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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

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Championships, championships, and more championships (just not in basketball...yet)

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Kentucky vs Alabama Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama football comes first, but Dazon Ingram wants to clear space for basketball

“It’s huge. It shows that we’re trending in the right direction as Alabama basketball,” Ingram said.

“It’s not just a football school anymore; it’s a basketball school, too.”

To Ingram’s point, Alabama has long been more than a football school as gymnastics, softball and men’s and women’s golf have won national championships.

A quote or two from the team is always good to hear. And Dazon Ingram is obviously pulling for his own sport to get some more credit and fan following. My favorite part here is the AJC subtly pointing out just how awesome the University of Alabama has been in the world of athletics in the past decade. Football, gymnastics, softball, and both men and women’s golf teams have been consistently elite programs with championships. In particular, that first half of 2012 was absolutely awesome, with the 21-0 over LSU plus the softball series over Oklahoma.

The 2nd-and-26 moment that defined Alabama basketball’s last hope

Yet there they stood, scheming a play to avoid a collapse that would’ve brought all of that into the discussion. Nursing a five-game losing streak that took the Crimson Tide from a decent NCAA tournament seeding to the outside of bubble talk, it needed something special. The Aggies just got a 3-pointer from T.J. Sparks to leave Alabama down 70-69.

Just 4.4 seconds separated Johnson’s third team from loss no tournament dream could survive. A 17-15 record with six straight losses falls flat even with the Quadrant 1 wins on the resume.

So, the coach turned to his young superstar for what became the moment that plugged the leak.

That sprinting floater at the buzzer by Collin Sexton didn’t win a national championship. Second-and-26 it was not, but it reversed the negativity that compounded with each of the five straight losses. That March 8 win was Alabama’s first since Feb. 13

Casagrande did a good job writing this piece and really made it an engaging read about the pressure that’s been placed on the Tide basketball program to really succeed this year, and how a single shot can totally change the perception on a season. If Sexton had not made that crazy shot to beat Texas A&M, there’s a good chance Alabama would be looking at yet another NIT appearance, not an NCAA berth. And then there would very likely be some seat warming for coach Avery Johnson.

Instead, the Tide is getting ready to face #8 seed Virginia Tech with a chance of making it further in the postseason than they have in over a decade.

Swapping to football...

On the Beat: Alabama linebackers can be oh-so-good in 2018

Mack Wilson: Wilson proved to be a playmaking inside linebacker, finishing 2017 with 40 tackles while managing to play in 12 games despite dealing with a right foot injury. It was his team-high 4 interceptions that impressed the most. Wilson also returned an interception for a touchdown in Alabama’s semifinal matchup with Clemson. If he can stay healthy all year, look for Wilson to be Alabama’s next great inside linebacker.

Dylan Moses: In his 2 starts, Moses posted double-digit tackle numbers. He was well on his way to becoming a defensive star before a foot injury sidelined him for the playoffs. Moses should lock up the starting spot opposite Wilson next season.

Anfernee Jennings: Jennings played his best football in Alabama’s semifinal win over Clemson, but a knee injury late in the contest caused him to miss the National Championship Game. Jennings is big enough to set the edge against the run, but also showed he is a good pass rusher when given the opportunity.

Terrell Lewis: Lewis remains one of the biggest question marks on Alabama’s entire defense. He has all the makings of an elite pass rusher, but an elbow injury in the season opener against Florida State slowed his development. Lewis needs to become more technically sound this offseason, but if Alabama turns him loose in 2018, he could put up big sack numbers.

Christian Miller: Miller should be one of the veteran leaders for the defense and the team. He’s the type of player you want representing your program while also being an elite football player. He has a chance to be one of the team’s top pass rushers in 2018.

While the Jurassic-extinction levels of bad luck hitting the linebackers for Alabama last year was tough to deal with at the time, it meant that many players got much more experience than they otherwise would have, and now the Tide has 5 linebackers with both talent and solid experience to become a powerful group.

As you know, Terrell Lewis was my favorite player of the 2016 recruiting class. I haven’t had a great track record with favorites (see: Daylon Charlot), but I’m holding out hope that he really has his breakout season this year. That sack to end Georgia’s overtime possession is the kind of thing that will be giving Jake Fromm nightmares for the next 3 years.

Alabama Football: Bad luck does not define Shaun Dion Hamilton

NFL team executives also know that teams rarely have enough leaders. They can draft one in Shaun Dion Hamilton and they will get a winner as a bonus. NFL scouts already define Hamilton as one of Alabama football’s “smartest and the brains behind the operation.” The operation is Alabama football defenses and the comparison includes all of the linebackers in the Alabama-Saban era.

Shaun Dion Hamilton and Alabama football were a perfect match. Call it good luck that the player and the program came together. Some NFL team is going to be lucky too.

Speaking of linebackers, watching Neon Deon have two of his four seasons cut short due to serious injuries has been one of the saddest sagas in recent Bama football years. He’s always been an intelligent and instinctive player who was totally dependable manning the middle linebacker role for most of career. He went from a 2nd-round projection at the start of the season to probably a day three pick in the NFL Draft.

However, if he can get healed up and get his speed and agility back up to a professional level, then he could wind up being quite the steal for a team needing a steadying presence in the middle of their defense.

Florida might not have QB recruits, but the state is loaded at WR and DB in 2019 (again)

John Dunmore, WR, Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade-Madonna: Dunmore is just so smooth that defensive backs underestimate his speed. He gets in and out of his breaks, he makes tough catches and has excellent body control. Dunmore was open a lot more than he got the ball, too. Florida State is in a good spot with Dunmore, as he visited recently and called the Seminoles his “dream school.”

Bud Elliot put together a recruiting newsletter with a good bit of info on many of the top prospects in Florida for 2019. Obviously, it’s still pretty early to really be thinking about the next recruiting class, but it is always good to get familiar with some of the names.

The real thing to highlight here is that Hollywood, FL is putting out yet another top wide receiver. Calvin Ridley and Xavier Williams have both already moved on to Alabama... Might Dunmore follow in their footsteps, despite his apparent interest in FSU?

Finally, in the spirit of March Madness, we have a 68-team bracket for football.

The results fit right in with Gump Day theme. UCF beats Auburn, Troy beats Michigan, and, of course, Alabama wins it all. I like the guy that filled out this bracket. He is Roll Bama Roll approved in my book.