Alabama spring game

Newcomers shine in Tide’s A-Day finale

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It’s bad enough for SEC foes that Alabama returns more than a dozen starters from its 2011 BcS title-winning team.

Now those same teams are faced with the prospect of having to deal with at least a couple of new recruits who may be ready to make an instant and immediate contribution as the Tide attempts pull off a repeat.

The hands-down star of the game was running back T.J. Yeldon, who was one of a handful of early enrollees for the Tide this past winter.  All Yeldon did was combine for 179 total yards — 88 rushing, 91 receiving — in helping lead the White team over the Crimson team, 24-15, in what’s officially called the Golden Flake A-Day Game.  Included in that total was a 50-yard touchdown reception from backup quarterback Phillip Sims.  For that performance, Yeldon was honored with the Dixie Howell Most Valuable Player of the Game Award

Additionally, fellow true freshman Chris Black caught a 44-yard scoring pass from Sims.  The catch-and-run by the wide receiver was the first of two scores on the day thrown by Sims.

“It’s really important. It doesn’t really matter about the game. It’s basically another practice for us. You basically just want to see consistency,” head coach Nick Saban said of the performance put out there by the new players in general. “How do they do consistently playing that position and doing their role and playing their role and those guys have done a great job. You couldn’t ask any more from them and like I said as a whole offense we have to keep progressing and we’re going to have some ups and downs right now. We’re learning some new plays and doing some different things but as long as we just come out and get better every day we’ll be fine.”

Unfortunately, the player to whom Sims looks up to on the depth chart didn’t fare as well.  While A.J. McCarron, who was quietly semi-spectacular in his first season as the Tide’s starter last season, matched Sims with a pair of touchdowns, he also threw three interceptions, including one on the first play from scrimmage.

Despite the uneven play from his starting QB and the stellar production from his true freshmen, Saban wasn’t getting too high or two low over either area, rather focusing on the improvement his squad made throughout the 15 spring sessions.

“One thing that never happens in college football is no one ever has a bad spring and no one ever has a bad spring game. We didn’t have one either,” Saban said in comments distributed by the team. “We had a lot of guys who made a lot of improvement this spring. We are still focusing on more and more guys knowing what it takes to win and the preparations, ability to adjust, play with poise, execute and do their job.

“None of that stuff happens by accident. It happens because of the way you prepare and the way you work. We will look and see how many guys have made progress in the regard. I think this game today was kind of a final exam for some of the players relative to spring practice. How much you improve, where you are in your development, are you ready to take responsibility for a role on the team.”

For those who are curious, the school detailed in its release that the format for this game was very similar to that of a regular season game: “he format for the A-Day game was much like a normal game, with a few minor variations primarily regarding the game clock. The game consisted of four 15-minute quarters with a running clock. The clock stopped only following scoring plays, penalties, and changes of possession. Regular clock rules were used during the final minutes of the second quarter and the fourth quarter.”

Incidentally, the game was played in front of 78,526 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the fifth-largest attendance mark for an A-Day football game.  It was however, roughly 14,000 less than the record crowd that watched the Tide’s spring game last season.

(For all of CFT’s coverage of the 40-plus spring game action Saturday, click HERE.)

Appalachian State, East Carolina announce 4-game series

GREENVILLE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05:  Devon Moore #20 of the Appalachian State Mountaineers is tackled by teammates Chris Mattocks #19 and Derek Blacknall #26 of the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Greenville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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North Carolina’s eastern and western Group of 5 programs are going to rekindle their rivalry.

Appalachian State and East Carolina — or is that East Carolina and Appalachian State? — announced Tuesday plans to play a 4-game series in 2021 and then 2024-26.

The teams will meet on opening weekend (Sept. 4) of the 2021 season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, then go home-and-home for the final three games of the series. East Carolina will host on Sept. 14, 2024, App State will take a turn on Sept. 6, 2025, and East Carolina will close the series on Sept. 5, 2026.

“On behalf of Appalachian State University, I would like to thank Will Webb, the Charlotte Sports Foundation, Jeff Compher and East Carolina University, the Carolina Panthers, and Bank of America Stadium for the opportunity to host a home game in downtown Charlotte,” App State AD Doug Gillin said in a statement Tuesday. “The chance for App State to host a home game in an NFL Stadium, in Charlotte where our largest alumni base is and against a program like East Carolina is a great opportunity for our students-athletes, alumni, and fans.”

“Both football programs have a rich history of success and outstanding fan support,” East Carolina AD Jeff Compher added. “I am especially excited for our future football student-athletes who will have an opportunity to play in such an exceptional NFL venue as Bank of America Stadium. We are grateful to Doug [Gillin] and our colleagues at Appalachian for working together in creating this four-game series.” 

