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Jumbo Package: Alabama’s new strength and conditioning program is a Rhea of sunshine

If you think I’m apologizing for that pun, you are sadly mistaken.

Really good piece from Dennis Dodd at CBS on what constitutes a legitimate playoff. Not only with varying conferences have different responses and reopening dates, but even within those conferences different states — and regional hot spots — will dictate much of what happen with a 2020 season.

Dodd brings up a Michigan — Ohio State example, where Whitmer has been one of the more aggressive governors while Mike DeWine took his foot off the gas a bit earlier. But, you can look a lot closer to home, where Arkansas’ Asa Hutchinson imposed little to no limits, while Kentucky’s Andy Beshear was also very aggressive. And, even within states, responses vary. For instance, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee opened the state back up almost two weeks ago. But the larger municipalities are still phasing in; Nashville was hardest hit. Memphis less so. And Knoxville was even less affected. Testing will need to be widespread, and data will have to be both accurate and exceptionally granular for administrators to make the appropriate call.

“If we get pushed back and we have to severely [alter] our season, we’re living in exception land,” Shaw said. “Whatever the season turns into, I think everything has to be on the table. Every bowl contract. The criteria for the bowls might not be met. Not everybody may be able to play the whole season. Some people may start; some people may have to stop. … Is a game postponed? Is it forfeited?”

When asked what constituted a legitimate playoff, CFP executive director Bill Hancock said, “Nobody has asked me that yet.”

And it raises an interesting question in the brave new world of a sanctioned-playoff system. What is the quorum that must be met for the number of games played, teams participating, and the like?

I suspect much will hinge on what happens later this summer and early fall — and that the end will result in a 1941-1945 type scenario. Seasons with all the asterisks. If there is widespread disruption, then some institutions will simply play on, while others may forfeit their season. Some may not start at all. Recall, Army was a national powerhouse in the War years largely because West Point was churning out the nation’s next line officers and the Academy had its pick of the litter.

Do I think the Playoffs will happen? With complex multi-billion dollar contracts, it’s almost certain that a few teams will sally forth, no matter the externalities. But legitimacy? We may never get a definitive answer as to legitimacy. Not that such lack of certainty or consensus should faze Alabama fans. Cough. Cough.

Preventing the next Bo Jackson. That was Dr. Lyle Cain’s imperative on that bright November morning.

“He kept telling all of our friends in college that I was going to be the next Dr. Andrews,” Cain said. “And it’s kind of ironic how it worked out.”

Cain did a fellowship with Andrews in 1999, was invited to join the practice shortly thereafter and has established himself as one of the most respected orthopedic surgeons in the country over the last 20 years while leading the way for the world-renowned Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center.

Cain helped repair Drew Brees’ serious shoulder injury in 2006, has treated numerous other prominent athletes like Adrian Peterson and has been Alabama’s lead orthopedic surgeon since Nick Saban’s first season with the Tide in 2007.

Great feature on the man who saved the career of a generational talent. Go read it.

Keep an eye on this kid, 14-year-old Ryan Downes, the brilliant IMG quarterbacking prodigy who is leaps ahead of his peers physically, mentally, and in skill set.

Downes isn’t technically in high school. Not yet, at least. But that hasn’t prevented him from being offered three verbal scholarships from college football programs—including one from the Ivy League.

“It’s like he’s the prototype of what you would want as a quarterback as a senior in high school, but he’s an eighth-grader,” IMG varsity coach Kyle Brey says. “If he continues to develop the way that he’s developed in the short time I’ve been around him, it might be at a level that we haven’t witnessed yet in this country.”

The more you hear from Nick Saban on the S&C shakeup, the more you get the sense that he was ready for a change as much as Cochran was ready to get on the field.

“Scott Cochran did a great job here for us for a long, long time, but we were going through a little internal change,” Saban said. “We’d had some NFL people who were more sports science-centric — I’m going to call it — to see how we could adapt and adjust what we were doing. Our mindset was already thinking in a different direction.

“When Scott left, that gave us an opportunity to research a lot of people in the country, how they did things, why they did it, who was still doing things the way we did them 10 years ago and who had progressed and actually taken advantage of some of the sports science stuff that is out there now. I heard about these guys because they were at IMG years ago. We’ve had some players there who had recommended David Ballou and Dr. Rhea, so I was interested to talk to them.”

One of the more interesting parts of Dr. Rhea’s style is that he is very open publicly on his twitter feed about the science of S&C, performance metrics, and data-driven coaching. It’s nerd porn.

There is a place for rah-rah, sure. But he’s turning his head with recruits, coaches, and players by being more Professor X than Wolverine.

Why did Taulia transfer from Alabama? Writing on the wall? Incoming uber-stud Bryce Young? Lack of meaningful snaps?

“It’s really tough and it’s nothing against Alabama,” Galu Tagovailoa, Taulia’s father, told “But my boys are competitive and Lia is such a competitive kid. And he wanted an opportunity to compete. He was told that he was going to come in and compete and he didn’t really get that opportunity, so he wanted to use the spring to do that. But with the COVID-19 thing going on, he didn’t really have the opportunity to compete. He’s a competitor. He likes to work. He likes to compete on the field. And just, going into the season this year, he just felt that he wasn’t given that opportunity and he wants to take it somewhere where they’re going to give him the opportunity to make the best of his skill set.”

Galu and ‘Lia seems a little miffed that ‘Lia did not get a chance to earn the job last season when Tua Tagovailoa went down. On one hand, I can absolutely see why. Alabama staff burned his redshirt on a meaningless handoff and he never got the opportunity to get on the field, in live snaps, against SEC teams to show that he could play at this level. I’d probably transfer too.

For Saban’s part, you can see the calculus at work (at least partially): Alabama was in the thick of another playoff hunt. The 4-point loss to LSU was not necessarily a killer, not with the Auburn game still remaining, and not with LSU still staring down A&M and an SEC title game. Saban decided that the best option to win down the stretch was with the veteran Mac Jones.

But, and there’s a big but, he should have at least fed some snaps to ‘Lia against Michigan. Instead, Saban decided to play for the present season instead of roster retention. Does Bryce Young’s early signing insulate that decision-making from criticism, no matter how slight? I don’t think so. But, then again, I don’t make $10.9 million a year to make those decisions.

Listen to the scariest man in Alabama history — Coach Gene Stallings!

Gene Stallings joined Wimp and Barry Sanderson on Inside The Locker Room this morning to discuss Taulia transferring out of Alabama, the nature of the Alabama coaching job, the Texas A&M and Texas rivalry, Tua going to the Dolphins and more.

I have met every Alabama football coach from Perkins to Saban, and seriously, there’s only one that terrified me: Bebes.

The new, new normal? The NCAA is voting later this week to permit a June return for its student athletes. The SEC, if you recall from last week’s piece, is actually voting this Friday on whether to do so, and upon advisement of its medical council.

We know that in a strawpoll the preliminary vote was 13-1, with only Tennessee’s Phil Fulmer being opposed. So, this feels like a mere formality at this point, irrespective of what the NCAA permits nationwide.

Okay, that’s likely it for the day. We’re officially in the Summer doldrums. But, at this rate, we may get some “spring” coverage in just a few weeks.

Have a good one. Row Tahd.