One week out from Alabama’s semifinal CFP contest vs. the Cincinnati Bearcats, and the Tide finds itself suddenly down two coaches on the offensive staff:
“They have very mild symptoms and are home isolating while following all appropriate guidelines,” read the statement attributed to Nick Saban and head athletic trainer Jeff Allen. “We anticipate both being able to coach in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl.”
I mean, really, one of these may be addition by subtraction. But I’ll let you figure out which one.
Jokes aside, be safe this holiday.
One of Alabama’s chief defensive responsibilities in the Cotton Bowl will be containing Cincy’s Sr. Quarterback Dennis Ridder. He is not only a scrambling threat, but he’s a big kid playing behind a big line, and the Bearcats scheme designed runs for him as well.
Getting contain, setting the edge, keeping Ridder in the pocket, and some sound tackling at the point of attack are going to be critical. Because stopping those option runs limits the UC play-action game, which is where Cincy really makes hay on the offense.
Here’s more on that from Will Anderson.
Speaking of Playoffs, the CFP / NCAA have released their guidelines for dealing with the ‘Rona over the next two-plus weeks. They are particularly harsh too: No make-ups, no mulligans. You don’t suit up enough, you lose by forfeit.
Funny how the ‘Rona seems to strike just when a proud, ballyhooed team could be staring down a loss, huh? (I’m torn on whether to call this a Harbaughing or an Oregeroning). Yet, here we are: As Texas A&M announced its bowl cancellation yesterday, ostensibly owing to an outbreak.
As CB noted offline, this couldn’t at all have anything to do with Calzada entering the Portal, thus making Aggie rely on a freshman quarterback, right? Or several defensive linemen sitting out? Or the loss of DC Chris Elko?
Just so happens to be that their opponent is the ACC Runner-Up, and possessor of one of the nastier offenses in college football — a game where points will be needed and a solid defensive game plan necessary.
Nah. Total coincidence, I’m sure, although many are accusing Aggie of straight-up chickening out.
Instead....we get Rutgers. BLECH.
Three former ‘Bama football players made the NFL Pro-Bowl roster. But it was a curious group of selections, notable for who was absent as much as who was present — no PSII or Derrick Henry. The King’s snub was particularly egregious since despite missing the better part of two months, his stats are still better than all-but-one of the six players who did make the roster.
Many argued that Najee Harris also had a case (and TBH, if he played in the NFC, I suspect he’d have been on the roster at day’s end).
#BamaFatigue struck the NFL too, it seems.
This may be the mother of all dumb articles — and given the dreck that Scarbo, Wolken, and Goodman have cranked out over the years, that says something.
I’ll say it straight: bowl games are pointless. They have the same significance as participation trophies. You know the kind, those little awards given to elementary school students who finished a sports season, no matter the record. Yeah, those. The committee might as well say, “Congrats on your season, here’s a game against an opponent you’ve barely had a history with and means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things... but you get a big, shiny trophy if you win.”
In this “tell me you’re a Zoomer without telling me you’re a Zoomer”-moment, Raskins loses sigh of so many purposes of a bowl game. We’ll ignore what they mean to alumni and boosters, or to school coffers, or the additional practice and preparation for next years. We’ll focus instead solely on the players.
For the players it is a vacation; not a simple work trip. They get feted. They get swag. They get planned activities and interesting dining. They can have a holiday vacation with their friends after a grueling season, and just hang out after equally grueling finals — all without the pressure to win. They can see cities and play teams they ordinarily might not. For the vast, vast majority of D1 athletes, this jet setting is an experience they will not have as pros...because they’ll be going pro in auto and casualty at State Farm, not in the NFL.
And for the seniors, it’s their last chance to be with their teammates, their brothers in arms; it’s their last hoorah playing organized professional football. For people who have spent most of their life putting on pads and nurturing dreams, this is the farewell. Most of us do not have to come to grips with a forced retirement at age 22; these kids do. They have to move on to whatever comes next, to live life without the regimented and comforting familiar cycle of Spring and Fall camp, of Friday Night Lights and Saturday tunnel entrances; ice baths on Sundays; film room on Mondays.
For mature, professional adults this loss of the routine can be jarring. For those who’ve not even truly started yet, to lose all that they know is something significantly more difficult. The “Glory Days” and Uncle Rico tropes exist for a reason: the feeling of your best years behind you before your life even begins.
So, knock it off, think outside of your glib wisened box, and have some damned empathy.
I’m not sure what it is about Alabama Men’s Basketball where they have to crater every year around Christmas before trying to get their act together. But there are several distinct problems on this 2021-2022 team, and they point to three general factors: effort, toughness, leadership.
The defense has not been very good all year, and it has absolutely cratered over the last two weeks. That’s effort.
The team’s bigs bail on opponent shots almost immediately, giving up far too many offensive rebounds and second-chance points. And, even when they are in position, they are getting swatted away. That’s toughness and effort. (The Bigs in particular have been a no-show this year, and Gurley may as well be persona non grata; he offers nothing when on the floor.)
And there is an appalling lack of guys willing to do the dirty work that tourney-ready teams must in order to have a deep run in March. Keon Ellis tries, for sure. JDD is trying...but still learning. Shack and Q half-ass it far too much for my tastes.
This team is absolutely lacking in leave-it-on-the-floor leadership, especially on the defensive end — it is missing Herb Jones, in other words. But wishing for Herb to be reborn in a crimson jersey isn’t going to address 2022. Players actually living up to their potential and giving a damn on each possession will.
Alabama is a team that can beat anyone in the nation; it is also an inconsistent team that shows up when it wants to, has been soft as hell all year, doesn’t commit to defense, has far too much quit when the shots aren’t falling, and thus they can also lose to anyone in the nation, as well.
Nate Oats said it best, yesterday: Until the defense improves, this is going to just be an average team.
I reiterate once again: there is no amount of money on this earth that could get me to coach high-level basketball, and especially not a team of pro prospects. I think we are seeing the poison pill of all that talent — it is a difficult balancing act to manage those future pros, and it is has certainly made me appreciate the work that John Calipari and others have done for so long, so well.
As an Xs and Os guy, Nate is among the best in the business. But I think we are seeing what happens when faced with this new skilset that must be mastered: managing talent, getting them to buy-in may be as large of a learning curve as any he’s faced in his career, or any he will face.
I know he’s not exactly the most humble guy that every graced planet earth, but it may be worth a trip for Nate Oats to bring a bottle of Bruichladdich up to Lexington or Lawrence or Lansing, and pick the brains of experienced coaches who’ve been dealing with this for decades.
Despite all the talent that Nick Saban has sent to the NFL, he’s never sent a No. 1 prospect to the Shield. Could Evan Neal be the first? The Jags have the first overall pick, and Trevor Lawrence desperately needs the help.
FWIW, I think that would be committing suicide by draft. No offense to Evan — who is going to makes scouts drool at the combine, and will be the first offensive lineman off the board — but barring a situation where there is a “live boy or dead girl” in his past, then Kayvon Thibodeaux is the best player on the board.
Be patient, Bammers. Saban will get his No. 1 pick in 2023, when Will Anderson, Jr. and Bryce Young go 1-2, in some order.
Alrighty, we’ll be back later with some efficiency analysis. For now, dig in. Roll Tide.