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Jumbo Package: Howard Shows Out at Senior Bowl

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O.J. carved up the North defense and looks well on his way to hearing his name called in the first round.

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NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. Most of the news right now centers around the Senior Bowl and recruiting:

“Teams know that they’re getting a player that played at a program that demanded effort, demanded that trademark toughness,” CBSSports.com senior NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler said. “They’re not all going to be Ryan Andersons or O.J. Howards — there will be some misses — but you know first and foremost he’s going to bring talent to Tuscaloosa, and then he’s going to develop them.”

Of course, while Saban’s name alone won’t help improve a player’s draft stock, the knowledge of the sort of training those players have been subjected to under Saban certainly has an effect on how scouts and NFL executives evaluate Alabama players.

“Obviously you know what type of instruction these players are getting (at Alabama), you know the program that they have,” Brugler said. “So you’re not going to move a player up just based on where he comes from — you try to look at all these players without a logo on the helmet — you’re looking at just the individual player. But it’s impossible not (to take that into consideration).

Not hard to figure why Saban consistently lands the top class in the country. You may recall that even former LSU players acknowledge this:

You know that ODB ruffled some feathers with that one, especially since he was talking about Landon Collins.

By all accounts, O.J. Howard made huge strides at the Senior Bowl and is looking more and more like a first-rounder:

"I think he had two goals, one, show he can separate against man-to-man coverage, and two, confirm that he is a much better blocker than he was a couple years ago. Both goals were accomplished," Mayock said on NFL Network Saturday in pre-game remarks. "In my opinion, he's a top-20 pick and my NFL comp for him will be Greg Olsen. He can block, he can be in-line, and he can beat you downfield vertically.

That’s high praise, indeed. Howard finished with four catches for 39 yards in only one half of football.

Check out this grab in practice:

Of course, Howard was asked about his lack of targets in Tuscaloosa:

“I have no idea, honestly man,” Howard said at the Senior Bowl. “It was kind of a question mark my whole career about that, but I’ve never been able to give an answer to this day.”

Howard came to Alabama as the top tight end recruit in the nation and a consensus five-star prospect, but finished his career with just seven touchdown receptions. His only two games with more than 100 receiving yards were his pair of national championship performances against Clemson.

“I can be a guy like that every game,” Howard said. “Being able to make those plays in big moments is huge, but I feel like I’m the type of player who can do that consistently.

I think the plan was to use O.J. more in his senior season but they were just too limited in the passing game, particularly between the hashes. Calvin Ridley was criminally under-utilized as well.

Recruiting notes:

Foster, who was used to playing in front of big crowds at one of Texas' most prominent high school programs, said he could see how the fanaticism of the Tide's most ardent supporters could turn off some kickers.

"If you're not ready for it, if you're a player that is developing, you definitely don't want to be thrown into the fire there. with it being the top program in the country for several years," said Sailer. "By all means you are under the most pressure -- playing for a coach like Nick Saban, playing in the SEC, playing in huge games every week. There is a ton of pressure there. But again the guys who are ready for it, it's an advantage playing in those games. The NFL looks at that as being ready."

Hear that? Lay off the kickers, people. Hopefully Joseph Bulovas is ready. He certainly seems to be:

The state’s top prep kicker has the ability to convert on field goal tries up to an astounding 70 yards, but the more realistic asks will be the more likely challenge. “I want to be consistent from 50-55 yards. I’ve gotten stronger. It’s all about managing myself, my composure. I do my best under pressure,” Bulovas explained.

In a state semifinal matchup against John Ehret in 2015, Bulovas attempted a 69 yard field goal as time expired. The kick fell inches shy of the crossbar. Mandeville missed the Class 5A state championship game by a few inches.

“It was a cold night, and the wind was in my face. No doubt about (making) that kick now, ” Bulovas stated matter-of-factly. “The biggest thing was that I was raw. I got into camp (since then) and focused on consistency and handling pressure. College will be much bigger.”

Ya boy went out and scoured the interwebs to find the video of that 69-yarder for you. Bulovas made two field goals in the game, including a 47-yarder at the 1:40 mark that was right down the pipe and would have been good from much further. The aforementioned 69-yard attempt comes at 2:32, and it was crushed. The folks in red held their collective breath as the ball fell about a yard short of the pole:

That kick was once again destined to split the uprights and if it had been from 65, Mandeville would have gone to the Superdome. Bulovas reached the end zone on 100% of his kick-offs in his two seasons as a starter and also plays baseball while boasting a 4.2 GPA.

