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Crimson Tide signs 25 for 2013

ALABAMA BCS CELEBRATION AP

(Below is Alabama’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban announced that 18 student-athletes have signed national letters of intent to play football with the Crimson Tide, joining seven players who enrolled at the Capstone in January and will compete in spring practice later this semester.

The 25 total players, including seven mid-year enrollees, come from 13 states – Alabama (7), Georgia (3), Florida (2), Louisiana (2), Tennessee (2), Texas (2), Arkansas (1), California (1), Maryland (1), Pennsylvania (1), New Jersey (1), Utah (1) and Virginia (1).

As of 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Alabama’s 2013 signing class ranked first nationally by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals.com and MaxPreps. The Crimson Tide is ranked fourth in the Scout.com team rankings.

As listed by position, the Crimson Tide add to their roster four running backs, three defensive linemen, three linebackers, three defensive backs, three offensive linemen, two quarterbacks, two wide receivers, two athletes, one tight end, one long snapper and one defensive lineman/linebacker.

Seven players – Cooper Bateman (QB), Leon Brown (OL), Raheem Falkins (WR), Derrick Henry (RB), Brandon Hill (OL), O.J. Howard (TE) and Parker McLeod (QB) – are already attending classes at the University. They all enrolled in January, began taking classes for the spring 2013 semester and will be able to participate in Alabama’s spring football practices. The other 18 players signed national letters of intent today. The Crimson Tide had eight players in enroll in the spring of 2012, nine in 2011, 11 in 2010 and four in 2009.

Among the 25 players are:

· Class Rankings as of 3:45 p.m.: No. 1 247Sports, No. 1 Rivals, No. 1 ESPN, No. 1 MaxPreps (CBSSports.com) and No. 4 Scout.com
· 6 Five-Star Prospects (247Sports, Rivals, ESPN & Scout): Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Robert Foster, Derrick Henry, O.J. Howard, A’Shawn Robinson)
· 14 Four-Star Prospects (247Sports, Rivals, ESPN & Scout): Anthony Averett, Cooper Bateman, Leon Brown, Jonathan Cook, Raheem Falkins, Grant Hill, Eddie Jackson, Tyren Jones, Dee Liner, Darius Paige, Maurice Smith, ArDarius Stewart, Altee Tenpenny, Tim Williams,
· 9 players participated in the Under Armour All-America Game – Cooper Bateman, O.J. Howard, Robert Foster, Reuben Foster, Grant Hill, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, Maurice Smith, Tim Williams
· 5 players participated in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl game – Jonathan Allen, Derrick Henry, Tyren Jones, A’Shawn Robinson, Altee Tenpenny,
· 3 members of the Parade Magazine prep All-America team – Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Derrick Henry
· 8 members of the USA Today’s 2011 All-USA High School Football Team – Jonathan Allen (2nd), Robert Foster (1st), Reuben Foster (1st), Derrick Henry (1st), Grant Hill (1st), Dee Liner (1st), A’Shawn Robinson (2nd), Tim Williams (2nd)
· 14 players in the ESPNU150 – Jonathan Allen, Cooper Bateman, Robert Foster, Reuben Foster, Derrick Henry, Grant Hill, O.J. Howard, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, A’Shawn Robinson, Maurice Smith, Altee Tenpenny, Tim Williams
· 13 players on the PrepStar 150 Dream Team – Jonathan Allen, Robert Foster, Reuben Foster, Derrick Henry, Grant Hill, O.J. Howard, Tyren Jones, Dee Liner, A’Shawn Robinson, Maurice Smith, ArDarius Stewart, Altee Tenpenny, Tim Williams
· 11 players named to the Rivals.com 100 – Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Derrick Henry, Grant Hill, O.J. Howard, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, Darius Paige, A’Shawn Robinson, ArDarius Stewart, Altee Tenpenny
· 16 players in the Rivals 250 – Jonathan Allen, Cooper Bateman, Reuben Foster, Robert Foster, Derrick Henry, Grant Hill, O.J. Howard, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, Darius Paige, A’Shawn Robinson, Maurice Smith, ArDarius Stewart, Altee Tenpenny, Tim Williams
· 18 players in the 247sports.com Top 247 – Jonathan Allen, Anthony Averett, Cooper Bateman, Jonathan Cook, Reuben Foster, Robert Foster, Derrick Henry, Grant Hill, O.J. Howard, Eddie Jackson, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, Darius Paige, A’Shawn Robinson, Maurice Smith, ArDarius Stewart, Tim Williams.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 25 members of Alabama’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Jonathan Allen
LB/DL, 6-3, 264, Leesburg, Va./Stone Bridge
Jonathan Allen is one of the premier defensive prospects in the 2013 signing class … a defensive end in high school that could also project at outside linebacker … a five-star player by 247Sports, Rivals.com and Scout.com … played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl … 2012 Gatorade Virginia Football Player of the Year … first-team Parade Magazine All-American … second-team USA Today All-American in 2012 … the No. 11 player in the Top247 and the No. 2 outside linebacker nationally by 247Sports while ranking second among player from Virginia … listed 17th in the 247Sports Composite listing and the No. 3 OLB …. also the No. 11 player nationally and the No. 2 weakside defensive end by Rivals.com, but ranks as the No. 1 player in Virginia … Scout.com ranks Allen as the No. 2 defensive end and 34th in the Scout300 … 28th in the ESPN150 and outlet’s No. 3 defensive end … ranked 36th in the Tom Lemming MaxPrep rankings and the outlet’s No. 4 defensive end nationally … first-team All-American as a defensive lineman by MaxPreps … a five-star defensive end by PrepStar that ranks third at his position and 18th nationally … member of the PrepStar Top 150 Dream Team and a PrepStar All-American … posted 119 tackles with nine sacks, six fumble recoveries, eight pass breakups, six blocked kicks and had seven pass breakups as a senior in 2012 … totaled 102 stops with 15 sacks and seven blocked kicks as a junior … finished with 87 tackles, 20 sacks and eight forced fumbles as a sophomore in 2010 … two-time first-team All-State performer in Virginia and Washington Post All-Metro selection … coached by Mickey Thompson at Stone Bridge High School … chose Alabama over Florida, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Stanford, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech.

