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Jumbo Package: Tide hosts Pro Day as Basketball prepares for a must-win in St. Louis

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It’s a busy week for ‘Bama athletics.

AllState Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Alabama

In the words of YouTube legend Ozzie Man, “welcome to Destination F****” there, Hunter Renfrow.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

SIDEBAR

With the announcement that the D’Backs are going solely to the bullpen cart, MLB is in danger of losing one of its most venerated traditions — the walk-out from the the bullpen and bad-ass closer music. Noooooo! :(

The scene: October 2018

Boston’s Craig Kimbrel is about to enter a tense playoff game. The Red Sox lead by one run. It’s crunch time. Do or die. The opening strains of “Welcome to the Jungle” invade the air at Fenway Park. The crowd goes wild. And here comes perhaps the most intimidating flamethrower in baseball — in a tiny, non-intimidating bullpen cart.

More on the trend above.

This is not at all related to ‘Bama, but this is a sports website, and I assume you’re not all one-trick ponies. With that in mind, please enjoy Hafthor Bjornsson deadlifting a half ton, setting a world record in the process.

HONEST-TO-GOODNESS ALABAMA NEWS:

Pro day begins today at Alabama. Thirteen players, mostly non-Combine invitees, will work out for NFL clubs. Meanwhile, those who attended the Combine will have follow-up meetings. Here’s the full list of some guys trying to impress scouts:

Bradley Bozeman, Rashaan Evans, Robert Foster, Josh Frazier, Da’Shawn Hand, JC Hassenauer, Austin Johnson, Jamar King, Calvin Ridley, Bo Scarbrough, JK Scott, Cam Sims, Levi Wallace

CB will most likely break down their performance for you tomorrow when complete deets are known. Best of luck to them all.

Interesting take here on the upcoming QB battle — both from SI’s Andy Staples and BOL’s Charlie Potter. The sum and substance is that both guys will get their shots, but don’t expect this competition to drag out into the season (despite what Saban says about a two-quarterback rotation.) And, given how we’ve seen Saban work for 15 years in the SEC, I think we can all agree on that.

Staples is one of the first national analysts to publicly opine Alabama’s quarterback race won’t “be dragged out too long”, indicating a belief Saban and Co. may announce their QB1 at the conclusion of spring practice. But it seems more likely the Crimson Tide won’t make things official until fall practice in August, ensuring Hurts and Tagovailoa stay with the program through summer.

Saban says he has met with both quarterbacks since last season ended with Tagovailoa’s heroic three touchdown passes in the national championship game vs. Georgia.

”All I’ve told both players is that they’re both going to have the opportunity to compete, and that’s all any competitor ever wants,” Saban said in a recent interview with ESPN. “We’ve won with both, and the kids on our team respect both guys.”

My instinct here is that while Saban may want to keep both of these guys around through the fall, that may not turn out to be the case — unless Jalen Hurts lights it up, or Tua Tagovailoa seriously regresses, self-reflection should tell both guys how the depth chart looks going into August. The question then is one that only Hurts can answer and will come down to, “how badly do I want to be a starting quarterback.”

Hurts’ understandable desire to prove himself elsewhere, if he chooses to do so, is probably the main reason Gardner Minshew was courted so heavily.

More on the Pro Day event here, including what players need to repair Combine damage or prove that they were wrongly snubbed, including Bradley Bozeman.

Speaking of Big Baby, the beefy Bozeman has been on a crash diet since the end of the season, shedding 20 pounds. Combine skills and “blocking monstrous f’n SEC defensive tackle” skills are very different: He’s done one. It’s time to prove he can now beat the clipboard game, where measurables trump game film.

The 6-foot-5 Bozeman has dropped more than 20 pounds since the end of the season, getting down to 305 pounds after weighing in at 327 pounds in mid-January and 317 pounds at the Senior Bowl.

”I wanted to show teams that I’m flexible,” said Bozeman, a two-year starter for the Crimson Tide who was one of the team’s four permanent team captains last season. “I just wanted to show that if I needed to cut weight that I have the discipline to do that, that I’m not a selfish guy, that I can stop eating the McDonald’s and the bread and all that good stuff to be able to do what I need to do.”

The SEC Basketball tournament begins today, though the Tide men’s team does not tip until tomorrow at lunch time. And, it looks bleak for the boys’ bracket prospects — Alabama has work to do.

How much work? Jerry Palm succinctly lays out the Tide’s challenge:

Palm pointed to the losing streak and the inability to win at home.

”They’re going to have to be four games above .500,” he said. “They are going to have to beat (Texas) A&M and beat Auburn. That’s the bare minimum.”

Of course, win the tournament and the Tide is in.

Alabama has beaten both of these teams. It can do so again. And the Tide has played well on neutral floors — far better than on the road. So, cross your fingers and buckle up for at least one, and more than likely two big wins.

Still, if this team gacks its way into the NIT, there will be many hard questions asked around Coleman Coliseum — including the results that Alabama is paying $2.9 million dollars a year to achieve. That makes Avery Johnson the 15th highest-paid basketball coach in the country.

Here’s the Top 25...and his salary far outpaces some surprising names. Still, if you want to see why the SEC has improved in hoops so quickly, the fact that 6 teams are on this list should tell you why. Schools are simply investing more in the NCAA’s most lucrative showcase of the year.

At least Johnson sounds dialed in, even as most bracketologists (Jesus, I hate that word) pundits predict doom and gloom:

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to give you the coachspeak,” Tide coach Avery Johnson said. “I’m really focused on today’s practice. I’m really focused on the type of mindset we’re going to need to prepare for this game on Thursday. Rather than try to beg your way somewhere, our resume speaks for itself. Yes, we have had some disappointing losses, but we’ve won a lot of high level games. We’ve beaten a lot of really good teams.

In his defense, Alabama has beaten a lot of really good teams. And contrariwise, it has lost to a lot of really good teams. Then there’s the giant roach in the beer can: It has lost to several terrible ones.

Alabama will be the most interesting test case for SOS and quality wins vs. the warts in a complete body of work in the past quarter century.

But, it’s all academic unless ‘Bama can gut out a victory tomorrow afternoon.

Finally, OUCH: Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, whose team has played without four starters at times this season, did not win the SEC Coach of the Year — that went to another deserving recipient, Tennessee’s Rick Barnes (Mizzou’s Cuonzo Martin would have been a good choice too.) Not only did Pearl not receive the honor, not a single player from the SEC’s regular season champion Barner WarTigerEagles was named to the first-team All-SEC. That is the first time this has happened in the SEC...ever.

See? Even the media and coaches are on the #fAU bandwagon.

My only worry about the very public snub to #CheatinBarn is that a dangerous Auburn team, who Alabama would face in a second-round matchup, will be even more determined to show its first SEC title since 1999 wasn’t a fluke. But, for now, #fAU...and let’s just get past Aggie first.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering where BRONT went, our baby boy is all growed up. He celebrated his nuptials this weekend and is now on honeymoon with the lovely Ms. BRONT. Jeer him / encourage him / share your sage wisdom / tips on staving off divorce below. With this leap, he now joins the illustrious BamaBrave4 into the welcoming embrace of oblivion matrimony.

Our very best to them all. Have a great life.

Anyway, I’m now off to catch some of that #SECBasketballFever — it’s like a cold sore: it only ever goes into remission; you’re still a carrier.

Be good, kids. ROW TAHD