Solomon said his decision was based on a mixture of football and academics.

"For the school I am going to, it came down to what they have been doing in football and their graduation rate," Solomon told Scout. "What they have been doing in those two areas has been pretty unbelievable.

"Those things really helped me make my decision."

Solomon is a big time prospect who is down to Alabama, Michigan, UGA, and USC. Most insiders believe it to be a two-way battle at this point between Alabama and Michigan.

Guess which one of his four finalists has had an unprecedented level of success on the field over the last several years, and ranks highest among the four in football graduation success rate? Give you one guess. (Hint: It’s not Michigan.)

Of course, we are talking about teenagers here so anything is possible.

Kevontae Ruggs, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound junior linebacker at Robert E. Lee in Montgomery, announced that he had received his first offer and it comes from the University of Alabama.

Alabama is a finalist along with Florida State for Henry Ruggs III, his older brother and an elite receiver in this year's class. Ruggs is expected to make his announcement on Wednesday, National Signing Day.

Predictably, FSU fans are billing this as some desperation move by Saban to land Henry, but that certainly isn’t consistent with Saban’s style - you may recall that Keenan Allen supposedly went to Cal because Saban wouldn’t take his package deal. Plus, while the staff certainly wants Ruggs in the class, they already have Jerry Jeudy and Tyrell Shavers on campus.

To be frank, suggesting that Kevontae only got an offer because of his older brother is a bit disrespectful to the young man in my book.

College coaches have been throwing out lofty comparisons for Harris since his sophomore season at Antioch. A UCLA coach was the first to compare Harris to current Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson. Another coach likened the now 6-foot-3, 225-pound Harris, who ranks as the No. 2 running back and No. 3 overall player in this year's class, to "a bigger Barry Sanders."

"He's a huge kid, but he does things that most other running backs that size aren't capable of doing," 247Sports director of scouting Barton Simmons said. "He has smaller back skills and traits in a big back's body. Because of that, he can be any running back you want him to be and can play in any offense, in any scenario and in any setting. I think that's special, unique and rare. He's one of the most unique running backs we've seen really since I've been covering recruiting, which is over a decade."

Harris was the top ranked RB in his class coming into the season, yet refused to sit with a torn meniscus sustained in fall camp. He dominated his senior season on a bad knee that required surgery after the season.

Sounds a lot like a certain wide receiver who will be playing for Atlanta in Sunday’s Super Bowl, doesn’t it?

Other stuff:

The Tide figure to return each of their top five rushers, who were all freshmen or sophomores. Rising sophomore Jalen Hurts is a running QB, and the guy likeliest to replace him eventually, five-star Hawaiian freshman Tua Tagovailoa, is, too. It’d be surprising if Bama shifted much away from the power option spread.

But the turnover might make things (relatively) tricky

There’s no reason to think Sarkisian can’t call plays as well as Kiffin did. But it’s fair to wonder if Bama’s position coaching changes, coupled with roster turnover at those positions, could lead to some wobbliness out of the gates. That’s not uncommon.

No reason to think that the offense will look much different at all. Early returns on Sark seem to suggest a bit more structure in practice and a more defined game-plan. That would be a good thing.

There have been a few top-five openers -- No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 4 Penn State in 1983 stands out as the biggest of those and No. 1 Florida State at No. 6 Miami in 1988 is the only other that could compare. That one had the added benefit of rivalry (yeah, Michigan-Notre Dame is a rivalry, but FSU-Miami is a rivalry).

But if we get a No. 1 vs. No. 2 (or something close to it) to truly open the season, in an era not known for this kind of out-of-conference game? FOLKS.

If the game is to be televised on one of the Disney networks, you can bet that ESPN’s poll will have these two at the top.

According to numerous media outlets, Josh Chapman was arrested Sunday morning and charged with driving under the influence. Chapman was pulled over by a Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department officer, although the details of what led to the initial traffic stop have yet to be detailed.

I wasn’t aware that Josh was on the staff, but this certainly isn’t the example he wants to set for the players he is charged with mentoring.

BamaOnline has a nice gallery of the team’s celebration of the 2016 season at halftime of the Mississippi State basketball game, but it’s a little sad. Not many smiles in that group.

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

Roll Tide.