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Jumbo Package: Najee Harris poised to return as Tide begin game prep

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Alabama A-Day Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. When you wake up on Monday morning, it will officially be game week! The Tide started prepping for Louisville yesterday. Your LOL “practice report”:

-- Players were in helmets and shoulder pads instead of the full gear.

-- It was a little more crowded out there with walk-ons joining the roster after classes started Wednesday.

-- I’m still interested to see how quickly Ale Kaho can become part of the game plan. He’s an athletic looking middle linebacker. Impressed with the bursts of speed we can observe in our short viewing windows.

Yep, it’s game prep time, and Saban has told the reporters to buzz off. One positive note is that Najee was seen and will return to practice today.

“We don’t have anything new to report on the injury front,” Saban said on Thursday. “Najee Harris has been doing dry-land running. He’ll do drills tomorrow for the first time at his position, so he’s making good progress. But we still have to say he’s day-to-day. With these kinds of things, we’ve just got to see how he responds and see if he has any kind of setback.”

Good stuff, though I expect him to see limited action, if any, vs. Louisville. To be frank, I’d be fine saving him for six weeks or so if it means he’s healthy down the stretch.

Michael Casagrande has some preseason analysis for you.

Most important player on offense?

Everyone is thinking quarterback, but that’s too obvious. Let’s go with Ross Pierschbacher at center. The senior who played guard the last few years moves over to what is effectively the quarterback of the line. He has to make the calls, identify defensive looks and communicate with potentially a first-year starting quarterback. Alabama’s had a run of really good centers over the years, so there’s a touch of pressure that comes with filling that role that’s often overlooked in the big picture.

I can get on board with this. Pierschbacher has been a stalwart on the offensive line since 2015, but we haven’t seen him take on a massive nose tackle one-on-one. Considering his wealth of experience, making the line calls shouldn’t be a big issue.

This is a really young team, folks.

“We obviously have some guys who are freshmen who probably need to be redshirted. It would help their development and maturity. We have some other guys who are probably not ready to play right now, but if we continue to coach them at some point in time in the season they probably would be ready to play. Then I think we have some other guys who are in a position that we need for them to develop so they can provide some depth on our team. Whatever category they fit into right now we’ve still been trying to coach them all.”

Alabama is currently favored to win the national championship with a team that will likely return more starters in 2019 than any Tide group in recent memory. Underclassmen are projected to start at QB, WR x 3, H-Back, RG, RT, NT, WLB, and S, and that leaves out guys like Najee Harris, LaBryan Ray, and Eyabi Anoma who would all start pretty much anywhere else. The machine is fully operational.

SEC coaches seem to like UGA’s starting 22 a little better than Alabama’s.

The coaches picked the all-conference teams led by Georgia’s 12 selections. Alabama was next with 10 followed by Auburn’s nine.

First-team picks for Alabama included, OL Jonah Williams, C Ross Pierschbacher, RB Damien Harris, DL Raekwon Davis and LB Mack Wilson.

The second team had OL Lester Cotton, All-purpose Trevon Diggs, DL Isaiah Buggs, LB Anfernee Jennings, DB Deionte Thompson.

Having three offensive linemen on a list like this one usually portends good things for the season.

People just love to ask Lane Kiffin about Alabama.

From TheSpun article linked in his tweet:

“He’s the best recruiter in the world because of the time he spends,” Kiffin told Cowherd. “He’s on the phone with recruits every single day. At night he has a list of recruits he’s personally calling himself.”

“The only cheating they do is he works harder than everybody else.”

Lane seems to go back and forth between trolling Tide fans and praising Saban.

Last, Blake Barnett is going to get his shot.

Barnett has had a circuitous route to this point in his college football life. Originally ranked as the 247Sports No. 2 pro-style signal-caller in the class of 2015, Barnett enrolled with the Crimson Tide. After redshirting in 2015, Barnett won the starting job for Alabama’s 2016 season opener against USC. However, the quarterback didn’t last long as the starter. He was replaced early in the game by Jalen Hurts, who started each of the past two seasons for the Crimson Tide.

Good luck to him.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.