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Saban Liking His 2014 Alabama Team So Far

gfx-they-said-it4When you win a national championship, it’s only natural to become a bit complacent.  When you win two in a row, it’s even easier to take the foot off the accelerator.  ”We got this,” the mind assures.

So it was little wonder that Nick Saban’s 2013 team — a squad going for a third crown in a row — failed to improve after an emotional win over LSU.  ”We got this,” they must have thought.  Instead, Auburn got them on the weirdest final play this side of a Cal/Stanford game.  And then Oklahoma got all over the Crimson Tide in a Sugar Bowl rout.

This year’s Bama players have no reason to believe they can just roll their helmets out onto the turf scaring their foes into a pregame surrender.  And one scrimmage into spring practice, Nick Saban says he likes his team’s attitude:

 

“I thought that for the first scrimmage (on Saturday), I was really pleased with the effort and intensity that the players had.  I really like the attitude of this team, in terms of how they go about what they try to do, how they word and the effort they give, the mental and physical toughness they play with.  A lot of guys come out and be conscientious to do a good job, and I think it shows in the way we play and the way we compete.”

 

That’s about as effusive as Saban gets when it comes to praise.  Let’s see if Saban is still just as happy when the curtain falls on his team’s spring drills.

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SEC Headlines 4/6/2014

headlines-sun3-150x150SEC Football

1. South Carolina tight end Rory Anderson tears tricep muscle Saturday.  Recovery time depends on whether it’s partial or complete tear.

2. Missouri defensive lineman Matt Hoch  will undergo surgery for a broken bone in his ankle.

3. Freshman quarterback Brandon Harris the star of LSU’s spring game.

4. Ole Miss had its spring game Saturday.  Coach Hugh Freeze: “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt … that we’re a better football team than we were two years ago, than we were last year.”

5. No spring game for Texas A&M this year because of Kyle Field renovation.  Aggies wrap up spring drills on Saturday.

6. Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason on Saturday’s scrimmage: “We came out with a lot more passion and energy.”

7. Following Saturdays’ scrimmage, Alabama coach Nick Saban mentions three quarterbacks - Blake Sims, Cooper Batemen and Alec Morris.  ”So those three guys have sort of emerged as the three guys that look like they’re the most ready to play.”

8. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott only completed 13 passes Saturday but four of them were for touchdowns.

9. Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen impressive in the Razorbacks Saturday scrimmage.

10. Coach Butch Jones on the performance of Tennessee’s quarterbacks.  “All four [QBs] did some good things, but there’s also a lot of things that need to be corrected in a hurry.”

11. Lou Holtz addressed the Auburn team Friday.  Coach Gus Malzahn: “I consider him a friend.”

12. Kentucky defensive end Alvin “Bud” Dupree:  ”I’m much more confident in myself than I was at this time last year.

SEC Basketball

13. Auburn football and Kentucky basketball - “some of the most memorable clutch performances in SEC history – all in the same academic year.”

14. No trip anytime soon to the barber for a Florida student.  Vows to not cut hair until Gators win national title.

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SEC Headlines 4/4/2014

headlines-friSEC Football

1. Tennessee coach Butch Jones on Lane Kiffin’s return to Knoxville when Alabama comes to Tennessee: ”He’s a great football coach, but we’ll worry about that game.”

2. Tennessee freshman cornerback Emmanuel Moseley has been practicing with the first team for much of the spring.

3. Did Vanderbilt sacrifice home-field advantage by moving its game against Ole Miss to LP Field?

4. LSU’s spring game on Saturday expected to attract 20,000 to 25,000 fans.

5. Heading into the second scrimmage of the spring, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is not a happy man.  “There’s a lot of guys to me… have to understand how serious it is if they want to get on the field and go play.”

6. Georgia’s J.J. Green on learning to play the nickle back position: “Coach wants everybody to learn a different position just in case he has to throw somebody out there because of injuries.” Lot of spring injuries in the Georgia offense.

7. Anticipating the December day when the fifth-best team in the country is left out of the playoffs.  ”It’ll make college basketball’s Selection Sunday look like a garden party.”

