Happy Monday, everyone. Plenty to talk about this morning, starting with some good stuff from behind enemy lines:
Jackson will return to U.S.C. for his junior season. He maintained his football weight of 180 throughout the track season despite requests to drop to 170, which he found difficult. "I don’t eat poorly," Jackson said. "Well, I don’t think I eat poorly, but a lot of people might think so if you’ve seen my Snapchat. Last night, I had McDonald’s: two McChickens, a fish filet, a large fry and a large sweet tea. That’s just how I love to eat. That’s how I’ve been since I was a kid in Illinois. That’s all I do. I don’t recommend that anybody eat like that on the track."
What the USC secondary just gained the rest of college football just lost, as Jackson was one of the single exciting players -- on both sides of the ball -- in the sport last year. While he's known primarily as one of the best cornerbacks in the country, Jackson made 27 catches and scored two touchdown at receiver in 2015.
Must be getting close if we're talking about an opponent, eh?
Doc had a nice breakdown for you last month of USC's primary receiver, Juju Smith-Schuster, but junior Adoree Jackson was an explosive threat in his own right, using his track speed to average over 15 yards on his 27 catches despite his penchant for the McPick Two-times-two diet. While Jackson has, by all accounts, elite cover skills, he is on the smaller side at only 5-foot-11 and 180 lbs. One has to imagine that Lane Kiffin will try to test him in isolation with his bigger targets such as Robert Foster or Gehrig Dieter. Along with 2015 Freshman All-American Iman Marshall, the Trojans boast a CB tandem to rival Alabama's pair of Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
With his big smile on as the only rookie in the room, Clay Helton said that there was a different feeling this summer knowing that USC will be opening the season against Alabama. He emphasized how excited he is that they get to play the defending national champions. Helton is also looking forward to the "chess match" between Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
The clock is ticking to the opener. Football is so close.
The USC Trojans have plenty of talent on the roster, including a blue-chip laden offensive line that returns all five starters to go with lots of skill talent and former five-star QB Max Browne making his first collegiate start. While the Tide likely has the depth on both sides to out-class the younger Trojans, this team certainly won't be a pushover.
TPD spokeswoman Lt. Teena Richardson said Taylor left the scene of an accident and was arrested in the 1100 block of E. Hargrove Road early this morning.
Ugh. Don't want to jump to conclusions, as an accident could be something as simple as hitting a mailbox, but adding another possible charge to a DUI just makes things worse. There have been no reports of injury to Shank or to any other parties, so hopefully the accident is a minor issue.
Heck, first-year quarterback Blake Sims was a possession or two from playing for it all during the 2014 campaign had his defense found a way to stop Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott. Taking it a step further, Auburn won the 2010 title with a rookie starter named Cam Newton while Ohio State did so two years ago with two first-year guys, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. For those picking against Alabama in the West this summer, do it because you believe LSU's the better team. If you're wagering against the Crimson Tide because of Cooper Bateman or David Cornwell or Blake Barnett getting those first-team reps, it's not a smart bet.
Blake Barnett has been busy trying to add "good weight" to his 6-foot-5 frame. And according to the Crimson Tide's roster and Barnett's own tweets, he has done just that. Barnett was listed at 200 pounds during Alabama's 15 spring practices, but when the Tide released its 2016-17 team media guide earlier this week, the former five-star recruit was listed at 211 pounds, gaining 11 pounds since April. Now, as of Saturday afternoon, one of the four quarterbacks in Alabama's tight position battle has added even more weight, according to a photo he shared via Twitter. A scale showed Barnett is up to 217 pounds (216.7, to be exact).
Seventeen pounds of primarily muscle in three months? Young Blake has been busting it with Coach Cochran and undoubtedly consuming mass amounts of protein and creatine. Based on this info, if he doesn't win the starting job it won't be because of his size. In any event, as the first piece implies, it will be surprising if Kiffin is unable to squeeze very good play out of one of these blue-chip QB prospects.
Like Coach (Nick) Saban says, great players want to play with great players," Allen said. "That was probably the biggest thing for me coming up, we had Terrence Cody, just a plethora of defensive linemen, and that’s what us defensive linemen (want). When you’re being ranked as one, that’s where you wanna go play at, compare your skills to other players. So, I feel like that’s definitely a big reason why we get good defensive linemen every year."