Anthony Averett
ATH, 6-0, 170, Woodbury, N.J./Woodbury
Anthony Averett joins the Crimson Tide out of Woodbury High School in New Jersey … a talented athlete, who also boasts a distinguished career in track and field … ranks 115th in the Top247 and is the site’s No.14 safety and No. 5 player in New Jersey … ranks 274 in the 247Composite … No. 22 athlete by ESPN and No. 211 in the ESPN300 … Scout.com ranks him as the No. 23 cornerback nationally while Rivals.com lists him as the No. 23 corner … a PrepStar All-East Region choice … ranked 193rd nationally by PrepStar … No. 10 athlete in Tom Lemming’s MaxPreps … second-team small school All-American as a defensive back by MaxPreps … played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Game … clocked at 10.6 in the 100-meters, 6.46 in the 55 meters and high jumped 6-feet, 4-inches … maybe the top prep long jumper in the nation with a jump of 25-feet, two-inches, which was the longest jump in the nation this year and the second longest in state history … finished second in the 2012 Penn Relays in the long jump … posted 106 tackles, 12 pass breakups and five interceptions as a senior in 2012, which earned him first-team All-State honors … had 52 stops and three picks as a junior in 2011 and 40 tackles and three interceptions in 2010 … also ran for 1,278 yards (15 touchdowns) and passed for 836 yards (14 scores) as a senior … coached by Zac Valentine … nephew of former Miami (Fla.) All-American and Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie … chose Alabama over Penn State, Iowa, South Carolina, West Virginia and Tennessee.