8. An argument for why Bruce Pearl’s arrival as Auburn’s basketball coach is a good move – for Auburn football.

9. Is Auburn defensive back Josh’s Holsey’s recovery from a torn ACL nothing short of remarkable?

10. Auburn receiver Tony Stevens on quarterback Nick Marshall: “His leadership is very strong.”

11. Marshall one of just three SEC quarterbacks that started double-digit games last fall and returning this year.

12/ Defensive line depth a concern at Florida?

13. Big change upfront at Arkansas.  Center Luke Charpentier replacing departed four-year start Travis Swanson.  

14. Texas A&M renovating its football complex.

SEC/Final Four

15. One of the storylines for Saturdays semi-final games. Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin vs. UConn All-American guard Shabazz Napier.

16. Pete Thamel on Billy Donovan: “Donovan sits on the precipice of joining some of the most elite company in college basketball.”

17. Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein walking without crutches - still unlikely to play Saturday.

18. If Kentucky wins it all -  ”the cumulative total of the seeds Kentucky defeated in this year’s NCAA Tournament would be 19.” Record is 20- set by Villanova in 1985.

19. Kentucky coach John Calipari on ending one-and-done: ”What I propose isn’t that radical, nor should it be difficult.”

20. X-factors on Saturday.  Does Final Four success hinge on the performance of these guys?

21. The no-booze rule at NCAA events has been around for 40 years.

SEC Basketball

22. Missouri basketball player Zach Price arrested a second time for assault - accused of ramming alleged victims’ car from first incident.

23. If Jabari Brown follows through and enters NBA draft, Missouri will have a returning roster that averaged 18.1 points per game last season.

24. The Wall Street Journal on the not-so-shining NCAA Tournament moments.  ”The Missouri Tigers have the dubious distinction of turning up five times in our 10-year sample.”

25. Rupp Arena - the best in college basketball?

26. Georgia working on ways to improve attendance.

Extras

27. Florida State under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education in connection with case involving Jameis Winston.

28. Texas paid a search firm almost $267,000 to find Charlie Strong. Or as College Football Talk notes, “It cost Texas $266,900 to not get Nick Saban.”

29. Johnny Manziel trademark filing - “The House That Johnny Built”

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Lineman Harris Chooses Missouri

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxMissouri received a commitment Tuesday from offensive lineman A.J. Harris from Blue Valley High School in Stilwell, Kan.

Harris gave the commitment to Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and his staff during a trip to Columbia.

“There are a lot of good things about Mizzou, but some of them are that I have a former teammates that played there, Clay Rhodes,” Harris told PowerMizzou.com.  ”When I talked to him about it he told me it would be the best decision I ever made.

“Also, none of the coaches BS about the recruiting process. Coach Pinkel got the extension to 2020, so that added a lot of stability to the decision, too. Plus, all the faculties and my dorm are all within a square mile.”

Harris’ home is less than three hours away from Missouri’s campus. That proximity and Harris’ familiarity with the program helped the Tigers stand out early in the recruiting process.

“I’ve known it would be Missouri for about a month, but me and my dad wanted to wait to make sure the feeling stuck and to make sure nothing would change my mind on such a big decision,” Harris said. “I also wanted to do it in person, so we waited until I came (Tuesday) and I told the coaches in person.”

Harris, who considered offers from Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, is the third prospect and first offensive lineman to commit to Missouri’s 2015 class. The other two commitments are from running backs Chase Abbington and Ryan Williams.

Missouri’s coaching staff will likely pitch the early offensive commitments to quarterback Drew Lock. The Lee’s Summit (Mo.) High School standout is a high priority for Missouri’s 2015 class.

Lock told 247Sports last month he’s torn between the options of playing for the in-state school or leaving the state to experience something new.

“Missouri is up there for me as far as being the hometown school and my dad went there,” Lock said. “Then again there is a side of me that wants to get away and a side of me that wants to stay home. It is 50/50 and how anyone would feel.”

 

Harris releases top 10

Running back Damien Harris from Madison Southern High School in Berea, Ky., recently released a list of the top 10 schools he’s considering.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Alabama’s Sims Says Battle For Starting QB Gig Is “A Once In A Lifetime Opportunity”

gfx-they-said-it4Senior-to-be Blake Sims has a leg up on departed Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron in one area.  He’s already met with Tuscaloosa reporters.  McCarron wasn’t given his media baptism until he’d won the starter’s gig in August of his sophomore year.

Sims will compete for the Crimson Tide’s starting spot with incoming transfer Jacob Coker.  Coker will arrive this summer after leaving defending national champ Florida State.

