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Jumbo Package: JC Latham looks to lead a “ruthless” OL in 2023

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

Alabama v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Yesterday’s notes further support the notion that Nick Saban is intent on improving the run game.

Whether from Saban or UA’s returning starters, the desire of the offensive line this offseason is to get back to a level of physicality and toughness the program feels has been missing of late. Right tackle JC Latham said he wants his unit to be “ruthless,” while Darrian Dalcourt, who has worked at both center and guard, is trying to bring back the “nastiness” of past O-lines. Those two have experience, as do Seth McLaughlin and Tyler Booker. They will all look to play with a renewed mindset while Elijah Pritchett, Terrence Ferguson and others join the fray.

Jase McClellan is at the front of the list. The senior running back missed a good chunk of his sophomore season because of an ACL injury before returning to the field in 2022 where he finished second on the team with 112 carries and 665 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. McClellan also caught three passing touchdowns.

Also back with McClellan is senior Roydell Williams. He tallied 250 yards and four touchdowns in 2022.

Williams praised the group’s versatility on Monday.

On Haynes: “His speed, being able to catch out of the backfield. ... Overall, just a very, very smart kid. He’s about his business and knows what to do.”

On Miller: “He learns quick. He picks up things well. Great pass protector. Great runner, very powerful runner.”

On McClellan: “Me and Jase, we’re best friends for real, for real. He’s a great guy as well. Off the field, we hang out a lot. I mean there’s really not much to say, but he’s a great guy.”

Like so many debates nowadays, people often seem to talk past each other when it comes to the need for “balance” in the offense. It isn’t necessarily important for a team to run the ball a certain percentage of the time, but it is critical that they are able to run the ball effectively. If you can’t block up the front side of the zone run, the RPOs and packaged plays are substantially less effective as the backside LB who is typically put in conflict simply stays home and takes away the pass. Hopefully this year’s offensive line really does have that mean streak mentioned above. The running backs certainly seem to be a strength.

Count Clark Lea, Tommy Rees’ former counterpart at Notre Dame, among those who believe his experience will help manage the current QB competition.

As Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea saw it, Rees handled the situation with both confidence and empathy as a former Fighting Irish quarterback himself. He had to make sure Book was fit for a spotlight role while still managing to keep Wimbush engaged.

“That was a challenging situation that took a lot of skill, and he had built the relationships to make sure it was handled well,” said Lea, now Vanderbilt’s head coach. “Tommy got Ian ready for the moment, but he also kept Brandon connected to the mission.”

Notre Dame ran the rest of the regular-season table under Book that year and reached the College Football Playoff.

The ideal scenario would be that Alabama has two outstanding QBs in the running, and it will simply be a matter of someone winning a tight race.

Peyton Manning has a new comparison for Bryce Young, and Mel Kiper’s latest intel has Bryce headed to Carolina.

“I think Brees and Russell Wilson are kind of the easy comparisons because of the size similarities,” Manning says during the half-hour episode that airs at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN2. “But when you talk to real scouts — Burrow is kind of the guy that comes to mind, right? Because of, sort of, the sixth sense in the pocket, the decision-making, processing information quickly.

“I’m not saying Bryce is going to have that same success as Joe right away. But I think the instincts that Joe has that Bryce had, the ability to beat the coverage keeps a lot of plays alive. ... Recognition, processing, instincts, you see a little bit of Joe Burrow in Bryce Young.”

Young or C.J. Stroud? Stroud or Young? I think the Panthers are homing in on one of these passers after they traded up to No. 1. In my post-free agency mock draft, I went with Stroud, who fits the physical mold of quarterbacks new Carolina coach Frank Reich has worked with over the past decade. I’ve heard too many rumblings about the front office and coaches liking Young, though, and my pals Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter believe Young is the guy as well.

We will find out in a couple of weeks.

Last, Nate Oats is looking to settle a score for Alabama.

Alabama has faced Creighton twice in program history, and the Bluejays have won both matchups. Creighton picked up those wins in 2012 and 2016.

The first game was in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as Creighton beat Alabama 58-57. Josh Jones blocked Trevor Releford’s 3-point attempt for the win in the final seconds. Bluejays coach Greg McDermott was coaching then, too.

Then the Bluejays beat Alabama 72-54 in 2016 in the first round of the NIT.

Trevor Releford was fouled.

That’s about it for now. Have a great day.

Roll Tide.