Next Friday begins the 2020 Gymnastics season. Chief among the national stories to watch is whether LSU can claim its first national title (spoiler: they won’t.) More locally, the story is whether Dana Duckworth can get it turned around in the final year of her contract. The past few seasons have seen the Tide slip further behind the top tier of the SEC. Last year, Alabama finished .500 and was firmly entrenched in the second rung of the conference. The Tide are ranked 10th going into this season. Not as good as years past, to be sure, but this team does have talent. It’s now or never for Coach Duckworth.
Gun to my head? I suspect that Greg Byrne goes shopping for new head coaches for Gymnastics and Womens’ hoops this summer — Coach Kristy Curry’s contract also expires this spring.
Oh, hey! Some guys made their NFL announcements yesterday. Among them were the Tide’s fastest one — the one who probably shouldn’t have, because Henry Ruggs III still needs some more time in the oven, TBH. For our money, Mack Wilson and Moochie were probably the last people Henry needed to be spending this weekend in Montgomery with.
You can read his very emotional piece at the Player’s Tribune.
The other huge announcement was the expected one. Mr. Tagovailoa is heading to the pros.
His coach opened the press conference, hitting on the very things we did yesterday: what No. 13 brought to the locker room, as an ambassador, off the field, all mattered as much as the magic as he could perform under center:
“Tua has probably had as much of an impact on our program here as any player that we have ever had,” he said, noting his character, leadership, academics and spirit. “He’s had great accomplishments on the field, but you probably don’t really fully understand the significance of the contributions he’s made off the field with his teammates and the people that are around him every day.” Saban notes Tagovailoa has won an SEC championship, national championship and streaks of being in top 10 and winning 10 games. “He’s on course to graduate. I think he needs like 17 credits, or something like that, to graduate,” Saban said, adding that every trip to Saban’s office has always been positive.
The full presser from Tua is here, in case you missed it yesterday:
With Tua Tagovailoa entering the NFL Draft, it has set off a chain reaction of NFL GMs evaluating tape. The Detroit Lions, the San Diego (not calling you LA) Chargers, the Miami Dolphins, the Cincinnati Bengals, and potentially even the Oakland (not calling you Vegas) Raiders are teams that he has been connected with and with varying needs at QB.
Yes, Matt Stafford is “just” 32, but that team needs a lot of help — and the Lions aren’t foreclosing any option whatsoever; Phillip Rivers is 40 and has seen his last game in the powder blues — in fact, if you want to roll into a new stadium with fans who aren’t showing up, Tua under center may just be what gets butts in seats; Chucky has never fully been on board with Derek Carr, even if they can exploit the potential pick as trade bait; and Andy Dalton has been a dead man walking for years in Cincinnati.
And then there’s the Dolphins. The team that tanked for Tua all season had the misfortune to win a few games. Helpfully, their carefully constructed tank was aided by a fluke year by Jake Burrow and Tua’s draft stock potentially sliding because of a nasty injury. It may come a few picks later than we expected a year ago, but Honolulu to Miami seems a natural transition, dunnit? (And, lest we be callow here, ‘Lia to the ‘Canes makes far too much sense than anyone wants to admit. Miami needs a QB and that is one tight-knit family).
For all that speculation, there is one fanbase truly celebrating: Dolphins fans are metaphorically cheering in the street.
Indeed, the dominoes falling the NFL far outstrip the ones that Alabama’s social media infamously speculated upon. Because, according to one NFL GM, Tua has always been the “dream.”
One player not heading to the NFL: Devonta Smith. It’s a deep wideout class and the diminutive Smitty has been lsot in the shuffle. And that’s a shame — he’s a more complete receiver than Ruggs at this point in his career, even if his Combine measurables are outpaced by Ruggs.
That’s a tremendous boon to whomever wins the QB job in 2020.
One of our all-time faves here, Academic All-American Levi Randolph, signed a two-way contract with the Cavs yesterday.
In 20 starts for Canton this season, Randolph has averaged 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Randolph was the Class 6A Player of the Year during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons for Bob Jones High School in Madison. He helped the Patriots win the AHSAA 6A title in 2010.
Randolph played in 135 games in four seasons at Alabama, but he did not get drafted in 2015. He’s never been on an NBA regular-season roster, but he did play in the NBA’s Summer League for four straight years.
Alabama’s linebacking corps got a boost yesterday with the announcement that oft-injured Joshua McMillon is returning.
On Nov. 20, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said the team would petition the NCAA for a medical redshirt for McMillon, so “he’ll have a choice as to whether he wants to do that or not.”
“Josh is a really mature, good leader,” Saban said of McMillon. “School’s important to him, and I’m sure he’ll make a great decision about coming back. We’d love to have him.”
With a return to Tuscaloosa now set, McMillon will once again be the oldest player in the team’s inside linebacker room. With both McMillon and Dylan Moses sidelined by knee injuries this fall, two true freshmen in Shane Lee and Christian Harris called Alabama’s defense.
That really frees up one of those now-sophomores to shore up an anemic Tide pass rush at OLB. Our speculation? Getting Shane Lee moving downhill and out of pass defense is a net win for both the defense and Lee.
Our previous coverage is here.
Have a great day, folks. And Roll Tide