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Jumbo Package: After two weeks of practice tight ends & running backs emerge as offensive strengths; time to #prebuckle for hoops in 2017.

Roll ‘Bama Roll: Giving you your money’s worth since 2006. #NoRefunds

Chattanooga v Alabama
A lot is expected out of the TEs in 2017, with Miller Forristall poised to shine.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I am back from a 6-day vacation; aren’t you lucky? Mania follows, as well as an exceptionally girthy Jumbo Package.

WHOOHOO! #Prebuckle!

The Sporting News ranks Alabama No. 21 for 2017-18 season

Alabama checked in at No. 21 in the TSN 2017 preseason rankings, and here is what they had to say about the Crimson Tide:

Why they’re here: No, it’s not just because Avery Johnson’s team beat Final Four squad South Carolina twice this season. That doesn’t hurt, but mostly it’s because Alabama’s strong group of returning players is joined by a recruiting class that’s ranked No. 5 by ESPN, led by five-star guards Collin Sexton and John Petty. Big things are happening in Tuscaloosa, folks.

Now that the fairly disappointing 2016 campaign is over, we can turn our hopeful eyes towards the 2017 Alabama basketball squad. It’s hard to not be pumped about the watershed recruiting class coming to Tuscaloosa. It is easily the best class ‘Bama hoops has ever signed, and the talent level, one-through-thirteen, will probably the best Alabama has had since the early-mid Aughts.

We’ve spilled enough ink about super-scorer John Petty and the almost-certain one-and-done Collin Sexton, but what they do for the core returning players may be just as impactful as their individual contribution. In addition to their own formidable skills, they free up Dazon Ingram and Braxton Key from larger ball-handling duties, where their athleticism can shine. The team will also see improvement via addition by subtraction with the graduation of headcase Shannon Hale (a man who pissed off CAJ so badly he didn’t play the last 10 games — including Senior Night,) the erratic Jimmie Taylor, and oft-ailing Nick King, the Memphis transfer for whom it just didn’t work out. You have Ar’Mond Davis shooting off the bench, Avery “please stop shooting that contested three” Johnson Jr. as a valuable backup PG, and Riley Norris, he of the underappreciated all-around 6th-man game. Then, there’s a pickup that could be just as important in winning those grinding conference games: Ohio State transfer center Daniel Giddens. He has the ball skills that Donta Hall lacks, and between the two of them, Alabama should finally have the SEC-caliber front court that has been missing since JaMychal Green took a powder (Green is now a starter with the Memphis Grizzlies — Go Grizz. Bluff City. GnG. We don’t bluff. All heart. Other gratuitous hashtag abuse in which Memphians engage during the playoffs. Seriously, though, Go Grizz.)

We’ll obviously cover hoops more over the summer when transfer season concludes, but I’m legitimately geeked out about the potential on this team. And you should be too. It’s apparent that The Sporting News has already bought-in on the ground floor. #Prebuckle

Tight Ends will spread it out

Depth, potential of Alabama Crimson Tide Football's tight ends under Brian Daboll Miller Forristall

“We’ve got Hale back,” Saban said after Monday’s practice. “Irv Smith played some last year, has really shown a lot of potential to either play on the line as a tight end, off the line as an H or even be flexed out. So he’s got pretty good versatility.

Miller Forristall played a lot last year for us, he’s gotten bigger and stronger, so he’ll probably play a little bit more H, he’s a little more O.J.-like, in terms of a very good receiver. O.J. became a very good blocker, but the early stages of his career, that’s one of the things that we need to improve on. I think Miller’s making progress in that area.

“Ronnie (Clark), we moved there just to be an H. So that’s really what he’s being, which is a little bit fullback-like in some regards. And Major (Tennison) is a young player that looks like he’s got some potential and promise to maybe develop into a guy that can do all those things, but it’ll take a little while for him to feel confident and comfortable.”

There’s some good stuff in here about Saban’s core philosophy of spreading the field, distributing the ball to all the playmakers, and the expanded role of the tight ends under Daboll. While Saban didn’t tip his hand on the offense being installed, Hale Hentges did, and his enthusiasm positively oozes off the screen. I think we all want to see more TE involvement. For my money, there are few offenses as aesthetically pleasing and effective, that spread the field with power, and worked the seams like the Richt/Bobo ‘Dawgs teams did: It was an offense run by the ‘Canes and ‘Noles for 20 years, adopted by Richt with great success in the SEC, and consistently averaged a bruising 38-40 points per game. And the tight ends make the passing game dangerous beyond belief, exploiting the greatest single weakness in college defenses — linebackers in coverage. If we see any kind of productivity like that, then the offense will take serious leaps forward.