Cooper Bateman
QB, 6-3, 215, Murray, Utah/Cottonwood
Cooper Bateman comes to the Capstone as one of the top quarterbacks in the class of 2013 … a consensus four-star prospect that is ranked as the No. 3 pocket passer by ESPN and the No. 5 pro-style quarterback by 247Sports and Scout.com … 44th in the ESPN150 … rated 87th in the Top247 and 79th in the 247Sports composite rankings … ESPN Elite 11 quarterback … No. 11 pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com and No. 189 in the Rivals250 … the consensus No. 1 player in the state of Utah … led the Black Team to a win in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game … No. 4 pro-style quarterback by MaxPreps … ranked 59th overall nationally by PrepStar … Sporting News’ No. 14 quarterback nationally … arrived at Alabama as an early enrollee in January of 2013 … coached by Greg Croshaw at Cottonwood High School in 2012 … threw for 2,384 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior while running 82 times for 277 yards and 12 touchdowns … threw for 2,484 yards as a junior with 26 touchdowns … connected for 27 touchdowns and just five interceptions as a sophomore while connecting on 68 percent of his passes for 2,786 yards … in his final three seasons at Cottonwood, passed for 7,654 yards and 68 touchdowns … chose Alabama over LSU, Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn and Washington.

Leon Brown
OL, 6-6, 300, Riverdale, Md. (Parkdale/ASA College
Leon Brown arrives at Alabama from junior college looking to compete for one of the open positions along the Crimson Tide offensive line … enrolled at the Capstone in January of 2013 to get an early start in spring drills … out of ASA College in Brooklyn, N.Y., Brown was a second-team All-Northeast Football Conference selection at tackle in 2012 … a four-star prospect by ESPN, 247Sports and Scout.com … Scout.com ranks Brown as the No. 2 offensive tackle and the No. 8 overall junior college prospect … No. 50 in the Rivals.com JUCO Top 50 … a PrepStar JUCO All-American … played at Parkdale High School where he was a first-team All-County selection in 2010 … chose Alabama over Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Jonathan Cook
DB, 6-0, 186, Daphne, Ala./Spanish Fort
Jonathan Cook is a fast-rising four-start prospect at cornerback according to 247Sports … the nation’s No. 13 cornerback according to 247Sports and ranked 145th in the Top247 … a PrepStar All-Southeast Region selection … rated as the No. 33 cornerback nationally by Scout.com … ranked as the nation’s No. 37 cornerback by Rivals.com … No. 73 defensive back according to ESPN … made 81 tackles as a senior in 2012 with seven interceptions and 21 pass breakups … made 65 tackles with six interceptions as a junior … first-team 2012 All-State selection by the Alabama Sports Writers Association … also named to the 2012 ASWA Super 12 team and was selected as the 5A Back of the Year … played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … played for Mark Freeman at Spanish Fort High School … chose Alabama over Nebraska, Louisville, Mississippi State and Mississippi.

Raheem Falkins
WR, 6-4, 195, New Orleans, La. /G.W. Carver
Raheem Falkins is a four-star prospect that boasts outstanding measurables for the wide receiver position … arrived at Alabama as an early enrollee in January of 2013 … ranks as the No. 38 wide receiver nationally and the No. 13 player in Louisiana by Rivals.com … the No. 41 wide receiver by ESPN and 247Sports … is 268th nationally in the ESPN300 while ranking 12 in the state and 128th in the Southeast Region … 247Sports also has Falkins as the No. 50 wide out in its composite rankings … No. 67 wide receiver by Scout.com … caught 47 passes for 1,058 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior while averaging 22.5 yards per reception … earned first-team 2A All-State honors from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association in 2012 … as a junior hauled in 51 catches for 800 yards and 14 scores … No. 23 in the Times-Picayune’s Nifty 50 … coached by Bryon Addison at G.W. Caver High School … chose the Crimson Tide over LSU, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Southern California, Illinois and Mississippi.