The two teams have met 31 times previously, but only twice since 1979. East Carolina has won each of the recent meetings — 29-24 to open the 2009 season and 35-13 to open ’12, both in Greenville — and holds a 19-12 all-time advantage with wins in the last six and nine of the last 11 matches.

Arkansas promotes Paul Rhoads to defensive coordinator

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 14: Head coach Paul Rhoads of the Iowa State Cyclones coaches from the sidelines in the second half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. The Oklahoma State Cowboys defeated Iowa State 35-31.(Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Arkansas has promoted Paul Rhoads to defensive coordinator, the program has announced.

Like a college player going pro or a high schooler freshly offered a scholarship, Bret Bielema made the announcement through his Twitter account.

Rhoads ascends to the defensive coordinator spot after Robb Smith left the staff to take the same job at Minnesota. He spent the last season on staff as defensive backs coach, but he’ll have his work cut out for him as he moves to the big chair.

Arkansas concluded the 2016 season ranked 123rd nationally in yards per play allowed and 85th in scoring defense. The Razorbacks allowed 37.3 points per game and 7.87 yards per play in SEC games — which both stood as the worst in the conference.

Best known for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, Rhoads made his name in coaching as a successful defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh (2000-07) and Auburn (2008).

Clemson LB Ben Boulware trolls Desmond Howard with CFP trophy tattoo on his heel

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Linebacker Ben Boulware #10 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates with the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 to win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware is the quintessential “player you hate if he’s on the other team and player you love if he’s on your team.” Boulware constantly searches — often times outside the letter of the rule book — to look for an edge, and made no secret of his disdain for ESPN college football analyst Demsond Howard‘s disdain for Clemson’s linebackers.

Howard’s quote that started the one-sided feud, via The Clemson Insider:

“Defensively, when I watch Dalvin Cook, Florida State’s running back do … and he is an elite running back and there is no doubting that. He is a special talent. But they are supposed to have a special defense, too. I think their achilles heel may be their linebackers. They are good straight ahead, but as far as going east and west, sideline to sideline, Dalvin Cook turned the corner whenever he wanted to against that defense. I need to see the linebackers play a little better, too, from Clemson.”

That’s the kind of quote that the average viewer would consume and then never give a second thought, or, if you’re a Boulware, the kind you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

With Clemson’s national championship now in the bag, Boulware showed off his new strategically-placed tattoo on Twitter, tagging Howard in the process.

(By the way, Cook did rush for 169 yards and four touchdowns that night, though Clemson won the game, 37-34.)

Knowing Boulware, he’ll spend the rest of his days barefoot, hopping with his inked foot splayed in the air, begging each and every passerby to ask him how he got that tattoo.

Arizona State hires former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 07:  Head coach Todd Graham of the Arizona State Sun Devils runs out with teammates before the Pac 12 Championship game against the Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona. The Carindal defeated the Sun Devils 38-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona State has hired former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson to coach its offensive line, the Sun Devils announced Tuesday.

Henson spent seven seasons on staff in Columbia, the last three as offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and/or tight ends coach. His offenses helped the Tigers win the 2013 and ’14 SEC East championships, but their yards per play ranks plummeted from 13th to 125th in yards per play over his three years at the helm. Missouri rebounded to rank 31st in the first year under new coordinator Josh Heupel.

He spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst at Oklahoma State.

“Josh brings a tremendous background of winning championships at the highest levels,” says Graham.  “He was the offensive coordinator at Missouri and won back-to-back SEC East Championships.  He was the recruiting coordinator at LSU and was recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters for his accomplishments there.  He helped LSU win the 2008 BCS National Championship.  Josh brings a wealth of knowledge of our system to our staff, in addition to being one of the finest recruiters in the country.  He will blend well with Chip Lindsey and Rob Likens.”

In addition to coaching the offensive line, Henson will serve as assistant head coach and run game coordinator. Former offensive line coach Chris Thomsen left for a position at TCU earlier this week.

“I am so happy to be at Arizona State University,” Henson said in a statement.  “One of the things that attracted me to ASU is that Coach Graham has a track record of winning wherever he’s been.  And he has a track record of developing young men.  Winning is important, but being involved in their lives is also what appeals to me.  I know a lot of members of the current staff and they have great things to say about the university and about the Phoenix area.  I came out here years ago as a guest of former ASU assistant football coach Johnny Barr and found it to be one of the best places in the country to live.  I am very excited to get started.”

Arizona State finished 112th in rushing, 119th in yards per carry and sacks allowed, and tied for 105th in tackles for loss allowed en route to a 5-7 campaign in 2016.