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Jumbo Package: Fall Camp wraps up as the Tide hits the road to Orlando

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T-minus three days, y’all

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">CFP National Championship presented by AT&amp;T - Alabama v Georgia

Get ready to see a lot of Markail Benton this year. He’s prepping for a breakout 2019

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It’s all over except for the shoutin’.

The Tide had its final practice in Tuscaloosa yesterday, and takes the Big Steel Bird to Orlando today. Tomorrow, the team will do a preparatory walk-through in the stygian swamps of Central Florida (not the Colley Matrix Central Florida though — those guys have a Groupon to buy tickets for less than $20.)

With the conclusion of 15 days of camp, including two scrimmages, and another solid week of game prep, so too comes the last practice notes and Saban’s final preseason presser. And, buddy, has he been in a mood.

First up, Travis Reier’s practice notes are below. He focuses a lot on special teams and specialists, deservedly. The unit has the most questions to address.

On Tuesday, I wondered aloud if the PK battle would endure throughout the season and what Bulovas’ relatively stronger leg was a “tell” about how Saban plans to work around the new kickoff rule.

As for items we touched on during the latest edition of IA, they included:

* Special teams coverage and return units involve more than specialists and return men. Look for a couple of reserves at linebacker and running back to step into roles for a kicking game looking to replace important pieces.

Such as it is, here is Casagrande’s practice notes: Access is extremely limited this week. Saban took some time away from hands-on with the secondary to do a final eval of the quarterbacks:

The Tide was in shorts and shells. Here are some observations from the limited access period provided to the media:

-- Alabama coach Nick Saban took a break from coaching the secondary to observe the quarterbacks, who were throwing on air. Saban was spotted in the middle of the field as Karl Scott and other staff members worked with the defensive backs on a fumble drill.

This is an interesting attempt by Bill C to formulate a better SOS formula than what college football presently uses — a resume S&P Being fairly reliant on S&P+ and F+ for our advanced analyses and polls, I see where that has merit, but I’m agnostic on using those advanced stats to determine a SOS. Eyeballs have to matter, even though both formulas do a good job excluding garbage drives and snaps.

Chris Landry talks about Alabama’s secondary, specifically how to disguise some early limitations in the defense and how Tosh Lupoi can work around them:

Scouting expert Chris Landry, who has worked with Saban in the NFL, joined The Game with Ryan Fowler to discuss concerns with Alabama’s secondary, how Tosh Lupoi will look in his defensive coordinator debut, and Alabama’s offense.

Here’s what Chris Landry broke down during his weekly report:

How to disguise the concerns on Alabama’s secondary

Watching Alabama defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi and what he’s looking for in his first game as the coordinator

First, I give you the Dunning-Kruger effect:

In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority comes from the inability of low-ability people to recognize their lack of ability

Now, I give you this piece of hubris (we’ve hit on this before...I just wanted my chance to all pile on here.)

“I think we’re going to stack up really well,” said Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton, according to the Courier Journal. “We’re going to shock a lot of people. We’re really doubted right now. We’re ready to play with a chip on our shoulder and show everybody what we got.

Chizik, having been the victim of a Processin’ himself, knows a thing or two about the ridiculous expectations that have taken root in the SEC. He was out on his kiester less than 24 months after renting a BCS title for $200,000 (remember, the ‘Barn had to pay retail; cost-cutter pricing was for ‘State only). He had some words about that pressure, BTW.

“I don’t think there’s one reason for the turnover,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. “It’s just a wide range of things. I think the competitiveness in this conference with the records and success we’ve had, certainly others want to experience that same success.”

SEC Network analyst Gene Chizik believes there is one: Alabama’s supremacy. Rivals look at the Crimson Tide’s success and wonder why they can’t put together a similar run.

”Look at all the teams out there that think they should be — not beat, (but) be like — Alabama,” said Chizik, the coach of Auburn’s 2010 national championship team. “A&M thinks they should. Auburn thinks they should. LSU thinks they should. Georgia thinks they should. Florida thinks they should.

For McGarity to say it isn’t any one thing is absurd. Of course, it’s about Saban. Auburn canned a guy with a deep veteran team waiting to take a shot at the title to turn it over to the memory the Championship Good Old Days. Florida did the same this year — we’re gettin’ the band back together, by god! LSU fired its all-time winningest coach. Georgia fired its all-time winningest coach, with a roster primed to make a title run, and then turned over that team to a Saban acolyte. We’ll see how much pressure falls on Kirby if he perpetually wins 10+ games, competes for the SEC title, but can’t get over that historical ‘Dawg championship hump. Gus has already felt that pressure. Orgeron is Alleva’s coupon-clipping move because no one else wants to assume those toxic expectations in Baton Rouge with one of the country’s least-grateful fan bases and administrations.

