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Jumbo Package: Managing Expectations, Finding Leaders

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The off-season message could not be clearer: It's a new season and this is a new team that is in need of leaders.

I still think this guy wins the job, at least for the first snap of the season.
I still think this guy wins the job, at least for the first snap of the season.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports


Alabama Mens Golf Vaults into First Place After 36 Holes at Linger Longer Invitational - ROLLTIDE.COM - University of Alabama Official Athletic Site

The seventh-ranked Alabama men’s golf team carded the low round of the day at 3-under par 285 to vault into first place after 36 holes of play at the 2016 Linger Longer Invitational. The Crimson Tide boasts a team total of 9-under par 567 (282-285) heading into the final round of action on Tuesday...Alabama came into this week’s event having won three of the last four tournaments it has played dating back to the fall season and is eyeing its fourth Linger Longer team title in the last six years.

For the 4th tournament in a row, the Tide are in first  going into the final round. Keep an eye on UGA, though. The No. 3 Dawgs are just two strokes out.

Alabama Gymnastics Takes Second at 2016 SEC Championships - ROLLTIDE.COM - University of Alabama Official Athletic Site

We covered this one this morning. But, if you want complete coverage breakdown, the Tide's official site has your boxscore.


CECIL HURT: Ones that got away shine in Big Dance |

It happens almost every March. Somewhere along the way, someone with some connection to Alabama -- either the state or the Crimson Tide basketball program -- pops up in the NCAA Tournament. Usually, after a couple of minutes of scanning the memory banks, inevitable questions follows. "Couldn't that guy have helped Alabama or Auburn or UAB? How did he get away?" This year, the heroes of the moment play for Middle Tennessee State. Giddy Potts from Athens scored 19 points in the Blue Raiders' win over Michigan State on Friday. Perrin Buford, a local star who played at Hillcrest, added 15 points, seven rebounds and a fierce defensive presence. Couldn't Alabama have used those guys?

Next season may be a bit different for in-state programs as, unlike the past years, it's not a matter of failing to identify talent, it's a matter of losing commitments that formed the linchpin of a signing class (this may or may not be my public plea for T-Ferg to please come back. Not that I'll weep when I see him in a Kansas uniform or anything. Okay, I may.)

Lessons learned in Avery Johnson's first year |

"I did learn a lot," Johnson said. "This was my first year back at the collegiate level as a head coach. It was my first year to work collectively with our staff. It was my first year to recruit. So I have been thinking about those things. "One thing that stands out to me right now is that I learned a lot about how to prepare our team. You spend so much more time on that at the collegiate level. You have to push the right buttons."

If managing the mental aspect is the toughest adjustment for Coach Johnson, then it's not hard to figure out what happened down the stretch. CAJ was able to get this team to buy-in and to believe that it could beat tournament teams. But, at the end of the day, he and they were unable to translate that into actually becoming a tournament team. While Johnson had a great overall season, you know he will be second-guessing whether he pressed the right buttons at the right time as Alabama fell short. Good coaches always do.

Spring Football

10 spring QB battles that could define the 2016 college football season | FOX Sports

Junior Cooper Bateman, who started a game for the Tide last year, is the proverbial favorite to win the Tide's starting quarterback job, but David Cornwell, Blake Barnett, and early enrollee Jalen Hurts are in the thick of things as well. Seeing has Alabama waited until SEC play to resolve their quarterback battle last year, there's no reason to think this year's competition will be short-lived.

I'm not sold that Cooper Bateman is the favorite to win the spot at the end of August when the Tide faces off versus the Trojans. Cornwell has the physical tools necessary to plug into the offense and become a game-manager type guy. But, I get a feeling that Alabama goes a more athletic direction with Blake Barnett, and Jalen Hurts in turn pushing him. The Tide do not have the luxury of Derrick Henry this season, and the clear strength of the team looks to be through the air -- and doing so for longer than one season, one caretaker, at a time.

Alabama: Don't be shocked, Crimson Tide have pieces to win another championship | Sporting News

'Bama isn’t going away. The Tide have 14 starters returning from last season’s playoff-winning team and another top-ranked recruiting class signed (that makes six in a row). And Saban is not immune to change. He has to find a new starting quarterback. His Heisman-winning running back is off to the NFL. Longtime defensive coordinator Kirby Smart left. Those losses would be setbacks at most places.

No, Saban is not immune to change. Last season he spent time learning intricacies of the spread offense with TCU's Gary Patterson. You have to think this was done in contemplation for Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts' future rather than to suit the strengths of 2015's potential starters. The other takeaway from the early handicapping is that yes, Alabama may have lost considerable talent at LB, RB, QB and DL, but the Tide still return an upperclass-laden defense and a team that welcomes 14 guys back. Identifying leaders will be the biggest challenge going forward -- not the Xs and Os.

WR Robert Foster is 'doing a good job' this spring

Head coach Nick Saban provided an update on Foster’s status when he spoke to reporters in his post-practice press conference following the second practice for Alabama since the CFP national title game. "(Foster’s) doing a good job, a really good job," Saban said. "He’s out there practicing. We put him in a black shirt because he’s coming off an injury, but he’s done everything that everybody else is doing, running all the routes, learning. He’s playing with a lot more confidence and has got better knowledge of the position."

I giddily anticipating a passing offense with Foster, Stewart and Ridley on the outside and O.J. Howard running free down the seams...and with a QB that is a sprinting terror on those rare occasions all four of those guys can be covered.  Lane may not be a vertical guy, but Alabama has speed to burn all-but the most athletic secondaries.

Watch Nick Saban update the second spring practice |

Watch Nick Saban discuss the second spring practice above, and see photos from the press conference below.

Coach Saban's second spring presser. Last season's theme was finishing the play, the drive, the game, the season. This season, his message has consistently been "learn how to practice, learn how to manage expectations, be willing to put in the effort." I wonder how much of that message has to do with the relatively-underachieving 2010 team, one very similar to this one in terms of passing offense and returning talent, but which never identified team leaders and which had not been taken by the hands early and led down the path of humility? It is a process, and the '10 squad forgot that. I don't think Coach Saban is going to let 2016 do the same.