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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

A-Day is just around the corner.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Wanna start your day off with some warm fuzzies?

“In 2015, as I came out of that and had got fired at USC, gone to recovery, started working on me personally and then coming out of that, not being able to get a job,” Sarkisian said.

“Somewhere in there, somebody’s got an extended olive branch to you. In 2016 I was ready to go do t.v. I couldn’t get an interview for a job. Nick Saban saved my career. He offered me an analyst job, and I was willing to do it for free, but he said, I got to pay you $30,000, so you can get benefits. I said, okay. I’ll do that.

I’m forever indebted to him because at that time somebody in life has got to give all of us a second chance. It totally changed my perspective. It changed my perspective on how I coach, how I deal with our players because everybody’s going through stuff, right? Everybody’s got stuff. Whatever what your stuff is, you just try to get through it and if I can be that guy that can extend that olive branch to our players as we go through this journey, I always lean back to that time because here’s the greatest coach of all time in our era. For whatever reason, he saw something in me to give me a chance to give me a shot.

From there, he actually makes me the offensive coordinator for the National Championship game against Clemson. I was an analyst. I wasn’t even a coach. I call that game. It was an amazing game. Jalen Hurt scrambles and scores. Deshaun Watson goes down, wins the game. Coming out of that game, Dan Quinn offers me the offensive coordinator job at the Atlanta Falcons. I’m thinking, Kyle Shanahan just goes to the 49ers. I’m going to go to the Atlanta Falcons and I go do it for two years.”

Awesome stuff from Sark here talking about Nick Saban. We’ll always remember Sark fondly for the high-octane offenses he designed in 2019 and 2020 that, had it not been for an injured QB, would have most likely been back-to-back national champions.

As we prepare for A-Day, we’ve been seeing some rumblings on the tweeter about Justice Haynes looking very, very legit in spring practices:

From Matt Zenitz:

Justice Haynes, Caleb Downs among Bama freshmen to impress

Five-star defensive back Caleb Downs and highly ranked running back Justice Haynes are among the Alabama freshmen impressing this spring and already looking like potential factors for the Crimson Tide this season.

Downs, the top safety and No. 5 overall prospect in the 2023 class, is viewed internally as a potential starter.

Haynes is part of what Alabama feels should be a deep running back group. The unit includes senior Jase McClellan, who ran for 655 yards last year, other former top-100 recruits such as Roydell Williams and Jamarion Miller, as well as highly ranked newcomers such as Haynes and Richard Young, who is set to enroll this summer.

Haynes, the No. 2 running back and No. 33 overall prospect in the 2023 class, broke off a long run early in the Crimson Tide’s scrimmage last Friday. He later added a red zone touchdown run during which he ran through multiple defenders on his way to the end zone.

In addition to Haynes, Downs and some other top-ranked freshmen, a lesser-hyped Alabama freshman who has also generated some buzz this spring and has the Tide staff optimistic about his long-term future is four-star freshman wide receiver Cole Adams. Adams, an Owasso, Oklahoma native, ranked as the 38th-best wide receiver and 277th-best overall prospect in the 2023 class according to the On3 Industry Ranking.

There’s definitely some buzz going on, and a RB room consisting of Jase McClellan, Haynes, Roydell Williams, and Jam Miller has the potential to be awesome.

Cole Adams is the really interesting one in this report. The WR was a borderline 3 to 4 star prospect who didn’t play his senior season after a game 1 injury. He’s smaller, but has very legit track speed and ball tracking as a guy who can really excel as a deep threat. Of course, Alabama will have to have the right QB to take advantage of that.

“Last year was really a little bit of a growing experience,” said Arnold in his Naylor Stone Media Suite debut. “Kind of like the first time in my life I was playing corner, for real, and I really got a chance to get thrown out there in the fire and really grow from it. It’s kind of like something I use. My position coach, T-Rob, would go over the film from last year and really just grow from it and dissect it. I feel like it really made me a better player and better man last year.”

Arnold is one of only three Crimson Tide defensive backs on the roster with experience on the first-team defense, along with Kool-Aid McKinstry and Malachi Moore. With four starters turning pro this offseason, including cornerback Eli Ricks, Arnold has an opportunity to return to the starting lineup in his third year at Alabama, and he is focused on his development this spring.

“Really growing in my technique,” said Arnold of his offseason points of emphasis. “Understanding the game, watching the film, dissecting a lot of plays and just knowing where my teammates are and knowing where my help is and just benefiting from that.”

A Freshman All-American selection by the FWAA a year ago, Arnold recorded 45 tackles, eight pass breakups, one interception and one fumble recovery from his cornerback position. As he stated, adjusting to life on the boundary was new for Arnold, who was considered a 5-star safety out of Tallahassee, Fla., in the 2021 recruiting class, according to 247Sports’ rankings.

Arnold definitely took his lumps at times last year, but he also excelled at times. This despite the fact that he was a safety, RB, and WR in high school and had never played corner. We were all excited about his pure athleticism as a recruit, but the fact that he came from nowhere to win a starting job and hold his own in the SEC all season with such little experience is a great indicator of how high his future could be.

Again, credit to Coach TRob here, as last season felt like the first time in Nick Saban’s entire tenure at Alabama that neither of the outside corners were a risk to regularly lose to YOLO sideline balls... And that has to do with how TRob coached up their technique on staying in phase and tracking the ball.

With Kool-Aid and Arnold locking down the corner spots, Alabama will be afforded a little breathing room to find three new starting safeties.

Anyway, Alabama’s athletic department threw us some measly scraps for practice “highlights” to appease all the miffed beat writers that haven’t had any more access than the average fan since Covid.

Take it for what you will. We’re all football-starved enough that it’s just nice seeing guys running around in helmets.

A couple of my own observations:

  • Kendrick Law looks more like a small linebacker than a receiver. If that dude puts things together, he could become a Deebo Samuel-like player.
  • Alabama is clearly showing equal amounts of Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson. I don’t think Eli Holstein is in the thick of the race right now.
  • C.J. Dippre hits that blocking dummy like it insulted him. I like it.
  • LB JUCO transfer Justin Jefferson looks lightning quick.