That was the total of non-offensive touchdowns Alabama produced in its first 14 games, when the Tide seemed an unstoppable force. No team in the Football Bowl Subdivision had reached that benchmark in the previous 20 years, and each score embellished a narrative that turned so absurd it began to resemble a folk tale.
Take, for instance, one of the main characters -- a safety/specialist named Eddie Jackson who scored the same number of touchdowns as the Tide's elite tight end, O.J. Howard, despite playing in seven fewer games.
"That was kind of crazy what we had going on last year," safety Ronnie Harrison said.
Ronnie Harrison plans to surpass last-year’s numbers on Defense/special teams touchdowns. If that happens again, then I don’t see anyway that Alabama doesn’t go wire-to-wire yet again. All the offense has to do is just show up, not turn the ball over, and score once or twice to win the game.
I don’t know if I quite subscribe to Ronnie’s optimism, as regression to mean is a very real thing, but here’s to hoping that it doesn’t happen this year.
-- Josh Jacobs led the running back drills. He was followed by Damien Harris, Brian Robinson, Bo Scarbrough and Najee Harris.
-- Alabama's first-team offensive line remained the same. Matt Womack lined up at right tackle, Lester Cotton at right guard, Bradley Bozeman at center, Ross Pierschbacher at left guard and Jonah Williams at left tackle.
-- Scott Lashley was Alabama's second-team left tackle. Next to him were Dallas Warmack at left guard, J.C. Hassenauer at center, Deonte Brown at right guard and Alex Leatherwood at right tackle.
-- Linebacker VanDarius Cowan remained in the black non-contact jersey he has worn since last Saturday.
-- Freshman Kedrick James, who was deployed at defensive line during the first practice, has been working with the tight ends ever since.
-- Several receivers dropped passes in "air" drills Tuesday, including senior Cam Sims.
Some quick notes from AL.com on the last practice.
Not much of note happening, but that is as expected. There’s no way that Saban would show anything noteworthy in a practice open to the media this soon before the start of the season. That said, the first and second team offensive line groupings haven’t changed in a long time, so it seems likely that they are set as we see them now.
It was the first of four games in which the 5-11, 221-pounder topped the century mark in rushing yards. Harris gained 144 on 16 carries in Alabama’s 48-43 win at Ole Miss. He gained 122 yards on 13 carries in the Tide’s 49-30 win at Arkansas. And he picked up 128 yards on 17 attempts in Alabama’s 33-14 home win over Texas A&M.
Down the stretch, however, Harris’ production tailed off. Over Bama’s last four games, he rushed for just 184 yards on 31 carries. Against Clemson, Harris carried the ball just five times for 24 yards.
“We think Damien had a great year last year,” Bama coach Nick Saban said in the spring, according to Walsh. “I think he was hurt a bit toward the end of the season. Probably slowed him down a little bit.”
After the last few games of the 2016 season, the entire nation (including a large chunk of our own fanbase) completely forgot about how well Damien Harris played for most of the year while Bo Scarbrough was still in the background. A nagging injury to Harris opened the way for Scarbrough to have a dominant few games in the playoffs, and suddenly most every expects him to be the lead over Damien.
And maybe he will be. For my money though, Damien Harris should be the lead back in this offense. He may not have quite the monstrous size/speed combo, but he’s a much more polished runner with the ability to slip through minuscule holes and twist his way for extra yardage where there should be none to be found.
But who am I but a guy on a blog site?
The two did find a lot of common ground, including the fact that they both had played tight end and both turned heads on a basketball court. Spears was quite the prospect in that sport as well.
“I was, ‘Man, you’re supposed to be a nose tackle,’ ” Spears said.
“He was, ‘Man, I can dunk.’ ”
Payne meant now. That’s despite being able to bench 550 pounds, squatting “six-something,” and being able to run the 40-yard dash in about 5 seconds — like 5-flat, not 5.99.
Those are eye-popping numbers for a lineman, which should make him a prime prospect for next year’s NFL draft. Spears was listed at 6-foot-4, 298 pounds at LSU. Payne is 6-2 and says his weight is down from 319 to 308, which was his target weight during the offseason in hopes of staying on the field more as a three-down option.
“He’s really worked hard in the offseason,” defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said.
However, the thing that really stuck with Spears was their session didn’t end up being one-sided. Payne started to pick his brain, asking him about positioning on the line, what to look for and how to adjust, and ways to improve in Saban’s system.
Former NFL defensive tackle Marcus Spears spent some time learning about Da’Ron Payne and passing on just how impressed he came away. The article itself is longer and has quite a few quotes if you’re interested.
I just wanted to highlight the ridiculous athleticism of Payne. He can dunk at 308 pounds. Not only is he the strongest player on the team, but he can run a sub 5.0 forty at his size— a feat that is probably going to earn him a lot of money next year at the NFL Combine.