So what’s Sims’ view of the quarterback opportunity and spring practice as a whole:

 

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’m having fun out there.  Everybody’s smiling.  Everybody’s having fun.  Just trying to do what we’ve got to do to be the best…

I think (the QB/receivers rapport is) very good, just communication and building a relationship so we know where we’re going to be with our body language.  Just if we try to say that if I was here, where would this person be, and try to be in the other person’s mind at all times.”

 

That should prove to be an advantage for Sims when his battle with Coker fires up this summer.  Many Tide fans are hoping Coker will step in and snag the starting reins.  But even on the competition front, Sims is saying all the right things:

 

“I’m ready for him to get here and make Bama even (that) much better as a team and bring his personality and make everybody smile and take in with open arms.”

 

For his career, Sims is 23-of-39 for 144 yards and two touchdowns in mop-up duty.  Coker was 21-of-41 for 295 yards one touchdown and one interception during his FSU career.

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Sans Shirt, Pearl Continues To Make Waves (Good Ones) For Auburn Hoops

pearl-dunk-tankWhen you hire Bruce Pearl you get two different people.  You get a basketball coach with a track record of serious on-court success (and some off-court flubs).  And you get a guy who enjoys the hell out of the spotlight… which makes him a walking billboard for your basketball program.

Auburn has yet to reap the awards of Pearl’s in-game strengths, but they’ve already seen in marketing prowess.  First he stage-dived into a mosh pit of AU fans upon his arrival on the Plains.  His introductory press conference was 95% a revival meeting.  He also took to ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” show to don an Auburn baseball jersey and football helmet.

While Pearl said during his first presser that he would likely keep his shirt on at Auburn, it took less than a month to get him out of it.  Yesterday he took center stage in a dunk tank for an Auburn fraternity’s fund-raiser.

 

Bruce Pearl goes in the dunk tank for charity

 

There are a couple of reasons Pearl isn’t the most popular guy in the world when it comes to the coaching fraternity.  (His teams at Tennessee were consistently ranked lower in the coaches poll than in the AP Poll.)  First, he’s still carrying the baggage from decisions he made as an assistant at Iowa that led to him being blackballed to Division II for a decade.  Second, there aren’t many coaches who’ll paint their chests, step into dunking booths, wear football helmets, etc, in the name of promoting the program.  And when fans see Pearl do it, many of them say, “Why won’t our guy be fun like that?”

If anything, Pearl’s ramping up his marketing efforts at Auburn.  He’s averaging a national headline per week.  Either he realizes AU will be a tougher rebuild and is therefore in more need of pub than UT was… or he’s really, really missed the spotlight.

Probably a little of both.

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SEC Headlines 4/2/2014

headlines-wedSEC Football

1. Is running back Alex Collins unhappy at Arkansas? Running backs coach Joel Thomas: “That’s the first news that it’s been told to me.”

2. Mural of Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason will be redone after complaints from the school’s NCAA chapter.  ”In the mural, his skin is black, not brown, and his lips are white. It doesn’t look like him.”

3. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel says linebacker Kentrell Brothers expected to be 100%  by June.  Underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder Friday.

4. Can Mizzou’s receivers fill the void left behind by Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington?

5. Florida coach Will Muschamp on the Gators new offense. “I am very pleased offensively with where we are as far as the installation is concerned,”

6. With Jay Rome and Jordan Davis out, Georgia down to one healthy scholarship tight end.  And on the offensive line, “the guards are anyone’s guess.”

7. Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown on the 2013 season: “With the exception of three games, we had opportunities to win in the fourth quarter…”

8. Kentucky’s practice facility getting a $10 million donation.

9. With a mass exodus along the offensive line, walk-on tackle Jacob Gilliam has a chance to play at Tennessee.

10. How does LSU’s offensive line compare to the one in 2007?

11. “If LSU can bring Pac-12 teams to its campus down the road... why can’t Alabama and Auburn do the same?”

12. Alabama coach Nick Saban:  ”Well we really don’t have a depth chart.” Focused on the secondary: “I thought last year, we didn’t play with enough consistency back there,”

13. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is making a point to welcome former players. ”We would welcome all of them.”

14. Two linebackers are trying to replace the production of departed senior Deontae Skinner at Mississippi State. Higher expectations for the Bulldogs in 2014?

