range, understands offensive concepts, and is a willing and reliable tackler. For many teams, filling that role would likely require moving one of the better, more well rounded, and intelligent corners inside.

Giving up a good cover corner is an expensive price to pay, but defenses are going to pay the piper for the choices they make no matter what. If they can get this position right they'll have a fail-safe to disarm all the most lethal weapons in the spread arsenal.

Great article. As usual, Nick Saban is ahead of the curve. No surprise that Eddie Jackson had a breakout year moving to safety...

Comparing Nick Saban's 4 Alabama title teams reveals difference between rings, disappointment |

Perhaps the most striking difference comes in the category that Saban emphasizes more than any: turnovers. The championship teams took an average of 26.8 possessions from opponents. That number dipped to 21.7 in the other years. It was a particular issue in 2013 (19) and 2014 (20) when Alabama ranked in the lower half of the FBS. An increased emphasis bumped that number to 27 this year when Alabama ranked 13th.

...and no surprise that the resulting increase in interceptions (obviously an infusion of cornerback talent contributed mightily to this as well) brought home a championship.

Last but not least, Alabama football posted an absolutely Gumpalicious graphic to its Instagram page:

Avatar updated.

That's about it for today. Those of you in the path of the storm, stay warm and safe.

Roll Tide.