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Jumbo Package: If you root for just one player this year, make it Trevon Diggs

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No. 7 enters his senior season with a lot to prove.

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

If there is one player I am rooting for this year, it is Trevon Diggs. After learning several positions, he finally found one he excelled at — and then was promptly injured. I’m not saying that injury cost the Tide a national title, but it sure didn’t make Alabama’s path easier...and Justyn Ross wouldn’t have been running routes against air.

Diggs returns now for his senior season, is healthy, and will be the starter opposite Patrick Surtain II...but he wants to learn even more positions:

Diggs will return to the starting lineup this fall -- his last in a crimson uniform. But this spring, he and fellow corner Patrick Surtain II have spent some time at Star with Shyheim Carter limited. The springtime, after all, is a perfect time for experimenting. “I want to learn Star more and have as much versatility as I can in all positions,” Diggs said. “If I could learn safety, I would, too.”

I’m not sure where he’ll land in the NFL. But he has a great team-first attitude, a ton of natural talent, and a lot of versatility. I hope Diggs blows up in 2019, for the team’s benefit and for his future.

The Sporting News has begun their preseason team previews for the 2019 season (and we are only one month out from the preseason ‘zines.) So, get ready for footbaw:

Florida is here. And LSU is here. And Tennessee is heyah.

Just three days out from A-Day, we have Zenitz’s practice notes here — esp. the offensive line shuffle following Wills’ injury.

Some players got to speak to the media yesterday, and Devonta Smith was clowning. He purports to be the fastest (and he is on the field, though IIRC, Henry Rugs III had the best straight-line 40.) Aside from the banter, there were some nice tidbits in here about the new crop of young wideouts. Get to know their names now — the Alabama receiving corps will almost certainly have three news starters in 8 months.

Smith also noted there’s more depth with the receivers after returning almost every top target and adding a few more. Early enrollee John Metchie has received some strong praise so far in spring. “With Metchie and all the guys who came early, it’s exciting to see someone come in straight out of high school like that, and adapt this quick, be able to read the playbook and things like that,” Smith said. “With (Tyrell) Shavers, it was just seeing that if you keep working your time will come. He’s been working and everyone’s been working, him and Metchie, all the receivers, everyone’s been working. Just seeing how they’ve come along and seeing how everyone’s just been competing, there’s more depth.”

Coach Nate Oats finalized his staff with the Crimson Tide yesterday, featuring a combination of old faces (Antoine Pettway) and new ones from Buffalo:

“All of these guys are non-ego guys. I don’t want a guy who thinks he’s above the program. From the head coach all the way down to the last manager for there to be no ego people. Let’s dive in and see what we can do to serve this program. I think all five of these guys are just like that. I anticipate for all of us to get better as we come to Alabama and establish the kind of culture we established at Buffalo.”

Pettway, the former Alabama guard, has been on staff with the Tide since 2008 and is now working under his fourth different head coach at Alabama.

Having now tutored under Anthony Grant, Nate Oats, Avery Johnson, and Mark Gottfried, it really is just a matter of time until Pett gets his shot. Given his demonstrable recruiting skills, some on-court success would make that a fait accompli. But, for now, that’s a great retention for the program.

Alabama could be in play to have as many as seven first rounders selected in the 2019 NFL draft. And three players will actually be on the stage in Nashville — including the Best Player in the Country.

There have been several notable decommits from the NSD Class of 2020, and among the intriguing prospects now open for business is Memphis’ Darin Turner (WR):

Turner committed to the [LSU] Tigers as an underclassman and seemed set on going to Baton Rouge for quite a long time. But overtime communication between the two sides waned, while schools like Alabama, Tennessee and several others ramped up their pursuit of Turner. With a plan to take several visits over the next few months, Turner backed off his commitment and it’s unlikely he ends up back with the Tigers.

Plenty more here.

This...this really sucks:

Hall of Famer Dennis Pursley, who has been Alabama’s head swimming and diving coach since 2012, announced his retirement from coaching Wednesday. Pursley will continue to serve in his position until a replacement is named.

”We can’t begin to thank Coach Pursley enough for all he has done to advance our program in his seven years as head coach,” Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne said. “Alabama swimming and diving has excelled under his leadership both in competition and in the classroom. We wish Denny and his wife, Mary Jo, the best in his retirement from coaching and appreciate him staying on as head coach until a replacement has been named.”

Coach Pursley has completely changed the culture at Alabama S&D, and with it, he has increased the talent level and the teams’ performances. He is a Hall of Famer for a reason. But, his retirement now opens the door for another important hire for Greg Byrne — his third in three years — and particularly if he wants Alabama to maintain the momentum Pursley established. Best wishes, Coach.

So, this Collin Sexton guy? Really good. It’s a stacked rookie class, but Young Bull should pick up several deserved ROTY votes, even when a guy like Jaren Jackson Jr. or Trae Young wins.

The former Alabama standout’s improvement from his entrance in the NBA as the eighth player picked in the draft in June to the final game of the 2018-19 campaign allowed him to become the third rookie in the league’s history to averaged at least 16 points per game while shooting at least 40 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line. The first two NBA rookies to accomplish that feat were Larry Bird and Stephen Curry.

Nick Saban is revered among the coaching fraternity — and not just college football specifically or even football generally — but among the profession:

Beard made a request that he hoped Saban would hear. “Coach, a lot of things we do in our program are straight from you,” Beard said. “The Process. I’ve followed your teams for years. I know you play pick-up basketball. I don’t know if you’re a college basketball guy, but if you are, we’d love to have you at the Final Four.”

Unreal, getting love from a Final Four coach. Make sure to read how The Process has been imported to the Texas Tech hoops program.

It has been great to see Eyabi Anoma buy-in and learn how to not only play football, but to learn how to be an Alabama football player.

“He’s been making a big step lately,” said Alabama senior defensive lineman Raekwon Davis on Tuesday. “He’s been helping this team the best he can. He’s a whole different Eyabi. ... He’s starting to buy in more. Just to hear his voice, he’s starting to lead more.”

Head coach Nick Saban and Anoma “had a good meeting” when the former 5-star recruit chose to enter his name in the transfer portal. The 13th-year head coach admitted Alabama could have used the Baltimore, Md., native “a little bit more” in pass-rushing situations last year, especially with Terrell Lewis and Christopher Allen sidelined by knee injuries for the entire 2018 season.

That’s it for the JP. Coming up later we have a Meet The News Guys piece from Brent. And we also have another Things to Watch for A-Day. So, you may as well get started Gumping early.