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Jumbo Package: ESPN unveils bold plan to charge for broadcasting sports...and you’ll still need cable.

I wouldn’t believe this if I didn’t read it.

ESPN The Party - Inside Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for ESPN

Let’s begin with redemption. There’s nothing quite like turning around a meme 180-degrees, is there. But, last night Sad Villanova Piccolo Girl did just that.

Sorry for the meathead Barstool link :(

As for the Wildcats. Wow. 2018 Villanova was simply one of the best college teams I’ve seen in a long while. Against KU in the Final Four, for instance, the Jayhawks scored on seven straight possessions...and lost ground on the scoreboard. Jay Wright has mastered the art of modern college basketball.

Several interviews with Alabama outside linebackers and defensive linemen on improving the pass rush from last season (which was still excellent, BTW.)

The injuries to linebackers forced former play-caller Jeremy Pruitt to develop unique ways to apply pressure in opposing backfields, like using defensive backs. Four members of Alabama’s 2017 secondary registered at least one sack a season ago. But with guys like Lewis no longer limited by injury, the pass rush should not only look different in 2018, but be better.

Saying it will be better is one thing, but actually following through with the execution is another. So, how exactly do the pass-rushers want to improve their numbers this upcoming fall?

I really liked this piece from Michael Casagrande. As we near the first scrimmage of Spring, there are still a lot of questions to be answered — at least tentatively. And among them is which five players are going to eventually man the offensive front. This is the best situation Alabama has been in with its big uglies in quite a while.

There’s plenty at the link, but here’s an excerpt from the OL portion:

Speaking of the offensive line, left tackle Jonah Williams spoke the line Thursday that’s another spring tradition. He alluded to Alabama finding the “best five” for the starting offensive line.

It’ll be interesting to see what that means for young talent like Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood. Wills is already with the first group at right tackle with 2017 starter Matt Womack out for the spring recovering from a broken foot. Leatherwood came off the bench in the second half of the national title game to replace an injured Williams in the comeback win. Asked about the rising sophomore’s potential last week, Williams said he’d be “surprised if he didn’t find a way to contribute along the line this year.”

This is a thoughtful longform by CBS’ Dennis Dodds on the real problems in transfer reform and the lack of solutions that comfortably balance the interests.

Schools still have the power to block a player from competing right away. It seems absurd: A player with his degree has to sit out a year, attending graduate school (and getting financial aid) on a competitive whim from his previous school.

On the opposite end, coaches are concerned about full-on “free agency” should there be a major rule change with players able to transfer at will without restriction. ”All the sudden they’re leaving in masses,” suggested Daniels’ future coach, USC’s Clay Helton.

The working group says it is not interested in that concept. What is becoming clear is one size does not fit all. There are so many diverse interests that real reform will be a challenge.

College sports are unique in that 1. it is a close-knit and almost fraternal relationship as other team sports, it also one of mentoring and educating and even surrogate parenting. BUT 2. At its heart there lies a contract that commits a player to a certain school in order to receive its benefits. And too many times it’s hard to walk away from that in a contested setting without leaving lingering bad feelings and one or both parties feeling as though they were screwed over at the end of the day. Emotional investment has that effect.

And I don’t have the foggiest notion of where to even begin in rebuilding a system that’s so broken as to be both overly-promiscuous on one end and overbearing, potentially exploitative and vindictive on the other. Good thing I’m not Philosopher King (yet.)

If you’re a fan of G5 teams or sports that don’t get as much national rotation, then ESPN3 has been a god-send these past few years. Sure, ESPN could have made it easier by going back to its wall-to-wall sports scheduling (World’s Strongest Man, holler!) but The Mouse doesn’t care about that...not when there’s derivative talking head shows and hot take artists to put on an endless loop.

But those days are over: both of the WWL actually covering events without nattering at us, and the ESPN3 service. The Mouse is rolling out a new subscription streaming service that will supplant (augment?) ESPN3 — for a nifty $4.99 a month. And, though packaged as a direct-to-consumer model, the ESPN+ service will not cover anything on an ESPN channel. This means, intrepid reader, that you will still need to purchase a cable package or cord-cutter solution to receive that content.

Yes, there are additional offerings that would have previously been unavailable (especially if you’re a fan of the professional leagues.) But, for college fans, this is a terrible cash grab, especially by a company that commands over $8 of the $28 cost to cable providers for basic services.

But, hey, at least Mickey will screw you with a smile and the magic of Disney.

Alabama’s bad run of Spring injuries continues, this time with a meniscus (knee) tear to the leading candidate to replace Calvin Ridley. Jerry Jeudy had to undergo surgery, and he could miss the rest of spring ball.

Put down the cactus though. A meniscus tear is a really simple, very minor procedure. Ordinarily you’re back on your feet and rehabbing within two weeks. Plus, given Alabama’s orthopedic staff — literally the best in the world, and its strength and conditioning — among the best in the world, don’t be surprised to see Jeudy practicing and even seeing some game time in the A-Day scrimmage.

In the meanwhile, the Tide will turn to its stable of blue chip wide receivers to find a go-to man.

It was a good weekend for the Crimson Tide on the diamond The men broke a seven-game funk and then took the series against No. 6 Kentucky. Softball also won its series against the ‘Cats, as Alexis Osorio celebrated her return following a concussion.

James Hardy’s excellent “Across the Diamond” is worth a listen.

Alabama’s thin inside linebacking corps may get a little thinner this Fall. Keith Holcombe, on scholarship for football, was told to focus on baseball this spring, and he said to be weighing whether to return to the Tide as a fifth year senior.

I would be willing to bet that a certain baseball writer around these parts would be able to tell us which way the wind is blowing with Holcombe.

Finally, I leave you with some feel good stuff. Make this kid go viral: