Alabama’s Calvin Ridley: A rebound after 2016?

We know one thing about Alabama’s depth chart: It’s going to be deep. Real. Freaking. Deep.

Everywhere on an offensive line will be players who can catch a ball, run it quicker in pads than most people without a ball, helmet and pads on, and they will weigh about the 250-300lb mark. Running backs will be lightning bolts. Tight ends will be wide receivers.

2016 was meant to be a breakout year for Calvin Ridley – particularly after a freshman year when he had 89 receptions, 1,045 yards and 7 TDs, averaging a tidy 11.7 yards per reception. That was good for 33rd in the Nation, and not bad at all for a freshman start.

For 2015, we thought that this would be another monster year for Ridley. Sure, his quarterback, Jalen Hurts, was new, but the fall in stats was staggering. Ridley went from ‘trusted receiver’ to ‘not particularly trusted receiver’, falling to the 94th receiver overall in NCAA rankings in terms of receiving yards, with ‘just’ 769. His receptions fell to 72, and his average yards per reception dropped to 10.7. The only thing that stayed the same was touchdowns (7).

He also had five attempts as a rusher in 2016, and even scored a touchdown. He had one in 2015.

BIG FACTOR?

For 2015, Ridley was a factor in almost all of his games, getting thrown to at least 6 times in the last four games of the season, and grabbing two touchdowns in the play-off win over Michigan State. While he wasn’t a big factor in the National Championship Game, he put defensive co-ordinators at Clemson off enough that they seemed to forget about OJ Howard as the big tight end had the game of his life as the Crimson Tide battled their way to a National Championship.

In 2016, Ridley had no touchdowns in his last 4 games and was thrown to an average of a smidgeon under 4 times a game (Bearing in mind that he averaged over 6 yards per reception, you could argue that if Lane Kiffin/Steve Sarkasian/Nick Saban had used him more, he would have had even more of an effect on the game).

THIS SEASON

This year, it’ll be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll uses Ridley. Ridley’s got an immensely smooth running action, can blow the doors off defensive backs, and bearing in mind his 6-1, 188lb frame, he’ll probably go to the pros after this year and continue a line of very good NFL receivers. Oh, and you would be surprised to see him in the backfield either, if Daboll’s looking to spice things up!

And what we do know is this: If Ridley’s used like he was in 2015, the SEC defenses in 2017 are going to be very worried indeed!

 

Alabama: The next RB star will be….?

Derrick Henry’s gone, Kenyan Drake’s gone, and T.J. Yeldon’s but a distant and beautiful memory for Alabama fans. The future for the next hero in Tuscaloosa is almost certain to be one or more of these things (not necessarily in this order):

  1. A Heisman + 2-3,000 yard season
  2. NFL riches
  3. A National Championship
  4. A SEC West title + Championship
  5. Worship from Alabama fans because you beat Auburn and LSU

In a bar last night I was shown a video of would-be replacement sophomore Bo Scarborough weave through multiple Michigan State defenders in the CFB Play-Off semi-final win, and it put a smile on my face to think of yet another exciting running back coming out of Tuscaloosa (via Florida).

Scarbough has been called the rising star of Alabama football, the big future, and the way people are drooling over him as a physical freak and a future Zeus, he may well be. The 6-2, 230lb dreadlocked flurry of speed is going to exhaust SEC West defenses, and I fully expect him to destroy USC’s defensive line when he plays them in JerryWorld on Opening Day. The stats have been strong in opening scrimmages, if you believe what they release in Saban Country (remember, they aren’t going to release anything remotely crappy, are they?)

And if his academics are good enough, could we possibly be talking about a possible trip to New York in 2016? It’s very possible. What’s also possible – and probable – is that Scarborough doesn’t yet have the experience to leave in 2017 for NFL riches. He played 4 games last season and put up 104 yards at an average of just over 5 yards a carry – but most of them was against mighty Charleston Southern (he went for 68).

The other guy will be Damien Harris, who is also in his second year but had a great Spring Game for the Tide. Harris is 3 inches shorter than Scarborough at 5-11 and less muscly at 215lb, and he had a great Spring Game where he had 114 yards rushing on 20 carries. Harris played second fiddle to Henry last year and still played in 12 games, had 46 carries and 157 yards. Harris’ biggest games were against mighty MTSU and THAT Charleston Southern defense, while he was basically ignored in the other games.

