Happy Monday, everyone. As Roger already told you, the baseball team predictably took one on the chin down in Gainesville and will hope to bounce back at home this week. Meanwhile, softball took two of three against Mississippi State despite missing freshman phenom Montana Fouts, who is out indefinitely with what is termed a minor injury. The Gym Tide were off this weekend but saw a league-best six gymnasts named All-SEC, which makes the fifth-place regular season finish a bit perplexing.
In football news, the Tide held its first scrimmage of the spring, and the media were not allowed past a short viewing period, and of course Saban spoke afterward. Practice notes:
“The kicking game was good,” Saban said. “I think we’re a lot further ahead in the kicking game this year. We had to make a lot of changes in the kicking game last year, which really was beneficial in terms of statistics. How explosive we were on kickoff return really improved. We improved punt return explosive plays to the point where in the second we weren’t getting the ball kicked to us so that we could return them. I think that it seems like we have a few more guys that really buy into playing special teams well. Coverage units did a pretty good job last year.
“When you guys say special teams, I think of special teams. When you say special teams, you think a punter and kicker. So, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just ask me about the punter and kicker. Because special teams are special teams, the punter and the kicker are the punter and the kicker, aight.”
Perhaps not so surprising: Terrell Lewis was not with the OLBs as they warmed up. If Alabama is limiting him in spring, makes sense that he wouldn’t be participating in a scrimmage with so much contact.
Lewis was off to the side on a stationary bike with Kedrick James and Ben Davis. They’re probably out for the day, too.
Offensive lineman Matt Womack was dressed and working with the offensive linemen.
And the middle linebackers?
“We have a work to do,” Saban said. “Those guys have ability. They make too many mental errors. I mean if you make mental errors at linebacker, you either have a guy that’s unprotected, you have somebody that’s not covered. We had way too many of those today. And we just have to keep on working and keep on working with them and see where it takes us. I thought some of the outside ‘backers played pretty well today.
“But inside guys, we’ve got lots of work to do.”
Henry Ruggs III missed the scrimmage due to a death in the family. It’s good to see big Matt healthy and playing again. Saban mentioned that he was pleased with the first group OL, but we don’t know exactly who that was. He’s concerned about depth on the roster in general, which is a pretty common worry in the spring. This camp is all about developing some guys so that the depth will be better in the fall.
It sounds like Will Reichard looked good both punting and kicking the ball. Both of those competitions will be something to watch in the fall. And, of course, the inside linebackers are a work in progress. It’s your show, Dylan.
This is written about quite a bit, but Alabama is the place NFL scouts love to visit the most, and not just because of all the talent.
At Alabama, position coaches are available to speak to scouts about players. And they’ll be honest about their strengths and their weaknesses—just as they’d expect a high school coach to be honest with them about a recruit’s strengths and weaknesses. The long-term relationship matters more than one player’s draft position, because a healthy relationship with the NFL plus good players equals more NFL players whose success will help lure more good recruits.
Also discussed is Saban’s philosophy on when players should leave, and the credibility he has built by staying consistent and actively encouraging players to go when they are ready. If only everybody listened to him, eh?
Kyriq McDonald has found a Bearcat home.
Defensive back Kyriq McDonald has committed to transfer to Cincinnati, according to Chad Brendel of Bearcat Journal. McDonald entered the NCAA transfer portal in early February along with long snapper Scott Meyer and received offers from Florida State, Mississippi State, Louisville, Purdue and Memphis. However, Meyer is still on the Crimson Tide roster and practicing.
Best of luck to him.
As you undoubtedly saw, the
Citrus State Prison Mean Machine Auburn Tigers qualified for a Final Four that is noticeably devoid of one-and-dones.
Earlier Sunday, an Auburn team that exclusively played juniors and seniors outlasted, outwilled and outwitted a Kentucky team that started four freshmen and played five among the seven who saw extensive action. Those freshmen — all of whom ranked in the Rivals.com top 36 nationally in the Class of 2018 — combined to go 2-for-17 from 3-point range and commit nine turnovers against the Tigers.
On Saturday, Texas Tech and Gonzaga played a fierce West regional final that featured seven seniors, three juniors, five sophomores and one freshman seeing action. Tech, which had four seniors in its eight-man rotation, came through with clutch play after clutch play to pull the upset.
And later Saturday, in the game of the tournament to date, Purdue and Virginia staged a classic that featured one freshman starter, Cavaliers guard Kihei Clark.
At his introductory press conference, Nate Oats was asked whether he would recruit the one-and-done types. His reply seemed to be a bit of a hedge, as he said he’d “never turn down a Collin Sexton.” Sexton and high school teammate Jared Harper provide an interesting study on the topic. As you know, Sexton came to Alabama and did everything that was asked of him: played hard, put on a great show including the epic battle with Trae Young and took Alabama to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a while.
Of course, he then went on to be chosen #8 overall in the NBA Draft after his freshman season, an expected choice that no one could possibly begrudge. Meanwhile, Harper was merely a very good prospect out of high school, rated four stars and #90 overall by the 247 composite. He showed some potential as a freshman, but obviously didn’t jump off the screen like Sexton. He is still there, however, and has led Auburn to two NCAA Tournament appearances and now to a Final Four as a junior.
Unless you are one of the very few blueblood programs that can count on pulling 5 of the top 25 recruits in the country year in and year out, it may well be better to sit those top kids out altogether. The Final Four has a decidedly veteran flavor, and that is no accident.
Last, how about one of those moments that make college sports special? Texas Tech has a player from Italy, and his parents secretly flew to the states to watch him play.
That’s about it for today. Have a great week.