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NegaGump Tuesday — LaBryan Ray may miss season, Will LB is a hot mess & kicking game is still unsteady

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Preseason All-SEC DE could miss all of the 2019

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Chick-fil-A Kickoff - Duke v Alabama

Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Someone has to counterbalance Brent’s aggressive Gump. And, sadly, that burden falls upon me today. The head man is not happy: Not happy with execution and substitution. Not happy about the youth on the front seven. Not happy about the focus of and unsteadiness in the kicking game. Really not happy with the linebackers. You get the point.

At the beginning of the year, it seemed as though there was a wealth of defensive linemen, with the Tide having the ability to run 9 or 10 guys out in situational packages. It hasn’t quite worked out that way — Sopsher hasn’t had the immediate impact many predicted, and that goes double for Antonio Alfano. D.J. Dale has been a revelation, but proven defensive linemen are a commodity. That’s why the emergence of LaBryan Ray was so critical to the unit’s success.

But, stop me if you’ve heard this story before: Critical player on an Alabama unit thin on experience is injured and may be lost for the season.

It’s feared, according to sources, that Ray’s injury is a long-term and possibly season-ending injury.

“LaBryan Ray is probably out for sure for this game,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday. “We’re doing some further testing to see what the situation is with his foot, but it’s undetermined right now as to how long he may be out.”

Maybe while Saban is on his magic throne pooping out some of those healthy 5-star linebackers he can scare up a few grad transfers at defensive end too?

If you’re keeping track at home, that’s potentially now three starters lost for 2019 on a defense that was already in a rebuilding year with a first-year defensive coordinator. Good thing Alabama has the scariest offense in the nation, huh?

TiderInsider’s post-mortem of Alabama’s 47-23 win over South Carolina...yet another game where an unheralded, marginal quarterback made some miraculous throws.

Alongside injuries, that’s another storyline I’m frankly tired of covering.

Speaking of linebackers. Yikes. Will is a mess:

For the third game in a row, freshman Christian Harris started at the weak-side linebacker spot against South Carolina, but he did not finish the game there. Early in the second half, head coach Nick Saban replaced Harris with sophomore Ale Kaho, who played the rest of the game.

“There was a lot of confusion with the young guys, with the formations and the motions and some of the things that they were doing,” Saban said. “We tried to get (Harris) settled down by taking him out of the game and put Kaho in for a series. And then we put him back in the game, and then we decided to play Kaho a little bit because he’s a good football player and he needs to get some experience, himself.”

And, it was clear from Saban’s answers, he’s not really set on either of the youngsters, both of whom struggled.

This is fine

The Dread Pirate, not a fan of California’s proposed pay-for-play legislation:

“The state of California has trouble keeping their streets clean right now, so my thought is that they probably ought to focus on that. That’s just one guy’s opinion and I’m sure that I’m probably wrong, but at the rate that California is handling their infrastructure and some of their other problems, you know, I think that we’ll see how they do with that before I really think it would be that beneficial for the legislature of California to enter into college football. If you see benefits to them entering into college football, I’d love to hear because they seem determined to do it.”

Leach’s libertarian bent of course was bound to clash with the most highly-regulated state in the union. But, politics asides, it’s a ghastly idea being rammed through the legislature, with little care for the ramifications, by those with naught understanding of the broader issues and economic loss to tens of thousands of California student athletes. For, gentle reader, if UCLA or Cal or USC are disqualified from NCAA participation, and thus PAC 12 membership with its attendant television and conference money, what exactly will fund the “pay” portion of the proposal? All those dozens of fans showing up to watch an historically bad Bruins team?

Big Nasty (we really need a nickname for him) and the Slingin’ Samoan were named SEC players of the week. Deservedly.

Tagovailoa was named SEC Offensive Player of the week while Crimson Tide right guard Landon Dickerson was selected as the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.

