To me, this was the most important news over the past 24 hours: The Alabama S&C program has not fallen off following the departure of Dr. Rhea to the New Orleans Saints. Fortunately for Alabama, Nick Saban was able to retain Rhea’s shadow, David Ballou, who has kept the core program in place:
“It’s been really smooth,” Saban said Wednesday of the transition. “Dr. Rhea did a great job for us, but the people we have in place know the system. They worked it for several years. Dave Ballou is the guy that implements the whole thing, so that hasn’t changed.
“So I don’t think anybody would really notice a difference. I don’t think we skipped a beat because the people we have are good people and we like to develop from within. Those people have developed very nicely.”
As much publicity as the Tide’s offensive revamp has gotten, the change of direction in fitness performance may loom every bit as large, and over the long-term may even have a bigger impact. I’m so glad Coach Ballou stayed, and wish Dr. Rhea well. He very clearly loved his stay in Tuscaloosa, but you don’t turn down NFL money and NFL prestige when you have that window of opportunity.
He left the program in a better, more sustainable place. And it just so happens to be a trajectory that is continuing “without a skipping a beat.”
Roll Damn Weight Room
It’s official, the Sun Beast is getting even more competitive than it already had grown to become. Yesterday, Old Dominion and Marshall and Southern Miss settled with CUSA, and will become full-time SBC members as of this season.
Marshall figures to be an immediate title contender. ODU is tough out, with its lethal passing attack and young energetic staff. And while SoMiss has stunk of-late, it is one of the region’s most storied midmajors and a huge draw for talented players that can’t qualify in the SEC. You figure they won’t stay down forever.
Throw into that mix: powerhouse Appalachian State, ULL, a Bowden-led resurgence at ULM, the Directional Georgias, a steadily improving South Alabama, a rebuilding Arkansas State team that Butch is apt to turn around fairly quickly (after he hits the portal for some defenders), and Troy, and you’ve got a hellaciously tough little conference. It may not have the splash of the MWC, or the top-tier elite of the AAC, but the lil’ ole’ Sun Belt may just be the most competitive conference in football.
Those paycheck games are going to get a lot harder.
Nick Saban spoke on Spring Practice, and while most of his remarks centered around development of younger players, one item struck me in particular: the seeming last man out, Jaylen Moody.
As for Moody, Saban said, “Jaylen has certainly been a guy who has made a lot of positive contributions to the team in a lot of ways. He’s always accepted his role. He’s been a great special teams player for us. Been a really, really solid backup player; when he’s played he’s played he’s been able to play very well.
“I also think when guys have been in that role, they have to understand what goes with being the starter. You have to challenge yourself to be ready and prepared to play with great consistency and performance. We want him to come out of spring and prove to himself and everybody else that he’s very capable of doing that.”
We’ve been waiting to see Moody on the field, and wondering why he’s not taken that step to becoming a starter. While Saban was generally positive, reading beween the lines it seems that Jaylen just hasn’t done the right things consistently enough to earn the right to be on the starting 22. I’m not going to catastrophize or suggest we chase him off, but that’s usually how players land in the Portal. Keep an eye on this after Spring ball concludes.
With the start of Spring football comes the annual articles all posing some variation of the question, “what is the biggest question for each team.” Sallee takes a stab at it on CBS, but I think it’s a very glib analysis:
How to replace the star receivers ... again: It seems like replacing stud receivers with stud receivers has become an offseason tradition in Tuscaloosa, and this spring is no different. Jameson Williams, John Metchie III and Slade Bolden — three of Alabama’s top four pass-catchers from last season — are gone, as is tight end Jahleel Billingsley.
Alabama has questions at receiver to be sure, but I’d put that concern well below others that are far more pressing and self-evident. The first obviously being integrating new coaching staffs and sorting out the offensive line. But not very far behind those, I would be very concerned about the loss of Phidarian Mathis. Phil’s long-predicted breakout season was the reason the Tide fielded its most productive DL since the historical 2016 group. If UGA was 1A, then Alabama was 1B and the very best unit in the country alongside the Dawgs. It was a Bama front seven led the nation in TFL and sacks, and Phil was a critical reason for that.
Last season, I had a mantra for the hoops team that I developed sometime around Christmas, and it grew louder each underperforming week after another: Blow the damn thing up.
As in: torch the roster, march into Babylon and fire its walls, put everyone to the sword, divert the river over the rubble that remains, salt the earth, and practically start from scratch...
It seems we are in fact heading that direction.
Jusuan Holt yesterday became the third ‘Bama player to enter the transfer portal, and I very much think he won’t be last loss either. For instance, Some NBA team is going to fall in love with JD Davison’s raw athleticism; Juwan Gary became a missing man as the season went along, and so on down the line. Chuck Bediako, Keon Ellis, and Noah Gurley seem to be the safest core group of returners. But if you thought this year’s turnover was bad, wait until you see what Alabama resembles next season. It won’t even remotely be the same team (nor hopefully the same type of one either).
The Alabama Gymnastics team touched down in Seattle yesterday, for one of the nastiest regionals in the country — one that features the No. 12, No. 22, No. 18 and No. 4 teams in the country after a 3000 mile road trip. The Utah Red Rocks in particular are team to watch, as they, Michigan, Florida, and Oklahoma are heavy favorites this year.
Alabama has advanced from regionals 38 straight seasons, but this year could see that streak end, as the Tide faces both a new format and must do so largely without the services of its sole All-American, Luisa Blanco. Blanco hurt her ankle badly two weeks ago, and the only event she can compete on is the uneven bars. That is doubly concerning, since she’s also Alabama’s best all-arounder, its best beam performer, and the defending Beam national champion. Honestly, I’m stunned she’s even participating at all.
There are some outstanding Freshmen to watch though, and Lexi Graber in particular has elevated her performance down the stretch. So, hope for the best, but it’s a tough uphill climb for Bama.
The major news for the FOGs out there
and pro football meatheads, is that Alabama hosted its annual Pro Day yesterday. No one in the country rolls out the red carpet quite like Nick Saban and the Tide. There were a bunch of takeaways, so I’ll bullet-point these for you:
- Nick Saban in particular praised Evan Neal and B Rob in his afternoon remarks, and honestly, it’s hard to fault him doing so for either.
- No one in the country made more money in one year than did Jameson Williams (who is expected to be ready by training camp, BTW): From a backup to All-American, Biletnikoff finalist, and first-round lock, the speedy Williams is out here crootin’ and praisin’.
- All of Saban’s remarks are here, in both vidya’ and readin’ format.
- Nine Bama players flashed their skills for the Shield, and the general consensus is that nearly all of them had great showings. In particular Evan Neal, who did not compete in the Combine, had a great workout and again is in the picture to potentially be the No. 1 overall selection, which would be an Alabama first.
- Someone had to throw to those players on Pro Day, it may as well have been Bryce Young, right? Call it for what it was: An early evaluation for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Alrighty, that’s all for now. We’ll see you folks later. Roll Tide.
Where does Brian Robinson, Jr. get drafted?
This poll is closed
First Round. GUMP SO HARD
He’s played himself into second or third round consideration.
He’ll be a mid-or-late round pick. His game is fairly limited, but he has a future as a backup or in a rotational system.
Mr. Irrelevant, last pick of the draft.
Undrafted free agent