15. Ole Miss coaches are impressed with early enrollee and backup safety. C.J. Hampton.

SEC/NFL

16. Pro Timing Day got underway at South Carolina this morning. Jadeveon Clowney headlines the 10 participants.

17. Running back Alfred Blue hoping to stand out at LSU’s pro day next week.

SEC Basketball

18. Tennessee A.D. Dave Hart on coach Cuonzo Martin: “We are proud that Cuonzo Martin will continue to lead our men’s basketball program.”

19. What’s next year look like for Martin and Tennessee? “On face, it’s not exactly a loaded roster.”

20. Georgia expected to announce extension for coach Mark Fox later today.

21. Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison game-winning shot against Michigan makes the cover of Sports Illustrated.

22. Kentucky freshman Marcus Lee got a standing ovation from his marketing class on Tuesday.

23. High expectations at Florida. “Florida fans seem to expect a championship, but you can’t count on everything,”

24. Alabama center Carl Engstrom is leaving the program to pursue options in Europe.

25. Alabama coach Anthony Grant: “As a program, we’re not where we want to be … yet.”

26. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl on the spring signing period in basketball: “It’s a seller’s market.”

27. Several former Auburn players are possible assistant coaches on Pearl’s staff.

Extra

28. Recruit tweets that he’s committed to Baylor.  April ‘Fools!

29. Congratulations Final Four ticket holder.  Now here’s your view.

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SEC Headlines 3/31/2014

headlines-sun3-150x150SEC Basketball

1. Would coach Cuonzo Martin leave Tennessee for Marquette?

2. Mark Wiedmar: Tennessee A.D. Dave Hart “secretly hopes Martin will jump to Marquette or elsewhere, and the sooner the better, since his buyout dips from $2.6 million to $1.3 million on Tuesday.”

3. Martin may not be the only one leaving.  Will Jarnell Stokes enter the NBA draft?

4. Could former Louisville guard Kevin Ware be headed to Auburn?  

5. Detroit columnist: “Michigan’s Fab Five changed the look and feel of college basketball. Kentucky’s Fab Five is just a collection of AAU stars…”

6. Money for Rupp Arena renovation left out of a Kentucky state budget deal.

7. Missouri coach Frank Haith: “We have to want to make it to the NCAA Tournament every year.”

SEC Football

8. LSU quarterback Stephen Rivers wants to transfer to Vanderbilt. “I took a visit there and really enjoyed it.”

9. Hospitalized on Thursday, Auburn defensive tackle Tyler Nero attended practice Saturday but did not participate.

10. Weather forced Auburn inside for its first scrimmage of the spring.

11. Kentucky-Louisville in basketball is just a warmup for what could happen in football if Alabama and Auburn meet in a playoff game.

12. Five areas where Alabama needs to improve before its spring game.

13. Tight end Malcom Johnson impresses at Mississippi State’s first scrimmage.

14. Georgia coach Mark Richt on the Bulldogs first spring scrimmage: “There’s always something good happening, there’s always something bad happening I guess you could say.”

15. Butch Jones at Tennessee’s scrimmage: “What happens when Alabama comes in here and runs the ball?”

16. LSU coach Les Miles on the Tigers second scrimmage of the spring: “Hard-hitting.” Tigers put their young quarterbacks to the test.

17. The core of the Ole Miss team is its sophomore class.

Extras

18. Johnny Manziel to Texas coach Charlie Strong: “Sorry Charlie…”

19. Arizona fans throw bottles and firecrackers at police.  Cops respond with pepper spray.

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SEC Headlines 3/29/2014

headlines-saturdaySEC Football

1. Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill suspended indefinitely. 19-year old arrested for public intoxication early Friday morning. ”Hill was passed out in a planter full of rocks and plants…”

2. Stolen but recovered.  More than $16,00 worth of gear and memorabilia from the Auburn locker room at Jordan-Hare Stadium,  including Bo Jackson and Cam Newton football memorabilia. Three Auburn men arrested this week.

3. Auburn’s football team accounted for 81 percent of athletic department revenue in 2012-2013.  Department ran a deficit approaching $900,000 for fiscal year 2013.

