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Jumbo Package: Grayshirts, Position Battles, and Recruiting

Hump day!

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama teammates compare Bo Scarbrough to Derrick Henry

When asked which young player was destined for stardom, some did not hesitate. When asked about a specific freshman running back, some just laughed or shook their head, knowing their words would not do the five-star product justice.

One underclassman, who only saw the field as a reserve last season, has been compared to another Crimson Tide back -- one that won the Heisman Trophy in 2015. And that has been an overwhelming comparison among his teammates.

"Bo Scarbrough, he’s gonna be great," defensive tackle Jarran Reed said. "His time is coming. He’s a great runner. He’s another Derrick (Henry). He’s also shifty, and he’ll definitely break it and take it to the house."

If you still aren't excited about Bo playing at full health next year, go back and watch his few carries at the end of the semifinal game against Sparty. Not only is he huge and athletic, but he runs with a different attitude than that of Henry. Bo Scarbrough runs angry. If anything, he looks like Trent Richardson in Derrick Henry's body. That's terrifying.

And in case any of you forgot, Bo was used extensively as a slot receiver in high school. The kid has some really solid footwork and is a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield too. If he's fully recovered from that knee injury, I find it highly unlikely that Damien Harris or anyone else supplants Bo from being the main runner for the Crimson Tide in 2017.

Alabama seeks continued good play at both offensive tackle spots - Alabama - Scout

Saban didn’t mince words about need at the position on signing day. When he got to junior college transfer Charles Baldwin, the coach said, "Charles Baldwin was probably at least the best junior college offensive tackle-type that we could find, which we thought we were a little short in tackle-types, especially guys that had experience. We recruit junior college guys because we think he's going to be good enough to play, because they need to play. So, then, we need for him to play. He has a lot of athleticism to him, and can play with power."

Since D.J. Fluker, Alabama has not had a high quality player at right tackle. Austin Shepherd was consistently average, and Dominick Jackson was consistently inconsistent. This year, there will be quite a few options. JUCO transfer Charles Baldwin is a borderline 5-star player, and is obviously the early favorite to win the battle.

5th-year senior defensive-line-convert, Korren Kirven, will be in competition for this spot too, along with senior TE/T Brandon Greene, redshirt freshmen Lester Cotton and Matt Womack, and 5-star freshman Jonah Williams. This one is going to be one of the most wide-open position battles of the upcoming offseason.

The recruiting strategy that keeps Alabama stacked on the defensive line |

When you can be picky like Alabama can, the biggest thing comes down to fit in the system. Outside of this year's signee Kendell Jones, a massive 375-pound defensive tackle, that's meant going smaller and more athletic. Three of Alabama's five defensive line signees in this year's class weigh 285 pounds or less. Savage, who also serves as a color analyst for Alabama games, has seen the Tide target more players like Jonathan Allen and D.J. Pettway.

Nick Saban recruits a lot of defensive linemen, and this year's class is more of the same. While many people want to talk about how he has been recruiting smaller defensive linemen, the truth is that he continues to recruit linemen of all sizes and abilities. What Nick Saban truly loves is versatility with his substitution packages, especially along the defensive line. Last season, we saw as many as 9 different players get regular playing time in the trenches, and all different combinations gave the Tide a different method of attack.

With Robinson, Reed, and Pettway leaving, expect guys like Jones, Raekwon Davis, and Jamar King to all end up breaking into the game rotation, depending on the situation.

Christian Bell, Nick Saban discuss the benefits of grayshirting

And although everything has seemingly worked out for Bell after his decision to grayshirt, the three-time state champion at Hoover was apprehensive the first time he heard the news.

"My initial reaction, I was like, ‘There’s no way I was going to accept that,’" Bell said. "But then I sat down, prayed, talked to family members, coaches, people that helped me with my decision."

That was in the waning days of January of last year. Fast forward to February of 2016, and Bell is more than happy with his decision. The former three-star prospect worked to improve his strength, speed and size, adding 20 pounds to his frame, and helped coach a peewee football team in his spare time, working, of course, on the defensive side of the ball.

