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Jumbo Package: Moving On — Tide welcomes back Charlie Strong, but says goodbye to Sal Sunseri

Combine, staff changes, cheatin’, and more.

Central Florida v South Florida Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

It has really come to this, hasn’t it? The NCAA is having to send letters to schools exhorting and reminding them that they cannot pay players for performance.

Stan Wilcox reminded administrators that the association’s current rules prohibit a school from compensating athletes for NIL, including “entities acting on behalf of the institution.” The memo also expressly stated that schools are prohibited from providing assets to “entities engaged in NIL,” such as priority points to stadium seating and access.

SI just so happened to include a stock image of a Texas A&M helmet with the piece. Probably a coincidence, I’m sure.

And many think that this rule is targeted specifically at malefactors like Aggie and Miami, among others.

Though the email does not mention a specific school, Texas A&M appears to be in the crosshairs.

On Feb. 15, Texas A&M’s fundraising arm, the 12th Man Foundation, announced the creation of the 12th Man+ Fund, an NIL initiative allowing donors to contribute to a fund that distributes payments to athletes. While the 12th Man+ Fund does not describe itself as an NIL “collective,” it operates as such while under the university—believed to be a first in the country that a school’s booster organization is so heavily involved in the NIL space.

Speaking of low-down, dirty snitches, in that that orange that you can’t sit with, four former UT coaches received the wages of sin yesterday, in a settlement with the NCAA.

The names of the staffers have not been disclosed, but none are believed to be Pruitt, and all are expected to serve lengthy show-cause penalties. The fact that #sauces do not believe that Pruitt is among them is likely bad news for Baldy — it means they are absolutely dropping a dime on Ole’ Jar’my.

What’s the practical effect here? Well, for the secondary figures, it means they can begin their punishment immediately, and not have their career permanently on hold even as they appeal, if they appeal. For the University and principals (like Pruitt), it means the NCAA will have a bifurcated case where they address the systemic institutional issues and the worst actors (like Pruitt). It also means that the COI have four new witnesses in their case against both Pruitt and the Vols.

I’ve been resolute on this since the evidence came down the pipe: Jeremy Pruitt will never coach at Alabama again. And, I seriously believe that he will never be a coach in major-division, major program football again either.

Not only was it cheating, not only was it stupid, and not only did he get caught, it would still be cheating by the standards of the laxity in place today.

You can blame Phil Fulmer for this: He got to waddle off into the sunset on a golden doughnut, while throwing Pruitt under the bus to save his own ass (and the buyout); he got to weaken Alabama in the midst of a dynastic run; and he got to permanently sabotage one of its native sons and a man who almost certainly would be on the Tide sidelines had it been an issue of things just not working out.

But, ultimately, the blame does still fall on Pruitt. He was not ready for a program; everyone who knew Pruitt knew that...except for Pruitt, who did not know himself or his core competencies. And that’s a shame. He’s one of the best hands-on coaches I’ve ever seen, and absolutely the best DC of the Saban tenure.

This is very akin to a Greek tragedy, but with chaw and a drawl...just don’t ask ‘em to pronounce “hubris.”

So, NFL franchises are really gonna’ do this? Talk themselves into a career 54% passer with a meager 2:1 TD/INT ratio, and among the least efficient passers in the SEC?

Looks like it.

Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports made the bold prediction that he’ll be the first player off the board in April. “I think Richardson is going to emphatically remove the lid from Lucas Oil Stadium at the NFL Scouting Combine,” Trapasso wrote. “Richardson has similarities to Jalen Hurts and All-Pro upside.”

They sound like women I counseled in DV shelters, swearing that this time will be different, that they can really change him. Alongside Will Levis, this dude is going to get some GMs fired.

But the really fun speculation to watch is whether freshly-arrested Jalen Carter is the first defender off the board, or all-everything Cyborg of Hate, Will Anderson is. Not really sure why they’re overthinking this one either: in modern football, you pay five positions and they all revolve around the passing game and QB — the guy who throws it, the guy who protects him, the guy who catches it, the guy that tries to stop it, and the guy that chases him.