And there’s always B.J. Emmons, who’s a four-star freshman listed as the second best running back in the country.

Whatever happens, Alabama fans shouldn’t fear too much is going to fade away despite the departure of Henry and Drake. Plus, it looks like the country’s best offensive linesman is not going to jail after all in Cam Robinson. And knowing the forgiving nature of Tuscaloosa, Robinson won’t miss the first game of the season….

Nick Saban: I was not offered $100m by Texas

Nick Saban, head coach at Alabama, arrived at the SEC Media Days in the face of an eventful offseason. Firstly there were the rumors that he might be leaving Tuscaloosa for the bright lights of Austin and the Texas Longhorns. Today there was something going around that UT and its board of regents were preparing a $100m offer for him to dress in burnt orange in 2015 and beyond.

 

He said: “Well, I didn’t have any conversations with them.  Nobody offered me anything.  So I guess if I didn’t have any conversations with them, I didn’t have very much interest. 
I think the University of Texas is a fantastic place, and they’ve got a lot of wonderful people there, it’s a great institution.  But this is about the station in my life where we are.  We moved around a lot.  If I had to do it over, I’d have just tried to stay in one place and establish a great program, not have all these goals and aspirations of things that eventually, you know, you weren’t happy doing. 
So I’m very happy at Alabama.  Miss Terry is very happy at Alabama.  We certainly enjoy the challenges that we have there, the friends that we have established here.  This is where we just choose to, you know, end our career someday.

Then there were has been a seemingly endless number of arrests of his football players this offseason, including running back Kenyan Drake for what seems utter stupidity in trying to move his car away from a police scene when specifically told not to.

Saban said: “Now, when somebody proves they can’t be part of an organization, then sometimes you got to get the wrong people off the bus.  I get that, all right?  But I just want you all to know that we all have to be committed to trying to help our young people from a culture standpoint have a better chance to be successful in their life.  That’s something that we’re very much committed to and really is the reason that we coach ’cause that’s the part that I like the best.  It gives me the most positive self‑gratification to see somebody have a chance to be successful…...Some of the things that I said before about guys learning how to control their impulsive behavior, choices and decisions, thoughts, habits and priorities, buying into the whole process of what you have to do to be a successful football player in college.  Those players are suspended but they’re not kicked off the team,” he said. “They’re suspended from activity.  When they prove that I think or we think that they’re ready to come back and show a little bit more responsibility and discipline for how they handle themselves, their decision making, how they represent the university, their family and themselves, then we’ll allow them to come back on the team.

Speaking of the team, he had some nice things to say about new offensive co-ordinator Lane Kiffin. “Lane Kiffin  has done a really, really good job for us.  The players have responded to him very well.  New energy, new enthusiasm, new ideas to do some things offensively that would enhance our chances of being successful.  I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work with him.

As for the SEC schedule, Saban wasn’t shy about saying that all the SEC teams should play each other – even if it might be to their disadvantage down the line. “I played in the NFL for eight years.  We had 32 teams in the league.  We all played the 32 teams in the league.  I think that we’re talking about going to this five conference sort of whatever we’re going to call it, big five or whatever it is.  I’d be all for playing all of our games against those guys. You know, it’s what the fans want.  I mean, we need to be more concerned about the people who support the programs and the university and come and see the games.  I mean, those are the most important….I know that everybody thinks I’m crazy, but I think that, you know, every player that comes to an SEC school should play every team in the SEC, which means you have to play two or three teams on the other side.  Well, you can’t expand the conference and not expand the number of games you play to be able to do that.
I’m the only coach that’s interested in doing that, so… People should make those decisions beyond us.  They should do it based on what is in the best interest of our league and college football in general.

He added that those who had a rough schedule and finished with a losing record should go to bowl games: “I think they should pick everybody like they do in basketball.  If you go 5‑7, you have a quality schedule, you can still get in a bowl game, rather than somebody trying to manipulate their schedule, go 6‑6 so they can get in a bowl game.

Excellent. Does that include playing ‘bigger’ opponents in Cowboys Stadium or in the Georgia Dome instead of playing home/home schedules, which would liven up college football beyond belief. I know that Alabama fans would rather have a home/home against Michigan – with the chance to go up to Ann Arbor as they did to Beaver Stadium a few years ago – rather than play in the more placid Cowboys Stadium? And does that include playing ‘lesser schools’ too?