4. Surplus at Missouri for the first time since 2009 - 50 percent jump in operating revenue for the 2013 fiscal year.

5. What do Vanderbilt players think about the union ruling? “I don’t think it’s really an issue for us right now.”

6. “Somehow, I can’t see Johnny Manziel writing, “U-n-i-o-n,” on a piece of cardboard and jumping on a table in the middle of the Texas A&M locker room.”

7. “The notion peddled by the NCAA that it has the interests of the athletes foremost in its thinking is laughable.”

8. Florida’s holds its first big scrimmage of the spring today.

9. Targeting rule had a big impact on a Georgia game last season.  Bulldog players glad to see it tweaked.

10. One service ranks Mississippi State’s Chris Jones the top defensive tackle prospect in the NFL class of 2017.

11. South Carolina projects to have two seniors in its starting offensive line but they could also lose redshirt junior Brandon Shell if he elects to declare for the NFL Draft. 

12. Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin speaks.  Or at least tweets – for the first time in 193 days.

SEC Basketball

13. Is the fourth time the charm for Florida?  Heavily-favored Gators face Dayton tonight with a Final Four bid on the line.

14. Kentucky will face Michigan Sunday.  Willie Cauley-Stein’s status uncertain due ankle injury.  ”It’s not a good ankle injury.  Let’s put it that way.”

15. John Calipari gets called “Rick” at end of press conference last night. Kentucky fans celebrated overnight – put a match to “anything that would burn.”

16. Louisville’s Russ Smith went to the Kentucky locker room after the game last night to congratulate UK players.

17. Texas A&M A.D. Eric Hyman on the direction of the basketball program under Billy Kennedy: “You need time, and two years no matter where you are is just very difficult, unless your program is at the top.”

18. Marshall Henderson in a Florida Gators sweatshirt.

Extras

19. AJ McCarron and Katherine Webb, a love story. Proposed at a Gulf Shores restaurant with a ring he designed himself.

20. The Cleveland Browns have bigger things to worry about than not showing up for Johnny Manziel’s pro day.

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SEC Headlines 3/28/2014

Friday HeadlinesSEC Football

1. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen on former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron: “He’s a guy I have tremendous respect for and think is a fabulous football coach.”

2. Sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo expected to be a starting slot receiver at Ole Miss this fall.

3. At least for one day, Georgia’s spring practice was open to the media.

4. Auburn defensive lineman Tyler Nero hospitalized following incident at practice.

5. Auburn’s director of external operations Phillip Lolley is leaving to join the staff of the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL.

6. Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson on the debate over the pace of college football: ”I think the slow-down guys are really not worried about injuries, and I think the speed-up guys are really not worried about how many plays they get.”

7. You can add the kicking game to the list of depleted positions this spring at LSU. Tigers anxiously await the arrival of running back Leonard Fournette.

8. Report: Old Dominion turns down $1.3 million to play at Alabama in 2015.

9. Alabama quarterback Blake Sims spent part of his spring break working out with a private quarterback coach.

10. Is South Carolina safety Brison Williams moving to cornerback this fall?

11. Tennessee was last in the SEC in sacks in 2013.  Vols hope outside linebacker/defensive end Curt Maggitt can change those numbers this fall. Butch Jones: “We’ll be much more talented, but very youthful.”

12. Kentucky defensive end Marcus Dupree: “Next year will be our year.”

Unionization of college athletes

13. Poll says 75% of Americans oppose the idea but support for the idea from Georgia athletes.

14. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “Of course they should be able to organize.”

15. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier: “ I’ve advocated giving college football players and college basketball players a stipend.”

16. Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin: “You pay the tennis player the same as you play the football player. I don’t think that changes.”

SEC/NFL

17. 75 NFL personnel turn out for Johnny Manziel’s pro day. Former President George HW Bush and wife Barbara were in attendance.

18. Where might Auburn’s Dee Ford land?  “I hear a lot of talk about Philadelphia and New Orleans.”

SEC Basketball

19. “Florida coach Billy Donovan is rapidly cementing a reputation as the best coach in the SEC since the late Adolph Rupp.”

20.  ”It is difficult to imagine this Florida team — so close to the Final Four in each of its past four seasons, and more complete than ever before — missing out now.”

21. John Calipari on his relationship with Rick Pitino: ”I would say we’re friends.”

22. “The Vols enter the Midwest Regional semifinal against Michigan acting like a team scorned.”

23. Auburn playing UAB in the future?  ”We would love it.”

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