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Jumbo Package: The day after the holiday

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Nobody likes July 5th. Here’s some sports to make it a little better.

NCAA Football: Alabama Spring Game-A-Day Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Training-camp battle ahead for Reggie Ragland with Buffalo

It wasn't supposed to be this way. When the Bills chose Ragland out of Alabama in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, he was supposed to play alongside Brown as Buffalo's inside linebackers, stepping into the same position in Buffalo that he'd played with the Crimson Tide.

But at training camp on Aug. 5, Ragland suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and the knee injury caused him to miss his entire rookie season.

Since then, the Bills fired coach Rex Ryan, and his complicated 3-4 defensive scheme left with him. New coach Sean McDermott uses a three-linebacker defense. As the defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, McDermott's scheme molded Luke Kuechly into an NFL Defensive Player of the Year and turned Thomas Davis into an All-Pro in the team's linebacker corps.

Reggie Ragland was one of many impressive middle linebackers for Nick Saban over the last decade, but he may have been my favorite. When the Buffalo Bills, with coach Rex Ryan, drafted him, I thought it would be a perfect fit for that defense, who needed another middle linebacker.

Well, Ragland tore his ACL and Rex ended up getting fired, and now Buffalo is running a 4-3 defense, and the current middle linebacker has been entrenched as the starter for over three seasons.

Ragland did, however, play some SAM and JACK when needed for Nick Saban at Alabama, so hopefully he can use that experience to carve out a role for himself as the strong-side linebacker for Buffalo this year.

17 for '17: College football's most freakish

The Crimson Tide's long line of rare talents on the defensive line continues with Payne, a massive defensive tackle whose combination of strength and speed is hard to fathom. In spring testing, Payne bench-pressed 545 pounds, squatted 635, and ran a 5.03 40-yard dash at 310 pounds, per the Alabama Media Group. A year earlier, he clocked a 4.93.


No, the Crimson Tide's versatile defensive back hasn't always been a fixture in the starting lineup, but there is no arguing with his remarkable athleticism. He's one of the fastest players in the college game, as evidenced by his qualification for this year's NCAA track championships in the 100-meter dash. But Brown brings a lot more than speed to the table -- he's a rock-solid 200 pounds, and can bench press 400. just released their annual list of the biggest freak athletes in college ball (SPARQ scores, anyone??). Both Da’Ron Payne and Tony Brown made the list this year. Payne is a 310 pound monster that was leading the team in weightlifting before even starting his freshman year, all while running somewhere between a 4.93 and a 5.03 forty yard dash— which is unbelievable for someone his size.

Brown, meanwhile, has been the fastest player on the team since day 1. He’s consistently in the mid 4.3s in his forty yard dash, and has been even more impressive at longer distances, winning many accolades as a track star. On top that, he’s big and muscular for someone of his speed, and can hit and tackle with much more terrifying force than any cornerback should. Now if he can just stay healthy and out of the doghouse...

Roster Countdown: Smith, Kief and Owens-

79 OL Chris Owens

2016 season: Worked with the scout team offense while redshirting.

2017 spring practice: Saw some second team reps in March and April, but worked primarily with the 3s at tackle and center, where he worked in the A-Day game. Struggled at times with shotgun snaps in the final scrimmage. Given that he was asked to step in at multiple spots, exchange issues shouldn't have come as a surprise.

What he brings to the table: For a guy who has just a year of time in the program, Owens has taken on just about every challenge offensive line play has to offer. That not only speaks well of his physical attributes, but, even more so, what he is working with between his ears. As for the immediate future, Owens projects as a depth provider at multiple positions, although competition for starting jobs on the right side of the line will spill over into August. With centers Bradley Bozeman and JC Hassenauer entering their final seasons, Owens could be the long-term solution at center.

Chris Owens was one of my favorite players in the 2016 recruiting class but ended up taking a redshirt. He’s versatile enough to play tackle, guard, or center, and had some of the best footwork I’ve seen in a high school lineman, though he did need some work on getting stronger. As the article above mentions, he seems to a very technical and heady player, rather than one that wins by brute force. Though he wasn’t in the running during A-day at the spot, don’t be surprised if he ends up right in the thick of the competition for either right guard or right tackle this year.

5-star QB: Daboll's NFL experience an advantage-

Having not been on campus yet, Corral talked about what jumps off the page about the Tide from what he’s seen from afar.

“Their winning history,” he said. “Coach Daboll sent me pictures of his rings, that was crazy. The fifth year ring was bigger than his thumb. Him having NFL experience gives them an advantage.”

Corral says without Daboll on the staff, Alabama would not be a finalist of his.

“Daboll is one of the biggest reasons,” he said.

Well would you look at that. I was pretty hesitant about the Daboll signing when it happened (and I still kind of am), but it seems like he’s definitely making an impression in the recruiting world. The recruits seem pretty impressed with his knowledge and tutelage as a QB guy, and Corral is one of the biggest QB recruits in the nation this year.

His ability to create and run an offense is yet to be seen, but Daboll is well on his way to passing the test as a recruiter. He just might turn out to be a good hire yet.

Roll Tide!