 

 

 

 

No.1 JC player spurns Alabama, other SEC schools for Auburn

Auburn had a huge commitment when the nation’s No.1 JC player, Javon Robinson committed to The Plains.

It isn’t the first time Robinson, a running back, has pledged to be an Auburn Tiger….he signed with Auburn in 2012 before his grades were changed and he wasn’t allowed in the SEC school.

The 5ft-11, 225lb Robinson was recruited heavily by Alabama and Louisville, and visited both schools in mid-April. Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and TCU all gave Robinson offers.

Robinson put up 2,387 yards in 12 games for Georgia Military, averaging 198.3 yards per game. He also had 34 touchdowns.  He led the National Junior College Athletic Association in yards, yards per game, and touchdowns.

Interestingly, he was also sixth in the nation in fumbles (7) and ninth in the nation in fumbles lost (5).

 

Pre-Iron Bowl? 4-star Safety/RB opts for Auburn, not Alabama

4-star running back/safety Kerryon Johnson has committed to Auburn, nixing hot competition from Alabama and Florida State.

Johnson, who plays at Madison Academy, AL, said in a press conference: “The Auburn coaches are good Christian guys who will get on you, but it’s about love…..We talked about family.”

Johnson also had offers from Clemson and LSU, and had visited Alabama, Florida State and Auburn previously.

He’s ranked the 2nd-best player in the State of Alabama behind defensive tackle Daron Payne….who’s also committed to Auburn.

Highlights of Johnson’s offensive and defensive highlights can be seen here.

Alabama running back arrested

Alabama running back Dee Hart was arrested in Tuscaloosa….although it seems as though he’s no longer a part of the Crimson Tide.

After news that Hart had been arrested for possession of marijuana and giving false information to the Tuscaloosa Police Department, Alabama released this statement: “Dee Hart has not been a part of the football team since the bowl game and has not participated in any of the off season program. Hopefully he will learn from this mistake and continue to work toward completing his degree, which he is on track to do by the summer.

He was also questioned for trying to use counterfeit money at a gas station, too.

This follows up to Tony Brown’s arrest on January 19th for failure to obey and resisting arrest.

BOTTOM LINE: Hart was a part-time player for the Crimson Tide in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he’s no longer on the Alabama team because he’s either trouble or with Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon on the team, he’s surplus to requirements.

For Whom The Cowbell Tolls: Mississippi State’s National Signing Day?

Bearing in mind that we managed to get ‘They Might Be Giants’ in an article, we thought it important to get some Ernest Hemmingway in this article…..and that’s why we’ve gone with the ‘For Whom The Cowbell Tolls’ headline….(apparently it’s also the name of a Mississippi State blog, so we’re not exactly first in with this one…)

Anyway, despite many people thinking that he would be out of a job before the 2014 National Signing Day, Dan Mullen’s victory in the Egg Bowl over Ole Miss and subsequent bowl win over Rice has now put a smile or two on the faces of the Cowbell Army.

The Jamoral Graham signing was great because, as ESPN said – he can play on both sides of the ball. He declared for MSU in his junior year. This should help the Bulldogs. On the defensive side of the ball, JUCO DE Cory Thomas’ decision to go to Starkville rather than Knoxville was OK with folks in the SEC West. He gave no reason for his switch.

Mississippi State did add a pair of four-star athletes in running back Aeris Williams and linebacker Gerri Green. Williams – who is said to have a “a good combination of size, speed and power” by ESPN Scouts, had offers from Florida State, Wisconsin and Ole Miss, while Green chose Mississippi State over a host of other SEC schools including Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas,  Vandy and Tennessee.

MSU ended the day ranked  38th with 247, and 36th with ESPN.

 

 

LSU RB Hill and Guard Turner declare for draft

LSU junior running back Jeremy Hill and guard Trai Turner have both declared for the NFL Draft.

Hill said on his Twitter account: “I am a Tiger for life. I will forever be grateful to my LSU fans, friends, coaches and family. This decision has been very difficult for me….. With all of that being said, I have decided to forego my Junior season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.

The loss of Hill will be huge for LSU fans who – at the start of the 2013 season – were probably wondering if Hill would actually be playing for LSU at all. Hill was involved in a fracas outside the ‘Tigerland’ set of bars in Baton Rouge, in which he blindsided a member of the public. LSU coach Les Miles left it up to the LSU players to decide if Hill would stay around — and he did.

Hill ended the season with 1,401 yards and 13 touchdowns as an eligible sophomore last season – including stealing the show against Iowa in the Tigers’ bowl win.

