Ed. Note: Before we get to the Jumbo Package, please congratulate BT on his promotion to Editor. He will still be focusing on recruiting, hoops, and a weekly JP, but he has earned the gig, and now he has Banhammer powers -- which is about all we can afford to pay.
After missing Alabama's two postseason games, Tony Brown has another chance with the Crimson Tide.
Nick Saban said Tuesday that the former five-star cornerback was back with the team. He still faces additional suspension, Saban said at the Senior Bowl practice in Fairhope.
Brown's suspension was announced just days before the Tide's Cotton Bowl win over Michigan State.
We're still not sure what exactly Tony Brown did, but it looks like he should be back and ready for action next fall. Between his numerous injuries and now this suspension, one had to wonder if the uber-athletic cornerback would even still be on the team half a year from now. Having Brown to provide depth for Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick while also providing his services on special teams would be huge for the 2016 squad.
Evans, a former five-star recruit and the No. 1 outside linebacker prospect in the 2014 recruiting cycle according to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite, registered two sacks in the championship game and helped Alabama secure its 16th national title. In 14 games of action, Evans recorded four sacks and served as a spy against mobile quarterbacks.
"Rashaan was big, man," Williams told BamaOnLine. "We’ve got all types of beasts on our defense, man. Speed guys, fast-twitch guys. We knew coming in that Clemson liked to spread the ball out, and I don’t know why in the world (people) didn’t think that we got speed on our defense to handle any offense.
"Rashaan is one of the most athletic guys on our team, so we knew he was gonna have a big game."
If you though Tim Williams was fast coming off the edge this year, just wait until Evans gets to be a regular contributor. Though a bit undersized and unrefined to this point, his speed and explosive athleticism is unparalleled. Imagine this third-down pass rush package: Tim Williams and Rashaan Evans on the outside, with Ryan Anderson and Jonathan Allen attacking the middle. That would be absolutely terrifying for an opposing QB trying to get the ball down the field on a longer-developing pass play.
Six first-year starting quarterbacks have won national titles since 2009. Over the last seven seasons, nine have played in a national championship, and twice first-year starters have met in the final.
Although 2015 runner-up Clemson and third-year starting quarterback Deshaun Watson are the early favorites to win the national championship next season, history suggests at least one greenhorn signal-caller will have his team in position to contend.
Jake Coker's first start was the Alabama opener in 2015, and he finished the national title game with 335 yards and a win. Blake Sims of Alabama and Ohio State's J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones were first-year starters who helped guide their teams to the first College Football Playoff in 2014. In 2010, Auburn first-year starter Cam Newton squared off with fellow first-year starter Darron Thomas of Oregon. Three seasons later, Jameis Winston (Florida State) and Nick Marshall (Auburn) met as first-year starters in the BCS final.
Apparently, Lane Kiffin is just ahead of the curve, and realized that first year QBs are the way to go. A.J. McCarron is actually the only quarterback in that time frame to break the trend, and that's only because he won titles in back to back seasons.
Although the rest of us hate having a new QB competition every year (and three in a row is getting a bit ridiculous,) having a first-year starter throwing passes has proven to not be as much of a team obstacle as many make it out to be.
Going forward, Bateman said Tide coaches have said "It's always been the same thing with me, just consistency and accuracy. Those are the most important things when you're out there on the field. Also, relationships with other players. I think Coke did a good job with that. He got the guys on his back. They followed him."
As for his greatest strength, Bateman said, "Going out there with the game plan and knowing what they want me to do; but when things don't work out, and the first or second options aren't there, I can make a play with my feet. I'm not saying I'm a dual-threat guy, but I can get out of sticky situations when I need to."
Speaking of, Bateman is in the running yet again to be the starter. I've personally been calling for Bateman to be the Tide's QB ever since McCarron left for the NFL, and him winning the job would finally vindicate me. He has tremendous accuracy and touch, if not the strongest arm, and is also one of the faster players on the team.
"My goal is to still be the best player I can be, leave it in Coach Kiffin and Coach Saban’s hands and see what happens."
And to become the player he wants to be, Cornwell will look to improve this offseason. But facing the Crimson Tide’s defense as a scout-team quarterback this past year helped him take the initial steps to better himself in going with the flow.
"I’ve really improved on scout team this year just seeing the defense," Cornwell said. "You look at our defense and our front seven, they can really dominate a game. So just moving around in the pocket, getting used to that, I think the defense has really slowed down for me this year.
"I look forward to taking that into fall camp and then spring ball, obviously. It’ll be interesting to see when you’re not reading a card, you know the plays now, Coach Kiffin’s offense, I’ve been in it for two years. It’s gonna be interesting. I really kind of feel like I know what he wants, and it’ll be a good competition, for sure."
The forgotten man in last year's competition, Cornwell is another year removed from his serious knee injury, has another year of experience in Kiffin's playbook, and looks be in the thick of the competition alongside Bateman and Barnett. Cornwell possesses that prototypical size and arm strength like Coker did, but hasn't shown the accuracy or leadership needed to advance in the depth charts thus far in his career.
With Coker and Alec Morris gone, the QB competition will only be between three guys this year, rather than five. This should give each of those three more time and reps to develop their own skills, and hopefully be an asset for the Tide from Day 1.
Carolina Panthers strong safety Roman Harper said he will be ready for Super Bowl 50 after leaving Sunday night's NFC Championship Game with an eye injury. The former Alabama standout couldn't see out of his right eye after behind hit by teammate Luke Kuechly while making a tackle during the Panthers' 49-15 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
"The flap on my cornea shifted, so I couldn't see out of my eye," Harper told the Charlotte Observer. "I took some medicine and got it cleared up. I'll be all right. We've got two weeks to get this team ready."
Roman Harper is that grizzled old man that will never be slowed down by mere flesh wounds.
Besides Harper, Kevin Norwood is also headed to the Super Bowl with the Panthers, just one year after going there with the Seahawks. Unfortunately for Kevin, he was inactive last time, and probably will be yet again this year.
Evan Mathis is the lone 'Bama representative for Denver, meaning that two of the Tide's oldest active players (both from the Shula era) are the players actually making it to the big game. Football is weird sometimes.