Happy Monday, everyone. It was a successful weekend, as the Gym Tide defeated Auburn despite two perfect 10s from Suni Lee, and some Auburn fans were very upset about it. They are desperate at this point to beat Alabama at anything.
Luisa Blanco countered with her own 10 for Alabama.
Meanwhile, the men’s basketball team got it done in Baton Rouge and the women took care of business at Mizzou. Kristy Curry’s squad is now a surprising 17-6 on the season including 6-4 in SEC play, and the next five games on the schedule are against teams in the bottom half of the standings. This is shaping up to easily be the best season of Curry’s tenure at Alabama.
Nick Saban spoke about what keeps him motivated to coach into his 70s, and the coach got a bit more introspective than usual.
“You got to build your team every year. The intangibles, the mental toughness, the discipline, all those intangibles things as well as how do I put these guys in the right places, get the right pieces together, feature the right players. So that’s still very challenging to me, but the one thing I think about … is I don’t want to ride the program down here.
“In other words, I want my age to be some kind of way, an impediment in continuing to be successful because people say ‘he’s too old now, he won’t be the coach when I’m there or whatever.’ When that starts to happen, I’m gonna say, ‘what I love to do is not as important as the program continuing to be successful.’
That last paragraph has to be a little sad for all Alabama fans. Nick, like a lot of coaches, has said before that he would stop doing it when he thought someone else could do it better, but this is the first time he’s talked about his age being a possible impediment and spoke candidly about prioritizing the health of the program over his own desire to keep coaching. He is coming to terms with his own shelf life despite pulling in another historically great recruiting class.
As you well know, Nick hired some coordinators this weekend. Not much to say about Kevin Steele, who knows Saban and his program very well and is now on his third stint in Tuscaloosa. As mentioned yesterday, I do wonder if Steele was brought in partially to mentor Austin Armstrong, who would pair with new OC Tommy Rees as a bright young tandem.
Speaking of Rees, he has already become a lightning rod within the Alabama fanbase. Chase Goodbread wonders if Saban chose Rees because of Tommy’s penchant for running the ball.
“I think (in 2021 and 2022), we’ve kind of gone more even to the drop-back passing, and that’s because of Bryce (Young),” Saban said on his radio show prior to Alabama’s Nov. 12 game against Ole Miss. “But I think in the future, we’ll get back to more of the conventional spread, run the ball, have more balance, RPOs, that type of thing. So what we’ve done now is to sort of fit what Bryce does best.”
It’ll be Rees’ job to fit what all 11 players do best, not just the quarterback.
And if that task meshes with his track record, the run-the-damn-ball crowd is about to get its way.
That quote spoke volumes to me about the offensive strategy the past couple of seasons, and it meshed with what we saw: a bunch of traditional dropback passing and Bryce taking his sweet time figuring out the pre-snap read. If we are to take Nick at his word, more running and RPO action will be young Tommy’s marching orders. There is no shortage of good backs, with Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams heading up a lineup that includes promising Jamarion Miller plus newcomers Justice Haynes and Richard Young, and speedy young scatback Emmanuel Henderson. Haynes in particular looks like he was built in a running back lab.
If you want a little positivity, this excerpt from NBC Sports last December should do.
In 2018, with Rees then the quarterbacks coach, the Irish also went unbeaten in the regular season, in no small part thanks to Rees navigating through a delicate transition from Brandon Wimbush to Ian Book at quarterback, electing to give the latter his first start in the fourth game of the season despite Wimbush not having lost a game.
This season, Rees guided the Irish through a similar situation, playing to the strengths of Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan, freshman Tyler Buchner and sophomore Drew Pyne — each of whom was largely responsible for at least one win on the schedule.
Meanwhile, the Irish offense averaged 416.1 yards per game this season. Its average of 35.3 points per game was good for No. 21 in the country — the second highest mark in Kelly’s tenure behind 36.8 points per game in 2019.
On Tuesday, The Athletic’s Pete Sampson reported LSU made Rees an offer with a $400,000 pay increase to join Brian Kelly’s staff in Baton Rouge, adding that Rees would prefer to remain with his alma mater.
So, the two highest scoring offenses during Kelly’s tenure in South Bend featured Rees as the QB coach (2019) and the offensive coordinator (2021), and the latter was accomplished with a patchwork QB situation after Book’s departure. Honestly, Rees probably looks at a room of Milroe, Simpson, Holstein and Lonergan like a kid on Christmas morning.
Nate Oats got a technical foul on Saturday, and this view shows that referee Pat Adams should be held to account.
Video of Alabama's Nate Oats receiving his first half technical foul: pic.twitter.com/K1nOTM8Jrg— Matthew Travis (@MatthewJTravis_) February 4, 2023
That, folks, is an official looking to give out a technical.
Last, Josh Jacobs finally got to be on Derrick Henry’s team... in flag football.
“Just to see Derrick, man, put in the work that he does,” Jacobs told Jim Wyatt, senior writer and editor for the Titans’ official website. “I remember after games, he’d have 25 carries and then go max squat right after the game. Just to see the attention to detail he had and the kind of person he was and what he wanted to accomplish, to see that he’s doing good in the league and one of the best if not the best doing it right now, it’s definitely a huge honor and privilege.”
Jacobs joined Alabama in 2016, part of a trio of backs that replaced Henry, with Jacobs and second-year players Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough combining for 2,416 rushing yards.
Jacobs and Henry were the top two rushers in the NFL this season. That’s the good news. The bad news is that neither of them made the playoffs, and only two of the top six rushers advanced past the first round, one of which played a first round game against another top six rusher. The lone exception is Miles Sanders, who really isn’t the focal point of the Philadelphia offense. The days of bellcow backs carrying teams to championships are long gone. The NFL is a passing league now, and it will likely stay that way.
That’s about it for today. Have a great week.