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Jumbo Package: Will Anderson demands “mean” defense, Bryce Young impressed with Jahmyr Gibbs and Jermaine Burton

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Georgia vs Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. It was a fairly uneven weekend as baseball dropped two heartbreakers in Starkville to lose the series and women’s basketball was eliminated from the NIT. Fortunately softball managed a needed sweep at South Carolina after a shaky start to conference play.

Alabama is well represented on the gymnastics All-America team.

Luisa Blanco led the way for the Tide, earning the honor on both the balance beam and uneven bars, both for the second year in a row. Lexi Graber brought home All-America honors on the floor exercise for the second year in a row. Makarri Doggette picked up All-America honors on the uneven bars for the third-consecutive year.

In all, 78 Alabama gymnasts have combined to earn 375 All-America honors. That total includes Championship All-America honors as well as Regular Season All-America recognition, which began in 2013.

Congrats to all. The Tide will compete in the regional semifinals on Thursday in Seattle.

Will Anderson is looking for a mean defense this year.

This is also a defense that will return considerable experience and talent from a 2021 group that underperformed at times early in the season. Anderson said he felt things coming together as the season entered the final stretch.

With veterans like DJ Dale, Anderson, Henry To’o To’o and Jordan Battle anchoring different levels of the defense, expectations will dwarf last year’s preseason.

“It’s just that we know the standard and know that we can play to the standard once we all gel and we play together as a team,” Anderson said. “But it’s no different. We still have that same mean streak and the same attitude. We’re just going to keep rolling with that.”

Let it be written, Will.

Bryce Young is impressed with Alabama’s two big newcomers at the skill positions.

— Young said Gibbs won several awards during the offseason conditioning program so he was impressed with his effort and drive.

— Burton, a rival just a few months ago, has a history dating back further than the SEC days with Young. They were both in high school in California at the same time so they knew each other before moving east. “We’ve been to the same camps, been in the same circles, so he was someone that I knew before college,” Young said. “He’s someone who came in and really has a really professional mindset as far as early, right when he transferred in, he wanted to know the plays, wanted to know the system.”

Those two will go a long way toward determining Alabama’s success this season.

The leadership group got a new addition.

“We added DJ Dale to the leadership group because he’s emerged as a leader in the offseason program,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said.

To’o To’o and Young agreed that Dale has stepped up as a leader during the Fourth Quarter offseason workout program and spring practice, which is just wrapping up its first full week. Dale said him taking his leadership to the next level wasn’t a conscious decision, though.

“I think it just happens naturally,” Dale said. ”I’ve been in a room where I’ve had different leaders. For example, my freshman year, Raekwon (Davis) was kind of the guy. Then for the past couple years, Phil Mathis has been the guy. I’ve just tried to take different things and learn from them.”

The defense has a boatload of veteran leadership this season, but the offense could use a few guys stepping up next to Young. Perhaps Gibbs and Burton will be among them.

Tua should have a chance to shine this year.

“Me watching him, he’s as accurate and as precise as anyone I’ve ever seen. I’m excited to work for him, protect him — myself and the other guys who are up there with me. It’s going to be fun.”

Hill noted the same quality about Tagovailoa during his introductory press conference that Armstead did. Hill thinks the former Alabama All-American’s precision passing and the speed that he and fellow Miami wide receiver Jaylen Waddle possess will add up to big plays in the 2022 season.

“Tua is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL,” Hill said, “so just his ball placement, getting us the ball in space, perfect placement and us just utilizing our speed, utilizing our best asset, and that’s just being dangerous.”

For the first time in his career, Tua seems to have a functional offensive coaching staff and ample weapons. Hopefully the additions to the OL will shore up the pass protection.

Last, Lane Kiffin put on his best capri pants to throw out the first pitch of the Ole Miss vs Tennessee baseball game... and used a golf ball.

As you likely recall, a golf ball was one of the items thrown onto the field by trashy Tennessee fans when the Rebels visited Neyland last fall. This is very Lane but didn’t keep the Vols from sweeping Ole Miss on their home field.

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

Roll Tide.