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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

2019 predictions are starting to heat up

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NCAA Football: Fresno State at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

SEC spring football story lines: Alabama coaching changes, Texas A&M’s ready to rise

Alabama: The on-paper coaching upgrade

Two of the seven new hires have been here before: offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri. At least they have an idea as to what to expect. As for expectations, the rest are viewed as improvements on the 2018 staff, especially on defense. Well-regarded in the profession, defensive line coach Brian Baker and safeties coach Charles Kelly face the challenge of replacing some of this unit’s production and pride after that humbling loss to Clemson earlier this year.

USA Today put out a piece here with a quick blurb on the main offseason storyline behind each SEC team. For Alabama, it’s obviously the question of the new coaching staff.

After two years in a row of a first-year offensive coordinator, has Alabama finally found some stability in Steve Sarkisian? And will he be good enough for us fans to want him to stay?

Steve Sarkisian will ‘do great’ as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, Pete Carroll says

When asked during his NFL Scouting Combine press conference about Sarkisian’s transition from the NFL back to college, Carroll initially said his former assistant wasn’t taking much of a step down from pro play by joining the Crimson Tide.

“He’s going to Alabama, right?” Carroll said. “That’s pretty close. There’s not that much difference.”

But Carroll said he knew first-hand what Sarkisian would experience switching from the NFL to college football.

“I’ve gone through that to, going back and forth,” Carroll said. “It’s a tremendous asset to have had that new experience because you get challenged, you get to see things differently. The game’s different, the field’s different, style of play, all that stuff. But it winds up being a really good, positive challenge for you. You just feel like you’ve grown more. I think he’ll feel like the college game has slowed down to some extent. It’ll look a little bit differently to him than it did before. He’ll only benefit from it.

”The details that we’re able to go through in the NFL relative to the details you can reach in the college game are different just because of the timeframes that you have to work with the guys, so it’s somewhat frustrating when you go back to college ball that you just can’t get to all the stuff that you know they need to hear.

”But it’s only positive, though. It really helps. He’ll do great.”

Here’s some quotes from an old boss of Sark’s. If you can get past the eternal veneer of vague optimism around everything Pete Carroll says, you can often glean some real nuggets of info from his press conferences. It will be interesting to see how the experience of being an offensive coordinator for one of the more talented offenses in pro football over the past two years translates for Sark into college ball.

Alabama Spring Position Preview: Inside, outside linebacker

Moses needs a running mate to man the defense in 2018. To me, the top two candidates for that position are McMillon, the veteran, and Kaho, the promising youngster. Like it was already said, McMillon has been a player Nick Saban and company have relied on in emergency cases in the past and shouldn’t be a player that fans overlook this spring. Kaho joined the program during fall camp last year and then played on every special teams unit as a true freshman. Other guys like Benton or Moody could also step up, but entering spring, I think McMillon and Kaho lead the pack.

I think Ale Kaho is the most likely to fill in the spot beside Moses. He was probably the most active player on special teams last year, and that usually bodes well for a defender coming in to year two.

However, don’t overlook Jaylen Moody. He didn’t get some of the attention that the others have when he signed on with the Tide, but also made his mark on special teams last year and excels in pass coverage.

McMillon has a more traditional Mike-linebacker body type and is entering into his 5th year in the program, so he has plenty of experience under his belt. Benton looked really good during A-day last year but then disappeared during the season. It really will be a 4-man competition for the starting spot there, and that’s not even counting in the muscular Shane Lee coming to join the team this offseason.

Early predictions for 2019 college football season

The Playoff teams are …

Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Texas. If there was a way to get Alabama-Clemson V out of the way in the semifinals, that’d be even better with the drama around Zach Smith and Herman last season. Texas-Ohio State would be fantastic. If we could get three disclaimers in March, then we’d use the following: Michigan or Penn State could take Ohio State’s spot; Oklahoma could take Texas’ spot; and two SEC teams can get in the Playoff again, given the number of top-10 teams the conference fields. That’s the Playoff field we are looking at, and we are sure we need the disclaimers.

Saban wins No. 7

It’s going to be fitting that Saban passes Bear Bryant for the most national championships in New Orleans, where Bryant won his last national title at the 1980 Sugar Bowl. Alabama will continue the trend of alternating national championship seasons in the CFP era, and there’s a good chance Clemson will be on the other sideline. Eight-team Playoff talk will rage on and Ohio State, Texas and a few others will challenge, but these are the two best programs in the country. Alabama gets back on top again after Saban goes back to a tried-and-true approach with his coaching staff.

Here’s a fun prediction piece from Sporting News. It’s obviously all conjecture, but hey, it’s never to early to start tossing out unsubstantiated guesses. I do it all the time. In any case, they aren’t quite buying into the “Bama is falling apart” narrative.

No Sales Job: Quinnen Williams Can Wreck From Inside Out

But while players like Nick Bosa or Kyler Murray will acknowledge they feel they should be the No. 1 pick in April’s draft – a pick currently held by the Cardinals – Williams all but shrugs off the idea.

“I know going No. 1 doesn’t mean nothing for real,” Williams said. “Like a guy (with) five stars in high school, it’s the same thing. Going to Alabama, you could be a five-star on the sideline. So I know being a No. 1 draft pick, you could go to the NFL, and if you don’t work, you going to be on the sideline. And I want to play.”

Like Bosa and Murray, Williams is a player the Cardinals could consider with that top pick. He is one of the few players linked with the Cards in mock drafts, and certainly, the team could use a disruptive force up front with veteran defensive tackle Corey Peters.

Quinnen Williams’ 2018 season was probably the most dominant I’ve seen from an Alabama defender in the Nick Saban tenure. And there have been some big seasons out there over the years such as Rolando McClain in 2009 and Jonathan Allen in 2016, and Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2017.

There’s a very real shot Q could go #1 overall. I couldn’t blame the Cards for falling in love with Nick Bosa’s production as an edge rusher, but if they decide they prefer to focus on interior disruption...

That’s all for today. I won’t link a single thing about last night’s basketball loss. Not on Gump Day.

Roll Tide!