ESPN noted that Hill’s leaving would create a hole for top prospect running back Leonard Fornette and junior Terrence Magee, who had over 600 yards and eight TDs to his name.

BOTTOM LINE: I remember speaking to a LSU fan about the possibility of Hill not playing for the Tigers in 2013 after his arrest and he said: “We’re not going to miss him. We’re really deep at running back.” And as it turned out, LSU was pretty deep at running back in 2013 – but Hill helped them be that way. Hill puts up a huge amount of production, and particularly with a talent-stacked SEC West, this is going to be a huge loss for the Tigers. 

 

SEC Media Days: Mark Richt’s best quotes

Mark Richt met with journalists at the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Al.

ESPN reported that he said: “No decision to dismiss a guy from the team is an easy decision. It’s always tough because I care very much about all these guys and having to make those kinds of decisions are tough. But in the end, I think we did what’s in the best interest of the program and I really do wish Isaiah the very best in his future. Hopefully things work out for him.”

Otherwise, here are some of his other quotes, provided by the SEC.

  • Defending a poor non-conference schedule: “A few years back when the extra game was added, we had the philosophy of adding another BCS opponent outside of the southeastern region. It sounded like a good idea at the time. But after living it out a little bit, went to Arizona State, Oklahoma State, those are long road trips. It takes a lot out of you just to prepare for a team like that, then it also takes it out of you on the traveling part of it. All of a sudden you’re flying home in the middle of the night, your guys are trying to find a place on the floor on the plane to sleep. You get behind the eight ball that way. I love having seven home games. I’d like to have 12 home games if we could, certainly for our fan base and for our players. This season is one that I think the amount of home games is outstanding. The fact that we always play Florida in Jacksonville is going to give you a cycle of every other year not getting that one home game, but it’s certainly worth it to play in Jacksonville.”
  • On Zach Mettenberger, who he threw out of Georgia: “He’d be competing to be the starter, if not being the starter.”
  • On the four-team play-off system: “I think the four-team playoff is going to be outstanding. I’m not sure who’s going to decide who the top four teams are, but hopefully we’ll get a chance to have one and maybe two teams play out of our league if the season’s just right. One of the reasons why I like it is it doesn’t destroy the bowl system the way it is. Some people may not like it the way it is, but I think the bowl system is outstanding. I think our regular-season games are huge. I’m talking about the entire BCS. I’m not talking about just the Southeastern Conference…. I just hate to see a day where we might play Florida, and whether you win or lose, you still go to the playoffs, no one thinks it’s that big of a deal. It is a big deal every game we play. I don’t want college football to lose that.”
  • Defending Georgia’s drug policy/Suspensions: “I think every university has the right to decide what’s in the best interest of their student-athletes. We at Georgia have got our policies there for a reason. We don’t want guys to get into that type of thing. When a guy makes a mistake, you want to stick him. You want to hopefully have a discipline that would teach a lesson and be painful enough to where they wouldn’t want to do it in the future. When the teammates are watching, hopefully it would help them not want to make the same type of mistake. I don’t think there will ever come a time in college football where everybody has a uniform policy in those issues. But I do think we’re doing the right thing for Georgia….People make mistakes. When they do, you discipline it. Some people have policies, as you mentioned earlier, that bring certain things to light, and some people don’t. So the bottom line is, you know, I love every guy on our team. Part of love is to be able to help teach them right from wrong. When they make mistakes, you need to discipline them in such a way that hopefully they’ll become better men down the road. That’s what we do at Georgia. To say that issues aren’t happening around the country isn’t really realistic.”
  • On the Baccari Rambo/Alex Ogletree “I’m not going to update anything other than we know that Sanders Commings has a two-game suspension.” People are human.

Arrests: UGA running back star arrested

Georgia running back star Isaiah Crowell has been arrested, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer has revealed.

The star Bulldogs running back is in jail facing three weapons charges after Athens police stopping Crowell’s car found a weapon under his seat with an altered serial number. There was also the ‘odor of marijuana’, although no drugs were found.

“Crowell was arrested on charges of carrying a weapon in a school zone, and having an altered ID mark, both felonies”, the paper said.

The arrest will immediately trigger an indefinite suspension from bound-to-be-furious Georgia coach Mark Richt, and it has been speculated that Crowell could be kicked off the team.

He is currently in jail with a $7,500 bail on his head.

 

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