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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

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Najee Harris talks about growing into a more rounded and effective running back; Nate Oates addresses the failed appeal for Jahvon Quinnerly

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Alabama Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

-- Tua Tagovailoa was in full pads and wearing his helmet when we were out there. It was notable he wasn’t wearing practice cleats, but regular Nike running shoes. He also wasn’t taped in any way and held a practice plan while the rest of the quarterback group warmed up. Tagovailoa didn’t touch a ball when the media was watching.

Your daily Tua Tagovailoa ankle soap opera injury update. No other real practice notes, but Nick Saban obviously isn’t tipping anything to the media that they don’t need to see. Unless I hear otherwise from the head man, I expect we see Tua playing in full this weekend against Mississippi State, though we may see him pulled earlier than usual if the Tide takes a commanding lead.

“I’m just saying, in general, people keep saying that,” Harris said. “It’s like, ‘Bro.’ Did I work on it? No. I’m just getting chances to catch the ball. We have receivers so it’s really no point for us to catch the ball as a ‘back, because we’ve got good receivers on the edge. So, there’s no, really, point for us to catch the ball, just to stay in and block. Whatever to help the team.

“If the team wants the running backs to do more to effect the game in the passing (aspect) because they’re playing back to protect the slants and the go balls, and all that. So, checking it down to the running back will be more of an easier outlet for the quarterback instead of just chucking it downfield. So, I’m just getting more opportunities in the pass game.”

Najee Harris’s entire press conference can be seen in the link above, if you’d rather listen than just read the highlights. Basically, he’s saying that his main job in the passing game is to pass block so that the dynamic receivers get a chance to make big plays— but if the defense is keying in on playing deeper, then he’s going to make them pay receiving out of the backfield.

It honestly has to strike fear in the hearts of the defensive coordinators of Alabama’s remaining opponents.

“That guy’s awesome, isn’t he?” Jones asked. “He’s a heck of a returner. I haven’t seen anybody like him.”

Alabama leads the country in the punt return category. The Tide is averaging 24.88 yards a punt return and has racked up 423 yards this season - both lead the nation.

“He’s so explosive, and he makes people miss,” Jones said of Waddle. “You kick the ball on a punt, and you try to pin him to the boundary. If you give him a crack to the field, he’s just got the speed to the field and makes you miss.

“He changes directions kind of like David Palmer. That one-step cut, he’s running full-speed and makes a cut. He’s very explosive. I could see him not only as one of the best in college football, but he’s going to be a great success in the NFL.”

Jaylen Waddle as elusive as David Palmer? It almost sounds sacrilegious, but Waddle might be even faster. With the very strong potential of Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, and Henry Ruggs III all going pro at the end of this season, Waddle will be the feature player on offense— especially considering he’ll be the safety valve for a new QB. He’ll have a chance to be THE dominant force on offense, and could very well find himself in a position to challenge Palmer in his importance to his team.

“We don’t need to waste a failure,” head coach Nick Saban said after the LSU game. “There’s a lot of lessons to be learned from the things that we did and didn’t do today. I think that everybody’s got to make a commitment to finish the season the right way. We don’t really control our own destiny, but if we finish the season the right way, we can see where it takes us.

“We’ve been in this situation before, so I think the big thing is everybody needs to learn from the mistakes that we made today and try to get better.”

In case you missed it, here’s our coverage of Alabama being put at #5 for the CFB Playoff rankings.

I just wanted to highlight Saban’s statements here about not wasting a failure. It seems like Alabama is good for one loss every season, and it’s been best to have it happen during the regular season instead of the post season. Check this out:

Indeed they did.

Jones’ last return for the Ravens came in Baltimore’s 37-20 victory over the New England Patriots on Nov. 3. In the second quarter, a punt went through Jones’ hands. The Patriots recovered the loose football at the Ravens 20-yard line and scored a touchdown four snaps later.

Jones was inactive for Baltimore’s 49-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas handled the returns for the Ravens.

Baltimore signed Thomas last week after he’d been released by the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 5. Thomas has returned 86 punts and 59 kickoffs in his six NFL seasons.

Though Cyrus Jones hasn’t carved out a role as a defender in the pros like I thought he would, he’s been a consistent threat as return man for both New England and Baltimore over the past few years, but he has had issues with fumbles. There’s a good chance a team without much of a return game could take a flyer on signing him quickly.

Finally, here’s some good stuff from Nate Oats on the basketball squad after Jahvon Quinerly’s appeal was denied yesterday:

“We’re going to control what we can control,” Oats said. “It would have been nice to play him. If you guys watch us practice, he’s playing at a really high level right now. He would add a lot to this team, but another way you look at it, we’re adding a McDonald’s All-American next year and a first-team All-American JUCO guy (James Rojas) next year and Juwan Gary.

“All three of those guys will know our system inside and out, as well. We’re recruiting right now to add some incoming freshmen. I think we’re on some really good ones. But we’ll also add three guys in the program that aren’t playing this year that will give us a huge boost next year. So, we’ve got a lot of games to win this year, but that’s just a positive way to look at it.”

Quinerly’s grounds for the appeal were shaky, but no more so than the many, many other players to be granted waivers in football and basketball over the past few years. His loss, along with the injuries to Gary and Rojas, put’s Alabama’s team down three players for the 2019-2020 season, but all three will make their debuts together with a year of practice experience in Oates’ system, which will absolutely be huge next season.