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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

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It may be the offseason, but there’s no shortage of Alabama news swirling around out there

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Though we’re at the time of year when there’s very little happening with actual players and roster moves, Alabama has managed to give us some news to talk about with the coaching staff.

Yesterday, we talked about the departure of the strength and conditioning duo in David Ballou and Matt Rhea. What went under the radar later yesterday, though, was that Rhea might have tipped everyone off:

In a subsequent tweet, Rhea revealed Paul Constantine will replace him at UA. Constantine served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Alabama and also worked with both Rhea and Ballou at Indiana. Crimson Tide fans have likely spotted Constantine during live game broadcasts, as he oftentimes holds onto the Ball Out Belt for defensive turnovers.

“And just so everyone understands, @BamaCoachPaul has been working with me for 4 years. He’s been studying hard and picking up ideas and methods. Now he’s ready to take it and bring his perspective to the system. Help the next guy and everyone benefits!”

I don’t yet know a whole lot about Constantine, but he is married to Janese Constantine, one of the assistant coaches for Alabama’s Women’s basketball team. I’ve also not seen any legit announcements that Constantine will take over as the head S&C guy, so we’ll continue to wait and see for sure if that is the direction that Saban goes.

In more coaching shuffle news, Saban has hired on another analyst:

Former Auburn wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams is expected to join Nick Saban’s staff as an analyst, sources told FootballScoop on Tuesday.

Williams joined Bryan Harsin’s new staff last year after six seasons at Troy, but was let go before the new regime’s first SEC game. The move came after Auburn had to piece together a second half rally to defeat Georgia State.

I won’t go into some of the rumors around Williams being unexpected released mid-season, but you can check out this Reddit post with comments from many Auburn fans if you’re interested.

Williams is a former Troy receiver that has spent time as an assistant coach for nearly every college in the state, including stops at South Alabama and UAB with Bill Clark, plus some time at North Alabama and Jacksonville State.

If anything he brings some local flavor to the coaching staff.

Alabama has already found success in-state with the class of 2023, now the focus turns national. The Crimson Tide is expected to host many blue-chip prospects this weekend for Junior Day.

Among them will be recent commits Jahlil Hurley and Elliot Washington. Both defensive backs, they’ll have the chance to be further sold on their decision as well as pitch some teammates and familiar faces also in attendance. In last year’s cycle, Thompson’s five-star and early-commit Jeremiah Alexander was a constant presence at recruiting opportunities, now Hurley and Washington can do the same. Who are the biggest names to watch?

Cormani McClain, Lake Gibson (Fla.) High: The highest-rated prospect set to be attendance, McClain is the country’s top cornerback recruit per 247Sports Composite and ranked third overall with an excellent ability to track the ball. McClain’s choices are favorited to be Crimson Tide and Florida. Last week, his birthday messages from teams went viral.

Recruiting is a never ending process, and Alabama is already looking to strike gold early in the 2023 class. Junior Day is right around the corner, and AL.com has a list of big-name visitors coming to town. There’s a long way to go until December, but it’s probably worth getting at least passingly familiar with a lot of these names, as we’ll be wringing our hands about them on message boards come July.

In a seemingly small, but possibly much bigger news, the NCAA is looking at some rule changes geared toward reducing the number of plays per game and speeding things up.

Treating incomplete passes the same as runs out of bounds. Beginning in 2008, the clock started after runs and fumbles out of bounds when the referee signaled “ready for play”. Previously, the clock started on the snap after such plays. The committee is considering treating incomplete passes the same way. The rule would be in effect until late in the half or game, perhaps the last 2-5 minutes, according to Shaw.

No longer stopping the clock after first downs. This is a foundational piece of college football that differentiates it from the NFL. This change has long been considered, but the game’s overseers have been hesitant, in part, because it would make the college game more like the NFL.

Personally, I’m a fan. This should reduce the number of total plays (and therefore increasing the relative impact of any given play), hopefully slightly reduce injuries, and also shorten the viewing length of the game a little bit.

The only issue I have is that is potentially devalues the strategic use of the running game in the early 4th quarter when a team is trying to kill the clock... They can still throw an incomplete pass and run out time up until the final few minutes rules kick in. That specific bit of game theory is a built-in mechanism for teams to be able make comebacks, as they can key in on an offense that’s locked in to obvious running plays.

Overall, though, I prefer the shorter games.

Finally, in hoops news, we got some quotes from both Noah Gurley and Nate Oats about Gurley’s decision to come back to Alabama for another year next season.

Previewing the Tide’s final home game against Texas A&M, Oats described where he believes Gurley can improve, as well as what he can provide in Year 2 at Alabama next season.

“He benefits from getting to play a second full season at a high-major level in a system he’s now comfortable with,” Oats said. “I don’t think he got comfortable in our system until midway through the year. And I think as his comfort level grew, he got more comfortable making shots as he knew where they were gonna come from. He’s a shooter that I think, with the work that he puts in and will put in this offseason, he could be a 40-percent shooter from three as a big. If you’re able to step out and make threes like he can – and I think he will next year – I think he can prove he can play professionally for a lot of money for a long time with his skillset.

“He’s gotta get to where he’s better on the glass. He’s gotta rebound the ball a lot better for us as a big. He can’t just show his guard skills, if you will, off as a big. He’s gotta do the stuff a big does, as well, which is rebound the ball and interior defense. The other thing: he can really score it in the post. He’s one of those guys that can go inside and outside where if you play him at the four and the other team’s playing a little smaller lineup, I think he can post for us. If you play him at the five and they’ve got a traditional five, he can stretch fives. But I think we can use him as a mismatch guy quite a bit next year kind of playing both those spots for us.”

While Gurley didn’t have quite the instant impact as a grad transfer as many Alabama fans had hoped, he’s still been a valuable contributor all season long for the Tide. Hopefully, with a season of getting comfortable with new teammates, new competition levels, and a new scheme, Gurley will become the stretch-big with outside scoring potential that we hope he can be.