"It was a very exciting opportunity that my trainer gave to me," Bell said. "I learned that I love it. Now that I did that, I’m definitely gonna have to do that (coaching) if football doesn’t work out."

Bell, now dressed in crimson Alabama team apparel, has achieved his goal of playing for the Crimson Tide on a full scholarship, eradicating the notion that grayshirting is a negative thing for aspiring college athletes. The defender, who is likely to start out at the Jack position, is one of several players that have received this offer from Nick Saban and his staff.

After the media melted down over Riley Cole decommitting from Alabama because Evil Nick Saban mentioned the word grayshirt, Christian Bell stopped by to show the other side of the story. Sometimes, A grayshirt can be the better option for a kid. Bell, a high school defensive linemen, was much to small to even play a true linebacker for Alabama, let alone on the defensive line. However, he was able to use the 5 months off to work solely towards refining his body and becoming a more athletically college-ready player without losing a year of eligibility.

10 teams off to a fast start with their 2017 recruiting classes - On The Trail- ESPN

Alabama’s streak of No. 1 classes came to an end on national signing day, but the 2017 class seems to be shaping up to be Bama's 10th consecutive top-three finish.

The Tide’s 2017 class includes six ESPN Junior 300 prospects, including two ranked among the top 15 nationally. The Crimson Tide signed the No. 2 running back in 2015, the No. 1 RB in 2016 and now have commitments from two top-five backs, including top-rated back Najee Harris. Alex Leatherwood, a top-five offensive tackle prospect, is a big early commitment in the offensive trenches, and the class also includes top-10 pocket passer Jake Fromm, a poised and polished quarterback.

This early collection of talent is mainly on the offensive side of the ball, but the class does include a pair of defensive commitments including one from ESPN Junior 300 safety Xavier McKinney.

Before the flurry of commitments surrounding National Signing Day, the Tide's 2017 class actually looked to already be better than the one of 2016. The offense looks scary, with QB Jake Fromm, a trio of big running backs in the top overall player- Najee Harris, Cam Akers, and Brian Robinson, explosive athlete Chardarius Townsend, and offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood. 5-star offensive lineman Netori Johnson recently decommitted, but still lists Alabama as his most likely destination.

Don't forget Dylan Moses, the athletic prodigy that Alabama and LSU both offered scholarships to when he was in the 8th grade. The 220-pound linebacker with 4.4 speed is a transcendent athlete and is Najee Harris's main competition for the top overall spot. Moses also recently listed the Tide as his favorite, but I don't seen him getting away from his long-time love for the Bayou.

The 2017 recruiting class is shaping up to be a fun one, folks.

"Huge, huge" hoops game tonight:

Firmly on NCAA tournament bubble, Alabama entering 'huge, huge game' |

Joe Lunardi doesn't think Alabama is going to make the NCAA tournament.

A win at LSU Wednesday night? Then we're having a different conversation, Lunardi, a college basketball analyst for ESPN, said during a phone interview.

Lunardi believes the Tide needs "at least one more really good win" to make the tournament. This would qualify. To Lunardi, this is a "huge, huge game" for an Alabama team that has put itself on the NCAA tournament bubble with wins in five of its last six games to improve its record to 15-9 overall and 6-6 in SEC play.

Not sure I agree with Lunardi that Alabama needs to beat LSU or Kentucky to make the tournament at this point, but tonight's game in Baton Rouge is still very important for this young team. Tip-off is at 8pm CST on SEC Network. Check back for more coverage later today.

NBA lifer Avery Johnson loves his new life as Alabama's basketball coach |

He has become acquainted with the coaches of most of the Crimson Tide sports, attending everything from softball games to soccer matches, as well as going to classrooms to meet professors. But he has formed a special bond with football coach Nick Saban. "He has been one of my big supporters from the first day I've been on campus," Johnson said. "I like spending time with him. He's been a great support system in so many ways. We're trying to make basketball as relevant as football here, but we've got a long ways to go."

This is a great read. What a breath of fresh air Avery has been. He seems to genuinely enjoy helping his players develop into better players and better men, and the performance on the court has followed.