I’m getting really sad we only have Dickerson for a year :(

Oh, no! With Sunshine having struggles this year (funny what a year of tape and a thin offensive line does, huh, kid?), and Alabama finding new and creative ways to obliterate opponents, one outlet has taken notice and now dubbed the Crimson Tide as the team to beat.

I was really hoping we’d make it until the A&M or LSU beatdowns to have the Kool Aid thrown our way. But, don’t panic. Fortunately, a recipient of overreaction seems to be Oklahoma, who has beaten three of the worst teams you’ll see. And, the winner of the Notre Dame-Georgia game this weekend is almost certainly going to be crowned September Playoff Champ. So, there’s still time to stay under the radar — as much under the radar as the No. 2 team with the best offense and best two players in the country can be.

I’ve been mad at coaches before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been “so angry that I fire up a lemonade stand to fund a buyout”-mad. Then again, I’m not four-years-old, and mercifully, my alma mater is not being coached by Willie Taggart.

A four-year-old Florida State football fan was so sick of his team losing that he decided to take matters into his own hands and opened a lemonade stand with the explicit purpose of buying out the struggling coach’s contract. The coach, Willie Taggart, is in the second year of a six-year $30 million contract. Under his leadership, the team failed to make a bowl game for the first time in 36 years last year. The four-year-old sold lemonade for $20 per glass and sold out in just three hours.

I’ve had the misfortune to watch three FSU games this year. And, that is without a doubt the worst-coached in team in all of the Power 5. Okay, except maybe Rutgers...and Oregon State. Alright, Ole Miss is pretty bad too.

But you get the point. They’re terrible, even for the ACC.

Taggart is such a dead man walking that Susan Sarandon is getting ready to ride to Tallahassee in nun habit and do her best Sister Jean on this program.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in win-now window. And, fortunately for them, they had the opportunity to liberate Minkah Fitzpatrick from the dystopian hellscape of the Miami Dolphins...even if most NFL observers feel they overpaid.

The stage was set for Pittsburgh to get a high pick in 2020.

But the Steelers have never done business with draft positioning in mind. Win now is always the culture. The Steelers feel strongly enough about Fitzpatrick’s talent -- and affordable rookie contract with an average base salary of $2.1 million for the next three seasons -- to justify any pick the team could muster in April’s draft.

The move says a lot about where the Steelers are, and where they will be.

And, finally, yesterday was Saban’s final presser before the 11:00 a.m. kickoff against Southern Miss this weekend, the last of the Tide’s relatively-light September schedule.

Nick was not a happy man either. From the linebackers to the kicking game to the mental errors and substitution snafus on defense:

“Well, we’ve got to get better execution. I mean, I don’t care which guy’s punted, we have -- the thing about both guys is they’re very capable and they do a really good job of punting in the game. We don’t have anybody else to punt besides one of those two guys or we could go for it on every fourth down, and that’s our options. So, one of those two guys have to punt, or we go for it on fourth down every time. So, how do we approach it differently? We’ve got to get those guys to execute, and they’re capable of executing. And they’ve done a really good job of doing it in practice. We just have not seen it in the game. How you drop the ball is very important to how you punt, and almost every punt we’ve had in a game so far, the guy drops the ball inside, so you’re going to kick the ball low, aight, and not with good placement. So, it’s something that we definitely need to improve on. That would be on the list of things that we need to improve.”

Southern Miss isn’t a stinker of a team either, y’all. They’ll very likely be in the mix for the CUSA championship well into November. And they are very explosive.

Complete transcript of the press conference above.

Editorial Comment, related to the Golden Eagles: Can we talk about the schedule for a moment? There is a lot of grief for the chaff on this year’s slate, and in fairness, it looks thin on paper — NMSU was unforgivable. I stand by that. But that is a function of there being no marquee OOC game that we have become accustomed to over the last decade. Still, going into October (and assuming a win Saturday), Alabama will have notched three victories over probable bowl teams and be toting a 1-0 conference record. And that’s a far cry more than most of the country has done at this stage.