Jalen Carter is an outstanding defensive tackle whose play generally shows up more in the guys around him than on his own stat sheet. But at the end of the day, those aren’t the players you scheme around...and he has disappeared against solid offensive line units. In the last two seasons, he averaged 1.2 tackles a game against opponents in the Top 50 of efficiency. And in the NFL everyone is better than Mizzou or Kentucky or Ohio State. That’s not good production, even at his position.

Relatedly, Will Anderson spoke yesterday on the single toughest player he’s faced. The name likely won’t surprise you: Texas’s Bijan Robinson.

“Bijan Robinson, the running back from Texas,” said Anderson. “He was a big back, we had to gang tackle him, we had to get all hats to the ball. He was gonna break a few tackles, we had to tackle him the right way, but he was probably the toughest person I played in college football.”

That’s fair. Robinson is a lot like Najee. He’s a big back that runs powerfully, hits like a damned freight train, has soft hands, an extra gear, great footwork and is just generally everything you want in a pro. Nothing but respect for Bijan...and doubly so after the Cyborg of Hate said he was a load.

One guy who was on the early radar for ‘Bama’s OC position, Freddie Kitchens, is now off the market. The Tarheels scooped up the Tide alum and 16-year NFL veteran to coach Tight Ends. He was just down the road in Columbia, where he was an offensive analyst for Shane Beamer and the USC Gamecocks last season.

Now this is a good pickup.

SI is reporting that Nick Saban has hired one of his long-time buddies and well-regarded defensive guru Charlie Strong.

Alabama has hired former Texas and Louisville coach Charlie Strong as a defensive analyst, according to Sports Illustrated, adding yet another well-known name to take his turn through Nick Saban’s extended coaching staff. Strong, who most recently served as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Miami under Mario Cristobal in 2022, will reunite with Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who held the same position last year with the Hurricanes. Strong recently stepped down from his position after he was passed over for Lance Guidry to become the Hurricanes’ sole defensive coordinator.

Imagine running such a tire fire of a program that you’d let Charlie Strong walk to Alabama to make $28,000 instead of letting him run the defense. Strong may have had his weaknesses as a head man, but he’s never been incapable of fielding ferocious defensive units.

This is a great offseason get for the Tide, and one that I think even the most jaded among us won’t question. Not naming any names here, or anything.

But, even as one man arrives, a long-time ‘Bama mainstay is heading out. Sal Sunseri is leaving the Capstone to go to the new It team.

Alabama senior special assistant to the head coach Sal Sunseri is expected to leave the Capstone and head to Colorado to join Deion Sanders staff, according to senior national college football reporter for On3Sports Matt Zenitz.

Coach Prime may wind up not working out with the Buffs, but it’s certainly not for lack of talent on the sidelines. The staff he’s assembled is legitimately good as position coaches and recruiters.

This is a cool story on storylines to watch for the 2023 season.

Among them:

  • Jimbo Fisher’s hot seat
  • The Spring unveiling of the new SEC schedule with the addition of two new dust bowl carpetbaggers thrown into the mix (including permanent rivals. My guess is that we get A&M or LSU for the ‘Horns and then Arkansas or Mizzou for the Pokes. Perhaps even Alabama, since it seems like we always have to play the Dirt Burglars in multiple sports every season.
  • Just what exactly has Hugh Freeze has gotten himself into. And though national heads won’t say it, I will: Now that everyone can pay players, what exactly is Hugh Freeze all about anyway? Teams like UGA, LSU, A&M, UT (both of them), Oregon, USC, OSU, and Miami all have incredibly deep war chests. Alabama has the cachet. Michigan is Michigan, and finally has become that playoff team that they always threatened to. UGA and Clemson have cracked open the door to national relevance.
    When you can’t straight up buy players anymore, is Freeze just Air Raid Jimbo Fisher? We shall see.

Much more over here.


We joked last week about Ha Ha getting an ass-chewing from Saban. They are legendary. Byron Young is even more scared of Saban than his parents. LOL.

That’s it for now. We’ll be back later with some Hoops for you in this week’s Points in the Paint. Bracketology is likely on deck for Friday.

Roll Tide