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Jumbo Package: Both returning quarterbacks have made “good progress” through the Spring

This is a battle that won’t be answered on A-Day...and likely not until after Labor Day.

Auburn v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I’m honestly suprised. For years, we’ve heard Saban hit on those points he wishes to emphasize in Spring camp. Usually it’s about competing, finding leadership, etc.

Not this year. This year is back-to-basics:

“We’ve got to eliminate mental errors. Too many times, guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do and it leads to negative plays. So we’re constantly trying to teach guys cause and effect. When you do this and you don’t do it right, this is what happens. If you do it right, this is what happens. We have to get more consistency in performance, and I think it goes back to sustaining and maintaining intensity — the same way you have to finish a play — so that we eliminate mental errors, everybody can do their job and we can play better as a team. And that bleeds right into the other point of emphasis, which is penalties.

“It’s been a big emphasis for us this spring to eliminate penalties, and I think it goes back to the same thing. If I can maintain and sustain my intensity and focus on, whether it’s jumping offsides, whether it’s illegal motion, whether it’s wrong formation. And half of our penalties have been pre- or post-snap. In other words, they don’t happen during the play. And those things can all be eliminated if we just have a little bit of discipline, a little better focus and maintain intensity. So those are the things that we really want to emphasize.

I don’t wish to sound the cautionary klaxon just yet or anything, but Nick sounds like he is absolutely dialed-in on the coaching aspect of the job this year. I asked a few weeks ago if we were returning to a bygone era of accountability — The Process. The Alabama Way. This is now twice in as many weeks that Saban has emphasized precisely that, and is doing so with the Freshmen.

Talent alone won’t cut it this year, is what I’m reading. Execution is the handshake of this deal...and the begins with not drawing stupid penalties before the play even starts.

Alabama filled its final high school spot yesterday, with the NLI of 4-star SG/SF Kris Parker.

Parker was a Rivals100 recruit and the No. 17 shooting guard in the 2023 class. In his senior season with Crossroads (Fla.) Academy, he averaged 24.8 points per game and 14.2 rebounds per game. He was named the 2A player of the year as he finished 15th in the state in scoring while adding 7.1 assists per game.

Parker bolsters Nate Oats’ recruiting class to No. 17 overall as he brought in Sam Walters and Mouhamad Dioubate who have already signed their letters of intent.

Alabama has seen a wealth of defections and potential defections in the backcourt to both the NBA (Brandon Miller, Jahvon Quinerly) and the Portal (Jaden Bradley, Nimari Burnett). These are losses big and small. Bradley was going to be counted on to lead the team next year, and that is a larger loss. It is almost impossible to replace Miller. Burnett never rounded into the shooter he was expected to be, but was probably the best defender of all the guards. Meanwhile, after a hot conclusion to 2023, Q is testing the NBA waters, but has left his option to return open. I would bet at this moment, he’s not going to be drafted and could very well be back. (To say nothing of Clowney and Angry Chuck hitting the Draft, though Bediako will almost certainly be back, while Noah is a first round talent).

Offense needed. Kris fills that void.

Parker also fills another void, one that I discuss in the hoops end of year review: Bama needs someone that can put the ball on the floor and create their own shot. The Tide relied far too much on jump shots this season, and there just weren’t many people with the handle and skills to get from 21 feet to the rim.

Check out this filthy crossover and head fake:

Just as important for Coach Oats will be leveraging the Portal this year. Fortunately, Alabama stands a very good chance of landing CAA Player of the Year Aaron Estrada out of the portal. Yesterday, Estrada pared down his list, and Alabama made the four-team cut,

Just as Alabama needed someone to put the ball on the floor, the Tide’s system needs spot-up shooters. And Estrada is outstanding both slashing and creating space for deep perimeter looks.

He’s a perfect fit.