Last season, Allen produced the third-best season in terms of sacks in Alabama history, trailing only the late Derrick Thomas, who owns the top-two spots with 27 sacks in 1988 and 18 sacks in 1987.
Look for Allen to have a monster senior season and get paid handsomely as a first round pick afterward. Teams just don't have the #1 DE recruit from two different classes starting at the same time...
The transfer from Bowling Green has been so impressive during summer workouts that at least some inside the Tide program believe he will start at one of Alabama's outside receiver spots over either Robert Foster or ArDarius Stewart. "I think he's a great receiver," Tide tight end O.J. Howard said. "Hands. He has those. He rarely drops the ball. Great routes. He's smart. You can tell he's a veteran guy. Looking forward to him being very helpful for us on our offense this year."
Coming out of spring, it was reported that Robert Foster still wasn't 100%. Hopefully he will be fine by the opener, but it's nice to have a bigger senior whose name shows up on the Biletnikoff watch list as a fallback option. There have been rumblings that Dieter, Foster, and ArDarius Stewart will spend the bulk of their time outside, allowing Calvin Ridley to move around and run out of the slot against opponents' nickel corners. I can name twelve DCs who are queasy at the thought.
The 6-foot-7, 325-pound Davis was the No. 11 defensive tackle and No. 84 overall prospect in this year's recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. "He's doing a great job," Howard said. "His size, athleticism, he's been standing out to me."
True freshmen DL Raekwon Davis and Quinnen Williams are both huge, more similar in size to A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed than the Tide's returning DEs. If they can get up to speed it will go a long way toward giving Saban the versatility he so desires in combating all types of schemes.
"He's bigger than Derrick," a smiling Fournette said. "He's a great talent. He's not a sleeper at all. He's been doing the same things I thought he was gonna do since high school, so I'm looking forward to seeing him."
Leonard Fournette and Bo Scarbrough were in the same recruiting class and undoubtedly developed a mutual respect for one another. Barring injuries, we will finally get to see them compete on the big stage.
SEC Media Days is held in Birmingham, and the SEC credentials more than a thousand loosely defined media members, many of them from this state. Therefore, according to the logic on Brando's Twitter timeline, it's only natural the voters would pick Alabama to win the SEC. "As predicted SEC Media sees nothing but Crimson," Brando tweeted Thursday after the results were revealed. "Understandable on many fronts since much of the media credentialed are Alabama fans. #Truth"
Yeah, Brando. It's all about the location and not the four national titles in seven seasons, consecutive top-ranked recruiting classes, best coaching staff in the business...
Scarb is asking the right question here. Why wouldn't you pick Alabama?
The combination of quickness, violent hands, the ability to torque his body and slither through blocks quickly leads Byers to posting residence in the oppositions backfield. Byers is a high-motor player, a run stuffer along with showing speed to catch running backs from behind. Byers gets offensive linemen off balance with his quickness, he has them opening up their stance giving them know shot against his speed. Then looking at his frame, you get the sense watching him he'll easily play at 295-300 on the next level and not lose a step of burst.
Sounds like a perfect fit at DE in Saban's 3-4. Big with "fast-twitch" ability, power, and a high motor. His offers list says it all as he chose Alabama over FSU, Ohio St., and Michigan among others.
Everybody Loves Saban?
Wednesday was Alabama Day at SEC Media Days. And if you’re covering this event, you better keep your head on a swivel lest you be plowed over by the cameras that follow Saban’s every move through the Wynfrey Hotel. The college football paparazzi treat him like a rock star because, with all due respect to the rest of the coaching profession, right now in the sport of college football, there is Saban and then there is everybody else. Sorry, Urban.
Yet instead of resting on his laurels and staying true to a game plan that worked in the past, Saban is always making changes to stay ahead of his competition for the future. Entrepreneurs in any line of business should follow Saban's lead. "He's telling me to go to TCU in the offseason, he's telling me to go see Tom Herman," said Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. "It's a credit to him not being stubborn, saying, 'I'm going to win the old-school way and show everybody I can be in the I formation and play slow.' Instead of being stubborn, you see him changing, evolving."
