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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

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National Signing Day seems a bit... Lackluster... For Alabama this year

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Alright, so my real-life job has me a bit stretched thin at the moment, so you’re going to a rather abbreviated amount of commentary on the links today. Please see Josh for a #refund.

Plus, it’s National Signing Day Pt. II, the Afterthought. There’s unlikely to be any big news other than us all breathing a sigh of relief when Camar Wheaton officially signs with the Tide. Please check out CB969’s open thread to stay up to date on the whole event.

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban announced the addition of Jay Graham to the Crimson Tide coaching staff on Tuesday as the special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.

“We are pleased to be able to add Jay Graham to our staff,” Saban said in a release. “Jay is well respected across the country for his knowledge of the game and his ability to recruit. He has experience at numerous schools across the SEC footprint with a proven track record for his ability to teach the game and develop young men both on the field and in life.”

Graham owns 15 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level and arrives at Alabama after one season as the running backs coach at Tennessee. He helped Eric Gray flourish in the Volunteers’ offense, averaging 4.9 yards per carry while rushing for 772 yards and four scores while Ty Chandler added 456 yards on the ground a four TDs.

It’s a move we’ve known about for a week now, but Alabama has now officially hired Jay Graham. The dude has quite the resume of coaching experience, and I particularly like the blend of special teams coordinating with being a former RB coach. Might we see a specialization in kick/punt returns?

He was also the primary recruiter that pulled Cam Akers away from Alabama in 2017, and I don’t think Nick Saban ever forgot that. Make no mistake, Graham is coming in to be a major recruiting force for the Tide.

“Todd has a long history as a successful high school coach in Alabama and more recently in the college game on the operations side,” Saban said in a release. “We are excited to add his knowledge and experience to our staff. Todd has always been someone we have had the utmost respect for as a person and a coach.”

Prior to his time in Knoxville, Watson served as the Director of Operations and High School Relations at Troy from 2015-17. The Trojans combined to go 20-5 over his final two seasons and shared the Sun Belt Championship with Appalachian State in 2017.

Watson was one of the most successful high school coaches in Alabama before joining the staff at Troy. He posted a record of 80-36 in 10 seasons as the head coach at Foley High School, where he coached former Alabama standout and Atlanta Falcons’ All-Pro Julio Jones along with future NFL players such as Robert Lester and D.J. Fluker.

Oh, and Saban also just picked up one of the best high school coaches from the last decade to be his “special assistant.” Who knows what all Watson’s responsibilities will actually be, but I wonder if Nick is planning on him being a long-term support staff type, or grooming for an on-field coaching role?

“(Najee Harris) definitely deserves to be a first-round pick, and, hopefully, he gets the opportunity,” Henry said. “The things he did this year, it was just unbelievable. He’s great at running the ball, great at catching the ball. He is the full package. It’s what you want from a guy coming in and being a Day 1 starter at the running-back position.”

When Henry left Alabama, he held the school career record with 3,591 rushing yards. Harris surpassed that mark with 3,843. With 46 rushing touchdowns, Harris broke the Alabama career record of 42 that Henry shared with Mark Ingram.

Harris closed his Alabama career by scoring 30 touchdowns in 2020 – 26 rushing and four receiving. That broke Henry’s SEC single-season record of 28 touchdowns from 2015 and his conference mark of 168 points in one season.

The king of rushing in the NFL over the last two seasons has spoken.

If I’m betting, though, I bet Najee Harris gets drafted near the top of the second round. I think his lack of breakaway top-end speed will scare off some of the late 1st round teams who will be looking for more luxury picks rather than needing a running back who just consistently gobbles up first downs.

That said, I could definitely see Green Bay picking him up at the end of the first if they let Aaron Jones walk in free agency.

“We’ve just gotta keep playing hard, can’t get complacent,” senior forward Alex Reese said. “This is the best start we’ve had since I’ve been here, so we can’t get complacent. We’ve just gotta keep working, getting in the gym every day, staying in the gym, staying in shape, all that type of stuff just to not fall off from where we were in January.”

Sophomore guard Jaden Shackelford added, “We’ve just gotta beat the statistics. We’ve done it so far this year, and I feel like this team is more than capable of having a winning February going into March. I feel like if me and the guys lock in then it’s nothing we can’t change.”

Reese chimed back in with, “This team’s different than the years past.”

The words are nice, but this team has a lot of injury-related wear and tear to overcome. We’ve seen them fall apart in February after nice starts the last couple of seasons, so getting that monkey off their back this season would be huge. But it’s not going to be an easy task with so many injuries mounting up.

Finally, here’s your positive story for the day:

Nick Saban and, by extension, the Alabama Football program operate on traditions.

Whether it’s leading the team onto the field with “Thunderstruck” blaring throughout Bryant-Denny Stadium or his pregame walk across the field capped off with a kiss from his wife Terry, Saban is meticulous about his routines.

Now that the Crimson Tide has secured its 18th national title, another esteemed tradition will continue. Saban’s foundation, Nick’s Kid’s, will once again partner with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a local family.

Ellen Potts, the Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity in Tuscaloosa, said the tradition started after the April 27, 2011 EF-4 tornado tore through the Druid City.

Thanks to donations from the Nick Kid’s Foundation, Habitat volunteers built 13 houses to commemorate each of the national championships the Crimson Tide had won to that point.

Roll Tide to that!