To me, the more interesting question is whether after Saban leaves will these programs like UGA, Auburn, etc. assume that any one team will make a run and take the yearly-domination mantel rather than the conference being wide open, with several programs competing every year. It may actually be the latter expectations down the road that turns out to be just as bad.

Whoo hoo! New SEC Shorts:

The opener will undoubtedly see some wrinkles and surprises — Alabama trotted out a true Freshman to play quarterback in the not-too-distant past, IIRC. Nice write-up here by 247’ McNair on the history of ‘Bama Labor Day surprises:

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, “There’re a lot of situations that you try to cover for a first game, whether it’s special teams, offense, defense.” That includes trying to cram in the last bits into two more days of practice. Nevertheless, odds are good that a first game opponent will have a surprise or two.

By the way, though, the mysteries of that first game cut both ways. Alabama has a new offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, and special teams coordinator among the rebuilt Tide coaching staff that Louisville coaches have to be wondering about.

It may be that the greatest “situation” in Alabama football history came in 1971. In that season, Bama Coach Paul Bryant made the decision in August to ditch the Tide’s pro-style offense in place from the days of Joe Namath, Steve Sloan, and Kenny Stabler and “sink or swim” with the radical change wishbone offense. In that 1971 season Alabama was opening the season against fifth-ranked Southern Cal in Los Angeles.

Besides snarking to the reporters about involving the Tight Ends, Saban addressed the communication between the all of the new coaches, a matter which also implicitly addresses the most recent Saban Rule (slashing available headphones.)

Excerpts from the presser (and more at this link):

-- Saban said there have been no issues with the communication with regards to the coordinators. He also said DC Tosh Lupoi will be on the field and inside linebackers/co-DC coach Pete Golding will be in the press box.

-- Saban said quarterbacks coach Dan Enos is a very bright guy and that he has done a good job with using play-action to get the tight ends involved in the passing game.

Interesting to note that Golding, who was hired to initially coach the secondary, was moved to ILB coach after the hiring of Banks. That was known, of course. But the designation of “Co-DC” is somewhat an interesting move. It was always assumed he would help shepherd Coach Lupoi into the transition, but slapping the label on Golding with little or no fanfare, and making it official is interesting. Looking to the future, it also presages that if and when Tosh gets his head coaching chance, Golding will slide into the full-time DC role — Kirby, Steele, and Pruitt all were involved coaching the complex linebacking scheme at one point in time. Just spitballing here and throwing darts at the future.

The mothership posted two stories yesterday on two infuriating rules; one of which has bitten Alabama more than a few times: Ineligible man downfield, and the illegal formation and shift. TBH, I’d like to see one policed better and the other relaxed. It’s not 1951 — In this offensive era, I see little merit in reducing shifts.

In today’s edition of “burn it all down,” I give you the lunatic POS Zach Smith, who went on a social media rant yesterday (alongside his batty mother) to attack everyone at OSU not named Urban Meyer...and hinted at throwing Tom Herman under the bus too. This is going to be a headache, potential NCAA investigation, Title IX nightmare, and PR hit for several schools if Smith decides to start unearthing bodies. I wouldn’t want to be Florida, Houston, Texas or an Ohio State over the coming months.

Apropos of nothing Alabama, but just some great college football stuff:

Geezers like me recall, what I think is the greatest running back — and greatest collegiate football player — of all-time, Barry The GOAT Sanders. His season in 1988 was so out-of-the-blue and unexpected — backing up all-American and future NFL Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas; his recruitment was so light; his schedule so daunting; and then all he did was obliterate record after record.

On this 30th anniversary, ESPN has a great long form on that guy.

“If he were playing in today’s offenses, he very well could’ve rushed for 4,000 yards, easy,” Gundy said. “Look at the number of plays that we have on offense today compared to back then. We huddled up, we were slow. And the majority of the games very seldom was he ever touching the field in the fourth quarter because we were blowing teams out.”

Outside Stillwater, few in college football even knew Sanders existed when he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Miami (Ohio) to start the ‘88 season.

Yet by the end, he had captured the Heisman Trophy in a landslide over UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman and USC quarterback Rodney Peete, L.A. darlings who were dual overwhelming favorites at the beginning.

For younger readers, you missed the absolute magic of Sanders, a guy just as capable of taking your breath away with 60-yard sprints as he was for giving you the most exciting two-yard gains in history.

And Gundy wasn’t exaggerating. Sanders could easily notch 4000 yards rushing in today’s uptempo offenses with a 12th game.

Bon vivant!

Poll

WADR to Sweetness, Gayle Sayers, Emmit Smith and Jim Brown, is Barry Sanders the best running back of all time?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Yes.
    (165 votes)
  • 17%
    No.
    (64 votes)
  • 18%
    This question is too tough.
    (67 votes)
  • 17%
    Needs moar gump.
    (61 votes)
357 votes total Vote Now