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Jumbo Package: OL Emil Ekiyor, Jr. talks up Trey Sanders, JC Latham

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NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone.

Emil Ekiyor, Jr. spoke with reporters yesterday. He lost his grandmother to COVID last year, and expressed gratitude for the team’s support as he mourned. He also spoke glowingly of Trey Sanders.

“It’s really exciting to see Trey back out there,” Ekiyor said. “It’s been good to see him bounce back from his injury. We all know he had a tough time last year and just to see him out there breaking tackles, breaking long runs. It has been a really good feeling so really excited to see what he does this season and I’m sure he’ll produce in a big way.”

As Trey lay there after his horrific accident, waiting for the life flight helicopter to transport him for emergency surgery, the thought of whether he would walk or even live, let alone play football again, had to have crossed his mind. When people overcome that sort of adversity, it often fuels a fire in them unlike any that came before. By all accounts, Trey came in ready to make some serious noise.

Emil also talked up JC Latham.

“The ceiling for JC is unbelievable,” guard Emil Ekiyor said Thursday. “He’s a really good player. You can see why he was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school. He has all the tools. It was really exciting to see him progress throughout camp and spring ball, and I think he could be a really good player for us when he gets his chance to step on the field.”

Erick Smith over at USA Today published a bowl projection.

For now, the expectation is that the chalk prevails with Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State taking the four spots. That quartet has occupied 20 of the 28 places in the playoff field since the system began and at least three of them have been in the last six iterations. But don’t be surprised if there is at least one surprise. The foursome has never been in the same playoff.

Don’t be surprised if there’s a surprise, he said. He does have Tennessee somehow managing to qualify for bowl eligibility, facing Josh Heupel’s former employer UCF in something called the Gasparilla Bowl. Everything about that would be amusing. ESPN followed suit with their own projections, and they have Georgia in the playoff rather than Clemson.

The Athletic ranked every college football team, and you know where Alabama is.

Alabama (1) is still Alabama, and the king remains at the top until proven otherwise. Yes, the Heisman Trophy winner at wide receiver and the quarterback who set the FBS passing efficiency record are gone. But the receiving corps is still plenty talented, and new quarterback Bryce Young was the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2020. The bigger question might be how Bill O’Brien performs as the new offensive coordinator.

This is cool. Alabama’s rugby team got a kick out of being mentioned by Saban in reference to punter James Burnip.

“I mean, that was awesome,” Buckner said. “I started laughing, I thought it was hysterical. We’ll take any kind of shoutout we can get.”

Contrary to Saban’s remarks Wednesday, he has yet to make it out to one of the rugby team’s practices. However, in the unlikely event the football coach is able to clear out some time in his busy schedule this fall, he has an open invitation to come watch the rugby team at the university’s recreational fields.

“If he came out to practice, we’d probably have to hold the players back,” Buckner said. “They’d probably have to hold me back, too. He’s a brilliant coach, you can’t deny that. He’s phenomenal at what he does and there’s a lot I could learn from the guy.”

Cecil Hurt has a great piece on Gene Stallings recalling the famous 1993 Sugar Bowl win over Miami.

“If you can stop the other team and they can’t stop you from running the ball, you should win. I told everybody that. I understood why people thought Miami would win. They had won it the year before (dominating Nebraska 22-0 in the Orange Bowl). They were undefeated. They had some great players, but I thought we were better.

”Second, our attitude was right. We were ready to play. We got down to New Orleans and we had a meeting when we got there. I reminded them of what we were there to do and that was that. We didn’t have a single player miss curfew, didn’t have anyone late to meetings. I think there was a little jawing between the two teams on Bourbon Street the first night we were there, but it didn’t amount to much because we were already ready to play.”

I can’t read those words without hearing Gene’s baritone drawl. What a night it was.

Last, Steve Spurrier has Florida pulling the upset over Alabama.

Guess we’ll see how that turns out in a few weeks.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.