The Southeastern Conference East is relying heavily on three former Nick Saban assistants to restore balance to the league. The division that once reigned with the likes of Steve Spurrier, Phillip Fulmer, Mark Richt and Urban Meyer has not won an SEC Conference title in eight years. Saban and Alabama still lead a formidable parade of West Division teams, but there is an abundance of new blood in the sometimes-overlooked East.
He's the rock star at SEC Media Days, business leaders try to emulate him, and other SEC schools hire his assistants in the hopes of catching some of the lightning. This football coaching thing might just work out.
Looking ahead a bit further:
For all the talent LSU had in the secondary, you might be surprised to know that the Tigers ranked 65th nationally in pass defense a season ago. With corners Tre'Davious White and Kevin Toliver II returning to go along with Jamal Adams at safety, it's hard to imagine new coordinator Dave Aranda not improving on that ranking a good bit in his first season at the controls. Having hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker Arden Key back to rush the passer will prove helpful to the guys in coverage.
Ranking the LSU Tigers as the top defense Alabama will face this season seems odd in combination with the quoted excerpt. Most fans seem to blame Kevin Steele for last season's pedestrian defensive performance, but from here it appears that certain position groups simply aren't that strong. The base pass rush was nothing special and they still seem rather thin in the front seven without the bevy of top end talent you're accustomed to seeing in Baton Rouge: Davon Godchaux has been solid but Christian LaCouture is seemingly "just a guy" by SEC standards, and Arden Key is simply too tall and skinny to hold up against an excellent power run game. They may get a boost in four-star juco NT Travonte Valentine if he can get qualified. Dave Aranda is an excellent coach but he's no miracle worker, and the change to his favored 3-4 scheme will likely take some time. Expecting a huge leap in his first year is probably unrealistic, and that side of the ball is where I think they ultimately falter in their quest for the West.
Oh, and Texas A&M is listed as the third best defense we will see this season? Please let that be the case.
Alabama’s defense — led by its Fearsome 15 — went on to win the national championship and finished No. 1 in the nation against the run with 75 yards allowed a game, No. 1 in quarterback sacks with 53, and No. 3 in total defense with 276 yards allowed a game. Going into the 2016 season, though, that 15 has dwindled to what should be a front seven rotation more like the rest of the world in college football. Four starters from that defensive front are gone, including two other specialists. If Miles sticks to his Fournette gun this season, LSU may fare better.
The LSU run game against a lighter and thinner Alabama front will be compelling, but it's hard to believe that anyone will be good enough to line up and run over this bunch.
Certainly this creates a new gray area for officials. Determining when a player began to slide feet-first and when a defender became unable to shift his target area can be tough, particularly as the head of a sliding player can suddenly move where his chest was a split-second before.
But a key sentence in the explanation of "targeting," rule 9-1-4, is important to remember: "When in question, it is a foul." Remember that when you're screaming at the TV about a frame-by-frame analysis of a play. "When in question, it is a foul."
Oh, good. More gray area in the targeting rule. Guess it makes sense that this rule comes packaged with another allowing coaches to be tossed out for flipping their lids.
According to a news release, the banned items include the following: all purses, bags or containers larger than a small clutch purse (4½" x 6½"), coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, luggage of any kind, computer bags, camera bags, binocular cases, diaper bags and seat cushions with pockets zippers or compartments. Binoculars may be worn around the neck. Clear plastic, plastic or PVC bags must be no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches to be allowed into the stadium.
It's a shame that we have to resort to these types of things, but 'tis the world we live in, unfortunately.
Lastly, juco transfer SG Armond Davis took to Twitter to show off some of the work he is putting in:
Extended range ☔️ pic.twitter.com/s4dUhZM6HD— Armond Davis (@justwannawin22) July 15, 2016
After the workout first warm up dunk slam RTR pic.twitter.com/vHm1U1ZBd9— Armond Davis (@justwannawin22) July 16, 2016
There should be plenty of excitement around the basketball program in Avery Johnson's second year. The overall talent level has certainly been upgraded.
That should just about do you for today. Have a great week.