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Jumbo Package: Hoops coaching carousel begins, Spring football starts across the country

Spring Footbaw!

Fresno State v Alabama


Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Barry Odom, what are you doing? Already on the hot seat, Odom turned to Derek Dooley to develop QBs and play call. This was expected to be a make-or-break season for the Tigers, sporting an all-SEC QB in Drew Lock and new defensive scheming. I honestly don’t know how this makes the Tigers better...since, you know....Dooley has never been an OC or a QB coach.

Missouri’s confident, gregarious, outgoing offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach is comfortable in his own skin. Still, he gets why folks are questioning his credentials for this job.

In his 21-year career, Dooley has never called an offensive play or coached quarterbacks.

Yet he was hired to do both by the Tigers following the departure of Josh Heupel to UCF.

Nice read on schematic changes for 2018 here. I highlight two in particular.

In Baton Rouge, expect more of the same left-for-dead offense we’re accustomed to seeing from the Tigers, after Ed Orgeron tapped Steve Ensminger to call plays full-time.

Ensminger had a ton of success that year against some really bad defenses but managed just 10 points total against Alabama and Florida -- the only two defenses in the top five in the SEC he faced as the interim coordinator. Expect more of a pro-style offense and less pre-snap East-West action under Ensminger.

Remember: Those offenses were that bad with veteran QBing, Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice, three different all-SEC offensive linemen and D.J. Chark: I can’t possibly imagine it being better this season.

Sallee then asks:

How will Lupoi handle the defense? How will the new staff mesh with fresh faces? Will coach Nick Saban take more of a hands-on approach? The scheme won’t change, but the people running it have. There are a lot of questions facing the Tide with nothing short of the national title being the expectation in Tuscaloosa.

Emphasis added.

With a few notable wrinkles, I don’t think we see very much of a change in the defense in Tuscaloosa. It’s Saban’s defense; he’s hands-on and has always been — from wily vets like Kevin Steele to mentoring up-and-comers like Jeremy Pruitt. Don’t expect anything to change.

Honestly, the better question to ask is what will the offense look like in 2018. And we simply don’t know at the moment.

Speaking of the great unknowns, AL takes a look at the TEs for Alabama entering the Spring. And I pity Ranier Sabin: There’s just not much to talk about, because, well...see above about the Alabama offense.

Meanwhile, Potter looks at the Guards and Centers. This is a stable, veteran group where you can probably predict the two-deep before Spring even starts: Ross Pierschbacher moving to center, Lester Cotton at one of the guard spots, and Matt Womack moving inside (most likely RG, as he’s played the right side his entire career). Jedrick Wills assumes right tackle duties and inbound freshman Emil Ekiyor will see plenty of action in mop-up duty at guard.

The rest is depth chart battling.

That’s just my guess. An educated one, but a guess nonetheless.

Remember Kristian Fulton, the Top 5 CB that signed with LSU in 2016 that has since disappeared from the landscape? Now we know why: He falsified a drug test that then failed PED monitoring. The NCAA gave him a year each way. Ouch.

Look, all I’m saying is the kid went from 165 to 195 pounds in 17 months. That’s completely legit for a corner, right?

Nick Saban is giving Johnson pep talks, the substance of which we will never know:

Avery Johnson wouldn’t share what advice Nick Saban gave him before the SEC Tournament. “That’s private,” Johnson said after Alabama’s 86-63 semifinal loss Saturday to Kentucky at Scottrade Center when asked what Saban told him. “Good try, but that’s totally private. I just want to keep our conversations private.”

The better time to talk to Saban might have been after the SEC tournament. how many times has football been on the receiving end of once-in-a-lifetime fluke performances and bounced back?

Johnson is dead-on here though. The Tide (and his career) simply could not afford to make the NIT another year:

“I think if we had gone to the NIT again for the third straight year I don’t know if you could say that was legitimate progress based on what I said when I first arrived here,” Johnson said Sunday. “From an optics standpoint and from what I just experienced upstairs with our players and our family, it’s obviously a great feeling and it’s one I never felt as a coach.”

One obstacle down. The next challenge on-tap? Overcoming the experience gap. Seven-game NBA series are very different from one-shot, do-or-die moments.

I know you miss your NIT fix this season. But the Women are here for you, as Kristen Curry continues the turnaround in Tuscaloosa. This season didn’t quite have the highs of 2017, but then again, the SEC was much, much tougher this year, going from 5th in the RPI Power Ratings to 2nd in the span of one year.

If you’re around, stop by Coleman and lend some support:

The Alabama women’s basketball team is making its third straight trip to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament under head coach Kristy Curry and will host Southern in Wednesday’s first round matchup. Tip is set for 7 p.m. CT in Coleman Coliseum.

General admission tickets are currently on sale for $5, while student admission is free with an Action Card. The ticket office, located at the north entrance of Coleman Coliseum, will be open 90 minutes prior to tip on Wednesday.

Real quick:

The Thad Matta sweepstakes is on: UGA covets him, but with Pitt open and Memphis likely to be open by the end of the day, that’s a vain wish, I’d guess. Tom Crean is also reputed to be high on the wish list. But again, if there are four high profile open jobs (Memphis, Pitt, Ole Miss and UGA), and three of those schools all are better programs with a better history of success and better hoops infrastructure, you can likely count out Crean as well. Rick Pitino has already declined it. Tubby Smith may be around, but I think the DWAGS are aiming a bit high here.

This Memphis thing is off the rails weird, by the way. The program was full of Josh Pastner’s taffy-soft headcases (hello, Nick King!), who blanched at the first coaching they got and fled the program en masse. (Seriously, what do you have to do to get benched at Memphis?!) Couple that with the very credible rumor that Anfernee Hardaway has been sabotaging Smith’s recruiting, and this program is set up for some serious lawlessness down the road. (Nick King just happens to be an alumni of East High. Totally coincidental, I‘m sure.)

Speaking of Nick King, MTSU’s Kermit Davis has emerged as a candidate at Ole Miss. That’s a really good fit. Ole Miss is decidedly one of the programs that has to do more with less. It benefits from the bevy of talent just 60 miles up the road, but they’re not the “pay $3 million to a basketball coach” type of school. Of course, this all depends on whether Ole Miss can stomach a proven cheater with a mediocre track record who has already served one show-cause. LOL. Just kidding, it’s Ole Miss. That’s the school motto.

One player 60 miles up the road Ole Miss (or State, in this case) won’t have is the same one Alabama won’t have either. Olive Branch’s DJ Jeffries (and especially his dad) had a mercenary press conference yesterday after he declared a very verbal one-and-done commitment to Kentucky. Jeffries was also high on the potential for East High’s (Memphis) Penny Hardaway to come back to momma and lead the Tigers to the promised land. Seriously though, after listening to Jeffries pops, I’m kind of glad Alabama missed out on him. DJ may be a very lovely young man, but everything about his old man screamed “NCAA violation incoming.” In fairness, Calipari (and Tony Barbee) recruited Jeffries relentlessly, but his dad still seems a bit off, ya’ know?