Nick Saban is … happy: It’s not as if he’s mellowed out. The passion is certainly there for the 64-year-old coach, and he’s still not afraid to tell it like it is to the media. But in listening to his remarks this spring, it’s hard not to notice how content he is with this team-- almost happy, in fact. And if you’re an opposing coach in the SEC, that should scare you.
Despite breaking in a new quarterback, a new defensive coordinator and several new starters at key positions, Saban doesn’t appear to be worried. There's an air of confidence. Maybe it's the fact that he convinced Allen, Eddie Jackson and Tim Williams to return on defense. Maybe it's that he knows Scarbrough will be a star and the quarterback situation will work itself out.
But whatever it is, Saban seems to be pleased with where his team is to this point and that's really saying something.
If Nick Saban is happy, I'm happy. This next team has a lot going for it. Possibly the most talented receiving corps in the nation, a star-studded secondary, the return of all the top contributors from last year's record setting pass rush, and a star left tackle. While a tall task to ask, if the new Center-Quarterback-Running back combination manages to mesh well, this team could be like something we've never seen before.
Fowler had only rushing statistics in his first season in 2010, 14 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown, and added 56 carries and 385 yards and 4 TDs in 2011. He was injured and redshirted after playing in only two games in 2012, rushing 20 times for 88 yards, but becoming a goalline receiving threat as he had 7 receptions for only 15 yards, but 5 touchdowns in 2013. In his final season, Fowler had 12 carries for 69 yards and caught 11 passes for 129 yards and 2 TDs. He was drafted in the fourth round by Tennessee.
Scout.com is slowly going through a series where they give their opinion on the best Alabama player at each position under Nick Saban. Aside from poor grammar throughout, it is an interesting discussion. Who would you guys take as the best H-back? Brad Smelley? Michael Nysewander? Jalston Fowler?
"When you watch the Crimson Tide film, you notice that they rotate their defensive linemen. Because of that, Robinson doesn’t register the numbers that some defensive linemen do. I don’t worry about that, because I can see the talent. In 2004 with the Bears, we drafted Tommie Harris, who also played in a rotation and didn’t have great stats. Before injuries curtailed his career, Harris was the best three-technique in the NFL." – Former NFL scout and current draft analyst Greg Gabriel.
A'Shawn Robinson has possibly become a more polarizing draft prospect than Henry. People are enamored over his strength and athleticism, but he's also spent a lot of time disappearing. While his partner, Jarran Reed, has a very specific niche of being an elite run stopper, A'Shawn has never shown to be exceptional at any one thing. I've seen him being projected anywhere from 11th overall to back into the second round. It'll be interesting to see where he ends up going.
Upshaw has spent most of his NFL career as the run-stopping half of a rushing-passing defensive platoon. At 272 pounds, Upshaw became a notable edge setter as an outside linebacker in the Ravens' 3-4 alignment. Atlanta uses a 4-3 base defense, but Upshaw knows what Quinn and the Falcons want.
"My strengths are playing a physical game and dominating the line of scrimmage," Upshaw told the Falcons' web site. "I know a lot of people question if I can get after the passer. I feel like being a part of this team, I would get a chance to showcase that part of my game. But my strength is being able to knock people around. Once they see me out there on the field on game day, they will see I am one of the most physical guys on the field."
This is one of those signings that has really went under the radar. Dan Quinn, in his second season as head coach for Atlanta after spearheading the historical Seattle defense of 2013-2014, is looking for extremely physical and disruptive players along the line of scrimmage to fit into his cover-3 scheme. While a pass-rusher at Bama, Upshaw has developed into a reliable run-stopper along the edges, and will fit in perfectly as the strongside DE in Quinn's defense.
The Lions have only three defensive ends on their roster – three-year starter Ezekial Ansah, three-year reserve Devin Taylor and Kerry Hyder, who's played in one game in his NFL career. Gilberry was a free agent after four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. That followed four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. Gilberry has been a full-time starter only once in his NFL career – in 2014 – but has recorded 31.5 sacks.
Gilberry, like Alabama teammate Rashad Johnson, has consistently exceeded low expectations and being overlooked his entire career, and has now made it to the rare third NFL contract. Nine years as a productive NFL player is nothing short of amazing. We will always remember him as one of the lone bright spots in the 2006-2007 teams.
There isn't too much else happening this week, so feel free to argue about who the starting QB will be in 2016 or something like that.
How about the end of that bouncy hoops game Monday night, though?