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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

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Will Tua Tagovailoa “sling it” less this year?

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NCAA Football: The Citadel at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Will Nick Saban rein in Tua Tagovailoa this season?

But Tagovailoa’s reputation as a wild stallion in the pocket may be exaggerated. He has actually been rather judicious when surveying the field, as advanced stats from ProFootballFocus.com illustrate. Among players with at least 300 pass attempts in the FBS in 2018, no one had a better adjusted completion percentage on throws of 20 or more air yards than Tagovailoa. Of the 58 passes he launched that traveled into that range, he connected on 32 of them while accounting for 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

Yet despite having great success throwing deep, he only did so 16.2 percent of the time, which was the seventh-highest rate among starters in the SEC and hard evidence of the restraint Tagovailoa showed throughout the year.

In full disclosure, I clicked on this article expecting some real #hawttakes, and was already planning my scathing commentary on it. But then it turned out to be a pretty well-reasoned piece that actually verified claims with stats, rather than just running with a narrative.

I think my favorite part of the vitriol against Tua Tagovailoa being “too reckless” in the final game of the season is that I’ve heard it most strongly from some of the very same people who, at this time last year, were clamoring for Tua over Jalen Hurts because they would rather someone throw 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions than a QB that threw no picks but only 15 TDs.

But have two bad throws in the middle of an entire team collapse, and the whole fanbase is ready to put in a new QB because they’ve convinced themselves that a QB with a bad arm actually makes the offense better.

I’ll get off my soapbox now.

What Alabama’s 2019 opponents are saying: Duke

Question: Duke technically only returns four starters. You have a lot of guys, including yourself, who got a lot of playing time last year. How do you see the outlook for the offense?

“We lost a good amount of our starters from last season. I’m confident in the group we have coming back. Thankfully I had a couple of starts to get my feet wet. I think we have a lot of great depth at all positions, great leadership on the offensive line up front with three guys in the middle coming back.

“And a lot of guys who have played some football for us. You have a great running back tandem in Brittain Brown and Deon Jackson. You have some young guys able to return in there as well. You got Noah Gray returning at tight end, who has had some good playing time as well. Those guys behind him are working hard as well. You got Jake Marwede, Mark Birmingham, Zamari Ellis. We’ve got a deep group of receivers as well. A lot of young guys with a lot of potential.

Last season, Duke opened the season red-hot and shot into the top 25, but faltered as the season wore on to an 8-4 record before trouncing Temple in their bowl game. I was pretty upbeat a year ago when I thought that Duke might actually wind up being a better matchup for the Tide’s strength of schedule in 2019 than anticipated (unlike pretty much everyone else Alabama has scheduled in the last decade).

But, it turned out their QB would be a first round NFL draft pick, and the Blue Devils would only return 4 starters from their solid and potentially dangerous 2018 squad.

Ouch.

That said, this is a really great piece with quotes from coach Cutcliffe and a couple of Duke’s players. You’ll learn a good bit about their squad.

Six Alabama players named to Outland, Nagurski watch lists

Six Alabama players were named to a pair of award watch lists Tuesday afternoon.

Crimson Tide junior offensive linemen Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills were named to the Outland Trophy’s preseason watch list. The Outland Trophy, which is the nation’s third-oldest award, is awarded to the country’s best interior lineman on offense or defense.

Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis, cornerback Trevon Diggs and linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Dylan Moses were named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy’s preseason watch list. The Nagurski Trophy is annually presented to the nation’s most outstanding college defensive player. Alabama leads the preseason watch list count with its four representatives

Congrats to all these guys. Now they have to go out and perform to match and hopefully surpass these expectations. Personally, I think that, by the end of the season, Leatherwood and Wills could be the best tackle duo that Alabama has fielded in the Nick Saban era.

Why Drew Sanders is now a 247Sports 5-star recruit

Sanders wasn’t healthy enough to compete at The Opening Finals but we had already seen everything we needed to. He has the ability to play either side of the ball, has elite size and speed traits, running a 4.65 at 6-5, 232 pounds, and he is incredibly competitive with outstanding football instincts. The Alabama commit is one of the most universally respected prospects in this class among college coaching staffs. Sanders lands at No. 13.

Apparently posting results from the Opening isn’t the cool thing to do for the kids in the 2020 recruiting class. Less than 14 of Alabama’s commitments currently have a posted SPARQ score... Which just really throws me off my groove. It’s really going to mess up the multi-year trend analyses I’ve been working on.

And oh yeah, congrats to Drew for getting that 5th star.

Recruiting notebook: Bama commit headed to national all-star game

Alabama receiver commit Javon Baker has accepted an invitation to a postseason national all-star game.

Baker, a 4-star prospect from McEachern (Ga.), plans to play in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. The game is scheduled for Jan. 4 at noon and will be televised by NBC.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Baker has excelled at recruiting events this spring and summer, including a nifty 1-handed catch at The Opening Finals in Frisco, Texas.

And here’s some more recruiting nuggets. Most of them don’t have too much to do with guys the Tide is locked in to, but there is some info on players within the state.

Former Alabama running back lands NFL opportunity

A former Alabama running back is set to join a team from the AFC West.

Derrick Gore, who played for the Crimson Tide as a walk-on in 2015 and 2016 before leaving for a scholarship opportunity at Louisiana-Monroe, is signing with the Los Angeles Chargers, AL.com has learned.

Gore had participated in rookie minicamp with the Chargers in May.

Well would you look at that. That’s a name that I had honestly forgotten about. Best of luck to Derrick. The NFL is a tough place for a running back to have any sort of career, especially an undrafted one from Louisiana-Monroe.

Report: Alabama to face Kansas State in SEC/Big 12 Challenge

The Alabama men’s basketball team will reportedly face Kansas State in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

The Crimson Tide will host the Wildcats as a part of this year’s challenge, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. Kansas State posted a 25-9 (14-4 Big 12) record last year and made the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats lost to Texas A&M, 65-53, in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge a year ago.

Well this one will be a tough matchup and a real schedule booster. I’ve really enjoyed the opponents that Alabama has drawn from the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, and I like that it gets mixed in with conference play in the winter, rather than lumping it in with the rest of the OOC games to open the season.

That’s it for today. Roll Tide!