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Jumbo Package: Feeling the Byrne and Finding a Rush

Alabama introduced its new AD yesterday, recruiting is at the forefront, and we’re trying to figure out who will be rushing the passer next season.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Alabama vs Washington
Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Terrell Hall (24) during warm-ups before the 2016 CFP Semifinal against the Washington Huskies at the Georgia Dome. Alabama defeated Washington 24-7.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. Greg Byrne was officially welcomed as the Athletic Director yesterday, and was asked about the only topic on everyone’s mind as he begins his career in Tuscaloosa:

Byrne didn't sound overly concerned about that crossroad moment coming anytime soon.

"When I was with Coach Saban the other day, he looked to be in very good shape. I hope he's the football coach for a very long time," Byrne said. "He's one of the greatest ones ever. The fact I get to work with him, I'm thrilled about it.

"When that time comes, that time will come. But I certainly hope that it's nowhere near in the immediate future and I hope it's many years down the road."

All indications are that Saban wants to continue coaching for a while, yet. I honestly thought that he’d be retired by now, but he’s managed to find sufficient balance in his life while maintaining his own impossible standard of excellence.

Bo Davis was in the news yesterday, speaking publicly for the first time about the incident that led to his resignation from Alabama:

During an interview with the NCAA, Episcopal coach Steve Leisz said that person close to the Tide program contacted him about pulling the four players out of class. That person was later present as Davis met with the players for approximately 20 minutes, according to Leisz.

The NCAA met with Davis for the first time in September 2015. In a room with Alabama and NCAA officials, Davis said his only visit to Episcopal was in May and denied interacting with the players and seeing the person who allegedly arranged the meeting.

Boy, the message boards were on fire after that one.

“Systemic cheatin’ nashnul champions, PAWWWLLLL.”

Some coaches caught bumping have been suspended for a game. Others bump away with no consequences.

As that long-time college assistant told me, he never landed a player because he bumped him. He never went back to his hotel after a day on the recruiting trail and banged his head against the wall, worried sick, because of a bump.

We may never know exactly why Davis didn't just come clean during his first interview with the NCAA. Had he done so, it's possible he still would be coaching the most valuable position group on the Alabama football team.

Honestly, it’s hard to stand up for Bo here. As stated, he would probably still be employed had he come clean to investigators and accepted his punishment, which would have likely entailed staying off the road for a period of time.

By the way, one of the four recruits happens to be top DL prospect Marvin Wilson. No surprise that Alabama hasn’t really been in on him.

"It is one of the hardest positions to play in football because you kind of got three guys in one -- a linebacker, a safety and a corner all wrapped in one guy," said Derrick Ansley, Alabama's defensive backs coach. "You got to be tough enough to play close to the line of scrimmage and you got to be skilled enough and athletic enough to cover guys one-on-one if he's running away from the safety. That's a skill-set you have to recruit and it's a skill-set you have to develop. But if you have the right body type and the right mentality, I think those things can make it work."

Brown is an ideal fit for the role, but it is virtually impossible to play effectively against outstanding passing offenses. Besides dealing with the pick plays, the article mentions Renfrow’s use of the option route. With no boundary to protect the DB, a shifty slot receiver who is on the same page with his QB can exploit whatever leverage the defender decides to take and effectively make him “always wrong.” This is why the pass rush is more important than ever.

Speaking of the pass rush:

Another athletic freak, Terrell Hall was primarily an edge rusher his junior year but packed on nearly 30-pounds of muscle by the time his senior year came around. Alabama, seeing his great agility and awareness as a high schooler, decided to move him to outside linebacker and take advantage of his overall skill set. Hall played in ten games a freshman for the Crimson Tide and should be in line for more playing time this season.

Hall has that explosiveness off the edge that the Tide will need to replicate Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson. Look for him to have a major role next season along with Miller and Jennings. The pass rush is an unknown quantity at this point and something to keep an eye on at A-Day.

Mike Locksley’s roots in the fertile grounds of Maryland and Virginia should play dividends. The Tide have already done well in the region, finding Jonathan Allen, Da’shawn Hand, and the Kouandjio brothers in addition to Hall.

Recruiting notes:

The Crimson Tide is less than 100 points from surpassing the record set by Alabama's 2014 class. The class (3199 points), with an average star ranking of 4.1, is currently No.2 all-time. Alabama is not finished in this recruiting cycle, and all remaining targets are ranked four-stars or higher. Alabama has 22 of 25 commitments ranked four-stars or higher including seven five-stars which is a recruiting class record.

Alabama has the No.1 ranked player in the Rivals100 already enrolled in Najee Harris. Alabama also has five other five-stars on campus in Alex Leatherwood, Isaiah Buggs, Elliot Baker, Dylan Moses and Jerry Jeudy. Buggs and Baker are junior college transfers.

Alabama has nine Rivals100 commitments- Jedrick Wills, Tua Tagovailoa, VanDarius Cowan, Brian Robinson and Xavier McKinney join the non-JuCo players listed above. Willis is also a five-star.

Simply amazing how Saban keeps raising the bar.

LaBryan Ray, DE, Madison, Ala. - Ray is now a five-star and it's well deserved. Read an update on the 7A Lineman of the Year.

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Montgomery, Ala. - Ruggs is a five-star on 247Sports individual and it's well-deserved. 'Bama battling Florida State and Penn State here. Read an update.

Devonta Smith, WR, Amite, La. - The four-star electric receiver took an early-week official visit to Florida State. Alabama a popular pick, with LSU and Miami also in the picture.

Phidarian Mathis, DL, Monroe, La. - Alabama needs defensive linemen and wants the four-star recruit who is feeling the pressure to stay home. LSU and TCU are other finalists.

These are the four biggest targets left on the board for Alabama. With Jeudy and Shavers already enrolled, the WR class is in great shape on matter what happens with Ruggs and Smith. Signing even one would be great, but industry insiders seem to feel that both may be headed to Tuscaloosa.

The final 247Sports Composite rankings are out and Alabama quarterback commit Tua Tagovailoa is now rated a five-star prospect coming in at No. 32 in the country. 247Sports recently ranked Tagovailoa as the No. 22 player in the country.

Tide defensive end target LaBryan Ray also earned his fifth star coming in at No. 26. 247Sports has the Madison (Ala.) James Clemens product ranked at No. 15.

Ray is a must-get as far as I’m concerned. He’s a bit lighter and appears to be more explosive than fellow five-star Aubrey Solomon, plus he’s an in-state prospect. Of course, we’d happily take both.

Speaking of Solomon:

Yep, that’s Harbaugh, in his khakis and “Malcolm X” glasses, driving a go kart with someone’s small child:

I’m just going to call this guy “Creepy Jim” from now on. Maybe “Jimmy the Creep?” In any event, we have nothing else going on. How about a little caption contest? Leave us your best in the comments.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.