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Jumbo Package: Alabama Football leaning on a rising junior class for new leadership

Kool-Aid McKinstry and J.C. Latham have gone from newbies to veterans seemingly overnight

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama opponents punted to the Tide 80 times last season, and most of the time McKinstry was back to return. Bama returned only 26 of those, 21 by McKinstry, returning them for 332 yards, an average of 15.8 per chance.

And chance is the operative word.

Most opponents decided on the cautious approach, either high, short punts to be fair caught or booting them out of bounds; not taking a chance.

Where does the time go?

It seems McKinstry just brought his electric game to Alabama, and now the 6-1, 195-pounder is preparing for his junior season. Bama is in spring practice, aiming towards an April 22 A-Day Game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

One of this biggest grudges I hold in my sports heart is when Texas wouldn’t punt the ball in bounds to Javier Arenas, and he wound up like 20 yards short of the national career punt return yardage record.

Similarly, seeing Kool-Aid get so few opportunities to return punts after the first half of the season was a bit disappointing. Alabama got good field position all season because of the conservative punts, but still.

And can you believe Kool-Aid is already a junior? I swear some players age faster than others.

JC Latham is one of the top returning starters from Alabama’s offense of a year ago, regardless of position. The junior offensive tackle didn’t mince words on Wednesday when asked what he wants the identity of the Crimson Tide’s offensive line to be in 2023.

“I want us to be ruthless,” said Latham before spring practice No. 2. “Every time we line up and get ready to hike the ball, I want them to be scared of us. I want them to understand that we’re gonna hit them in the mouth every single play and get ready to play for four quarters.

Well, he’s saying what Alabama fans definitely want to hear. Now, actually following through with that has been a problem for Alabama’s offensive line the last couple of seasons. Of course, judging my the most recent round of roster weight adjustments, Coach Wolford has his entire OL really beefing up.

Even Seth McLaughlin is finally over 300 pounds.

Two players who would have become unrestricted free agents instead became the subject of non-exclusive franchise tags. That extended the Raiders’ period to negotiate with running back Josh Jacobs (Alabama) until July 17. Washington didn’t need the extra time: Defensive tackle Daron Payne (Shades Valley, Alabama) signed a new deal with the Commanders last week.


Jacobs still can negotiate with other teams, but if he gets an offer better than the value of the franchise tag — $10.091 million for the 2023 season – the Raiders have the option to match it and keep Jacobs or receive two first-round draft picks from his new team.

If you’re interest, Mark Inabinett did the Lord’s work for us and put together a whole huge list of players in the NFL that either played for Alabama or came from Alabama high schools that have been involved in free agency this year.

And, seriously, congrats to Josh Jacobs for getting $11M this year fully guaranteed before moving on to an actual free agent deal next year. Nobody is giving up 2 firsts for a running back, but as long as he continues to perform well next season, getting paid top of market for one year before getting a multi-year deal is really the way to go for a position that is such short-lived.

Harris comes to work with coach Sean McDermott in Buffalo after four seasons with Nick Saban at Alabama and four seasons with Bill Belichick at New England.

“I feel like I should be able to write a book with all the knowledge that I’ve gained from those two,” Harris said. “I would say just the things that I’ve taken from both of them is how to be a professional and how to conduct yourself in a professional manner from the way you show up every day ready to work, the mentality that you have, the way you affect others and then, obviously, the way you prepare and the way you perform. Professionalism, I feel like it covers so much ground and so many different things that that word is kind of what resonates with me.

“I feel like with coach Saban at Alabama, he started to introduce me to what it means to be a professional and how to become a professional. And then once I got to New England, one thing that coach Belichick was great at teaching was how to maintain that level of professionalism. That way you can maintain success throughout your career, so I want to be a pro’s pro. I want to do everything the right way, I want to positively affect my teammates, I want to be a positive light in the locker room and the organization, and I want to help us win. To me, that’s what being a pro is because everybody’s got a job. My job is to come in here and be a pro football player and do that to the best of my ability.”

Damien Harris will forever remain one of my favorite Alabama players of all time, and also one of the Tide’s most underrated ones. Even a 1-year 1.7M dollar deal seems like a lowball offer, so I hope he really goes off in Buffalo and earns himself a massive deal in 2024.

It should come as little surprise that Alabama resides high on this list. The Crimson Tide are the premier program in college football and its facilities are top-notch.

Crawford: ”Alabama’s Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility received a makeover prior to the 2020 season featuring a ritzy locker room area a new player entrance tunnel, lockers, a wall of program greats, digital walls and more. Per BamaOnline, Alabama also opened its new Sports Science Center, which features advanced treatment services and technology with spaces dedicated to cryotherapy, chiropractic, stretch, massage, relaxation, recovery and mental health services. One day after Oregon released photos and details of its multi-million dollar overhaul in 2013, Alabama did the same and the Crimson Tide’s contractors did not disappoint with continuous enhancements since. Alabama’s hydrotherapy room features four waterfalls and its entryway is pure national champion swag. Alabama’s $9.1 million, 37,000-square-foot weight room is top-notch.”

According to some very non-scientific survey gathering, high school recruits ranked Alabama as having the 3rd best football/athletic facilities in the country, trailing Oregon and Georgia.

Sorry guys, we’re probably going to have to postpone any improvements to basketball facilities, we have to totally redo all of football again to stay ahead of Georgia (who just overhauled i