I’ve been unapologetic about this semi-spicy take: the only player that Alabama needed in the 2023 NSD Class was safety Caleb Downs. Not only is he special, but the lack of an other-world safety has hampered this defense to no end. You can trace the decline of Alabama defensive play back to the defection of Dax to Michigan. There was no Plan B. Then, when Plan B later came along, Terrion Arnold was pressed into service at corner, meanwhile Malachi Moore had the mother of all Sophomore slumps. It’s been rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic back there for years now.

Downs ends that mad dash, and he is a Day One starter...somewhere.

Caleb Downs, S, Alabama

Spring game: April 22 | 3 p.m. (SEC Network+)

Freshmen don’t play much at Alabama, but Downs isn’t a typical freshman. Rated the No. 1 safety and No. 1 player in Georgia, Downs is the kind of player who has spurned the Tide for the ‘Dawgs in recent years. But now, a player called one of the “safest bets in the class” by 247Sports Andrew Ivins will have a chance to compete for a starting safety spot after the departures of Brian Branch, Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams. His pedigree doesn’t hurt; Downs is the brother of North Carolina All-American Josh Downs, son of NFL running back Gary Downs and the nephew of Pro Bowl corner Dre Bly.

Speaking of end-of-year reviews, another sport I’m working on awaiting final results wraps up this weekend. While Alabama won’t be there, star Senior All-American Luisa Blanco will. She was the national champion last year on Beam, but was too inconsistent this year to return and defend that title. That’s okay, she added excellence to the Bars, and will be competing for a natty on a second event.

The Crimson Tide got off to a mediocre start on vault and couldn’t recover to beat out the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, No. 9 Kentucky Wildcats, or the Ohio St. Buckeyes. Oklahoma and Kentucky will compete at the Semifinals in Ft. Worth this weekend.

While the season didn’t go the way the team hoped, it still has one gymnast representing the university in Luisa Blanco. The senior All-American earned the honors of competing on the uneven bars as an individual after scoring a 9.975 on March 30. Her nearly-perfect score tied her career best which she’s scored three times in her time at Alabama.

Bama Gymnast to Compete in Ft. Worth; Team Knocked Out in Norman

Best of luck, Luisa, and Roll Tide

It sounds like the quarterback competition is going just as you’d expect it to: fiercely, with both Ty Simpson and Jalen Milroe making plenty of progress...and plenty of mistakes. Saban updated the media on the battle yesterday, and as expected, the freshmen are also getting looks:

“I think both guys have made really good progress,” Saban said. “We’re not disappointed in anybody’s progress. I thought they both played well in the scrimmage. Both guys have had their moments in practice, and they’ve also had learning opportunities when they’ve made mistakes. And both of them have responded very well and made improvement.

“I don’t have an evaluation other than that we’re coaching every one of the four quarterbacks that we have in the program every day to try to help them develop to be the best players that they can be. We’re going to continue to do that, and hopefully, those guys will continue to have the right attitude about trying to play winning football at the position.”

This year in unique in that all four guys in the room do something very different; they represent the chance to run four different sorts of offenses. Given the lack of snaps between the “veterans” if ever there were going to be a fresh face getting a look, it would be this year. In some ways, it is similar to 2015 — with a logjam at the top — and in others, it resembles 2016 — in the very disparate strengths of the personnel.

For more on that, you can refresh your memory with our Spring QB overview:

Alabama’s coaching staff is turning into an alumni association meeting. Besides Freddie Roach, the Tide has also added Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Josh Chapman, and Denzel Devall to the payroll.

They are player development coaches, which sounds like shorthand for “how to do things the Alabama way.”

Interesting read.

FInally, I leave you with this bit of unironic comedic gold: the new-look Colorado Buffaloes with their “hype tape” for spring practice.

You’ve never seen a softer, smaller team in your life.

We’ll be back later today with the Wide Receiver preview. Have a great one. Roll Tide.


What adjective best describes the Colorado Buffalo "defense"

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  • 1%
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  • 8%
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    Teensy Weensy
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    Adorable little tykes
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    An honest-to-god JV team
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    I don’t know what to call it, but it looks like 2-10 to me.
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