Corner shuffle

Alabama practice report: Injured Tide LB continues to progress |

The first pairing of cornerbacks during drills was Minkah Fitzpatrick and Tony Brown. Anthony Averett and Levi Wallace were second. Shyheim Carter and Trevon Diggs were third.

I would be exceptionally surprised to see Averett on the second team defense when Labor Day rolls around. If Minkah really is moved back to boundary corner, the most logical spot for Averett would be at Star, no? And, FWIW, I still don’t think Minkah will wind up at corner when the ball is kicked off versus Florida State. It’s good to see Shyheim make consistent improvement too. He flashed signs last season of being a really good corner: there’s definitely playing time for him this year. Also from practice, Shaun Dion Hamilton, coming off a brutal ACL injury, is fully participating in conditioning drills, though he is not practicing yet. His loss last year was one of several critical Alabama injuries that hurt it in the playoff run.

Dark horse starter, Matt Womack?

Nick Saban talks Jalen Hurts, tight ends, emerging O-lineman |

— Saban said Matt Womack has done a "really, really good job" at right tackle this spring. Said he had a good offseason.

— Saban said Da'Shawn and Rashaan Evans have both responded well as starters this spring. Said he's been pleased with both.

Having been somewhat lost in the shuffle, Matt Womack, a big guy from Mississippi that Alabama poached from LSU, has made moves this offseason. He has the size and is a true grinder in the run game. The 6’7” 310 tackle prospect was very raw in the passing game and could be in line for the RT spot being vacated with Jonah Williams’ probable move to the left side. The right side of the line will have some of the most watched position battles of Fall camp. On the defensive line, to little surprise, Rashaan Evans and Da’Shawn Hand have locked down their starting spots at ILB and DE respectively. Both were solid contributors the past two years, but will be looked at as the next men up in 2017.

Bo & B.J. improving more every day

See how Bo Scarbrough looks returning from broken leg in Alabama practice |

"Our goal for Bo is by the end of spring, he's fully confident that he can do everything he needs to do," Saban said. "Whether he ever scrimmages is really not something that we're not that concerned about."

You can see that neither Scarbrough, nor Emmons took hits from the bags when there was contact for the other backs. They look strong so there shouldn't be any questions about lingering issues by August.

Also take a look at Najee Harris (22) doing some of the drills indoors.

Great video of the running backs going through drills, including wunderkind Najee Harris. RB depth can never be undervalued: last year Joshua Jacobs and Damien Harris were both plagued by late season injuries; BJ Emmons was lost for the year; and Bo Scarbrough went down in the national title game with a broken leg. Scarbrough was the team’s fourth leading rusher going into the Peach Bowl if that tells you how valuable every back is in this offense. The loss of a healthy Harris was particularly critical too, as he was, by Saban’s account (and your own lying eyes) the most consistent back all last season.

Here’s the full presser, BTW (embed disallowed.)


QB Emory Jones ‘110 percent’ committed to Ohio State but visiting Southern powers -

Emory Jones, the No. 2 dual-threat QB in the country, per the 247Sport Composite and a four-star talent, has been committed to Ohio State since last summer. The Franklin, Ga. prospect has held steady to his pledge the whole way through. But like any savvy recruit, he’s keeping his options at least a little bit open.

“I’m 100 percent committed to Ohio State. It’d be a lot to change, that but I just think for myself it’d be better for me to take some more visits to make sure I pick the right place,” he said.

Kids should take all their junkets and be feted. It’s fun, educational, full of shenanigans, and they get free vacations to exotic locations like God’s Country in West Central Alabama. The Tide has recruited Jones pretty heavily, and he has flashed a little interest this way. So, you can expect an OV from Jones, but with the Tide’s roster situation, I wouldn’t expect him to land in Tuscaloosa.

A-Day is less than three weeks away, so it’s time to get your mind right. Begin in the comments below: do your worst and go forth to evil.