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Jumbo Package: How far “backward” is Saban looking to take the offensive scheme with Tommy Rees?

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Alabama Spring Game Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. Alabama added a DB commit over the weekend.

“He’s (Jameer Grimsley) is a really good kid, hard worker and smart kid,” McIntyre said. “He has a 4.0 GPA.”

McIntrye mentioned the “really high ceiling” Grimsley has while also saying how he will be great as he continues to develop.

Grimsley will likely play cornerback for the Crimson Tide. He is a 6-foot-3, 185-pound rising senior at Tampa Catholic. Grimsley is ranked as the No. 19 CB and No. 238 player in the country, per 247Sports Composite rankings.

May Jameer flourish in Tuscaloosa.

On3 analyst J.D. PicKell gave his take on what Alabama’s offense might look like this season.

But the new philosophy under Rees at Alabama is a call back to old school football. And if that leads to a lot of winning, no one will bat an eye.

“And so the shift back to game control bully ball Bama starts with Tommy Rees, and if Bama can play game control on offense, the defense, one, gets to rest because you’re watching your offense go for a 10 play driving score,” PicKell said. “Also, it probably puts them in good positions.

“Like if you’re playing game control effectively, you pick up a couple of first downs, take some time off the clock and worst case scenario, punt it back to your opposition and give the defense a little bit of breathing room. Now, I don’t think anybody in Alabama is scheming for a good punt game, but you hear what I’m saying. Tommy Rees, game control, all that it starts with him as the OC.”

I can understand where some of this is coming from, but we may need to pump the brakes a bit on just how “backward” Saban wants to take this offense.

The 2020 Alabama offense, that by many metrics was the best and most explosive that college football has ever seen, ran the ball 53% of the time. In 2018 and 2019 with the ridiculous Tua Tagovailoa behind center, Alabama ran it on 56% and 52% of the plays. Even in 2021, Bryce Young’s first season at the helm, the Tide ran the ball 49% of the time.

Indeed, 2022 was an outlier. LSU was the fifth Power 5 opponent that Bryce Young started and finished the game against last year. In those five games, Alabama threw 222 passes to only 146 rushes, and didn’t have a single game among those where they reached a 45% run rate. Against Arkansas, Young threw 13 passes before exiting the game with the shoulder injury. Alabama had logged 13 carries to that point, two of them by Young on a scramble TD and a sack.

After that fateful LSU loss, Nick Saban said this:

“I think (in 2021 and 2022), we’ve kind of gone more even to the drop-back passing, and that’s because of Bryce (Young),” Saban said on his radio show prior to Alabama’s Nov. 12 game against Ole Miss. “But I think in the future, we’ll get back to more of the conventional spread, run the ball, have more balance, RPOs, that type of thing. So what we’ve done now is to sort of fit what Bryce does best.”

So, what happened after that?

In Oxford, 36 rushes against 33 passes. Against Auburn, 34 rushes and 30 passes. Against Kansas State, 33 rushes and 22 passes. Seems like the future was immediate. Alabama made several explosive plays on what appeared to be packaged plays in those three as well.

They also ran it a ton in the FCS game, but that is always to be expected. In any case, it’s pretty clear that Saban did in fact announce to the world a change in philosophy. All told, Alabama posted a 55% run rate in those final three contests vs. a paltry 40% in the aforementioned five.

Now, Tommy Rees ran the ball even more at Notre Dame last year. It’s probably skewed somewhat by the 83 QB rushes that undoubtedly had quite a few scrambles mixed in, but the Irish ran the ball a whopping 59% of the time. In 2021, when the Irish had pocket passer Jack Coan starting, it was a dead nuts 50/50 split between running and passing.

It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that all three of the legitimate contenders to start this season are guys who can run. For that reason alone, Alabama will probably look run heavy on the stat sheet this season. How much they run is far less important than how well they run, as teams are undoubtedly going to stack the box early in the season and see what the new starting QB can do. Remember when Mizzou did that to Mac Jones in the 2020 opener?

Let’s hope for similar results. Shall we?

In any case, I’d expect more of a play mix like those final three games of last season rather than 2009-2011 Alabama. That is, of course, assuming that someone on the team can pass the ball. If none of them can, then play mix and sequencing will matter even less than they already do.

Jamil Burroughs is, in fact, leaving the building and won’t even be eligible to play in his fourth year of college football.

Burroughs had a chance to be kicked off the team, according to Tsoukalas. Burroughs’ roster page on Alabama’s team site stayed up. Joe Cook of Inside Texas first tweeted that Burroughs was in the transfer portal.

Burroughs will be ineligible to play in the upcoming season after missing the April 15-30 window unless the NCAA grants him a waiver.

Six players have left Alabama since the Tide’s season ended with a Sugar Bowl blowout over Kansas State. Burroughs would be the fourth defender and first defensive lineman to depart.

Jamil could go to the FCS level and play right away. Perhaps that is the plan.

Last, Chase Goodbread thinks that the Alabama legislature needs to step up to the plate and match some of the other states in the SEC footprint on NIL.

So why have a law at all?

Because the latest state NIL laws aren’t setting boundaries for schools and student-athletes, like the first round of NIL laws did two years ago. Instead, they’re now setting boundaries for the NCAA. A perfect example is the new NIL law in Missouri, which expressly declares it illegal for either the NCAA or the Southeastern Conference to punish, or even investigate, the law’s NIL allowances at Missouri schools. Those allowances include permitting school representatives to participate in NIL negotiations with athletes, an NCAA no-no, and permitting high school athletes to profit from NIL only — this one’s clever — if they’ve signed with an in-state school.

The language that Chase is referring to in that linked Missouri law reads as follows:

If a private postsecondary educational institution retains the student athlete’s contract, the institution is required to consider the contract terms to be student governed by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. The contract is regarded as a closed record under Chapter 610. No compensation for a student athlete’s NIL can be conditioned on the student athlete’s athletic performance, but it may be conditioned on attendance.

Sounds to me like the state law in Missouri states that pay for play is legal and the NCAA can do nothing about it. Whether Congress can be convinced to create overarching legislation or not, this fight is far from over. Courts will be involved again at some point.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.