Robert Foster
WR, 6-3, 187, Monaca, Pa./Central Valley
One of the top wide receiver prospects in the nation, Robert Foster will give the Crimson Tide an explosive passing-catching option … participated in the Under Armour All-America Game … a first-team USA Today All-American … a five-star prospect by 247Sports and Scout.com … the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver according to 247Sports … No. 18 in the Top247 and he No. 2 player in the state of Pennsylvania … ranked 23rd nationally in the 247Composite and the No. 2 wide out … Scout.com lists him as the No. 4 wide receiver and No. 23 in the Scout300 … ESPN ranks Foster as the No. 2 wide receiver nationally and No. 25 in the ESPN150 … ESPN also has him as the No. 1 player in Pennsylvania and the No. 25 player in the East Region … Rivals.com rates him as the No. 4 wide receiver and the No. 4 player in the state … No. 32 nationally according to Tom Lemming with MaxPreps and is the site’s No. 1 wingback … Sporting News’ No. 49 player in the nation … a member of the PrepStar Dream Team and the publication’s No. 10 receiver and No. 80 player nationally… caught 45 passes for 756 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior, while rushing for 549 yards and 12 scores in 2012 … earned Pennsylvania Sportswriters Class AAA All-State honors in 2012 and was a 2011 PSWA All-State selection as a specialist … also intercepted four passes on defense with 67 tackles and eight pass breakups in his senior year … hauled in 37 passes for 584 yards and five touchdowns as a junior while rushing for 419 yards and two touchdowns in 2011 … as a sophomore in 2010, caught 25 passes for 520 yards and seven scores while rushing for 406 yards and three TDs … coached by Mark Lyons at Central Valley High School … chose Alabama over Pittsburgh, Penn State, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame.

Reuben Foster
LB, 6-1, 244, Auburn, Ala./Auburn
Reuben Foster comes to the Capstone as the nation’s consensus No. 1 inside linebacker … member of the 2012 first-team All-USA Football Team, chosen by USA Today … named the defensive MVP of the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game … a five-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals.com, Scout.com, MaxPreps and PrepStar … the nation’s No. 2 overall player according to Scout.com and PrepStar while ranking third nationally by MaxPreps … rated 13th nationally in the Rivals100 … No. 15 in the Top247 and No. 16 in the ESPN100 … the top-ranked player in the state of Alabama by all national services … ESPN also ranks him 11th in the Southeast Region … the 247Composite has Foster ranked seventh nationally, the No. 1 inside linebacker and the top player in the state … member of the PrepStar Dream Team … recorded 102 tackles with 22 tackles for loss and six sacks as a senior at Auburn in 2012 … earned first-team All-State honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association and was named the 6A Lineman of the Year … … invited to “The Opening” in the summer of 2012 on the Nike campus in Oregon … played in the 2013 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic … was the Georgia AAA Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-State selection as a junior at Troup County High School in 2011 … made 185 tackles with 144 solo stops, 34 tackles for loss and 18 sacks … had 112 tackles as a sophomore in 2010 at Troup County … coached by Charles Flowers at Troup County in 2010 and 2011 … played for Auburn High School head coach time Carter in 2012 … chose the Crimson Tide over Auburn and Georgia.

Derrick Henry
RB, 6-3, 242, Yulee, Fla. /Yulee
Derrick Henry is a five-star prospect that is listed as the nation’s No. 1 athlete and No. 4 running back prospect … member of the 2012 All-USA Football Team, chosen by USA Today … 2012 Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year … broke Ken Hall’s 51-year-old national high school rushing record with 12,124 yards after rushing for 4,261 yards as a senior in 2012 … Parade Magazine All-American and the publication’s National Player of the Year … played for the East squad in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, rushing for 53 yards with a touchdown and a two-point conversion … MaxPreps National Player of the Year and first-team All-American … finished his high school career with 153 rushing touchdowns, which ranks fifth all time, including 55 in 2012 … arrived at Alabama as an early enrollee in January of 2013 … five-star prospect by ESPN, 247sports and Scout.com … No. 9 in the ESPN150 and the outlets No. 1 athlete … ranks sixth by ESPN in Florida and eighth in the southeast region … the No. 3 player in Florida by 247Sports and the No. 1 athlete nationally while ranking 12th in its Top247 … the No. 4 athlete by Rivals.com and the No. 70 player in the Rivals100 … MaxPrep’s (Tom Lemming) No. 2 running back and No. 13 player nationally … Sporting News’ No. 2-ranked running back and No. 5 player overall … PrepStar All-American and member of the PrepStar Dream Team … set the Florida high school record with a 510-yard performance against Jacksonville Jackson and averaged 9.2 yards per carry and 327.8 yards per game as a senior … 2012 first-team All-State selection by the Associated Press and was the Player of the Year on the All-First Coast team … named the 2012 Columbus (Ohio) Touchdown Club National High School Player of the Year … rushed for 2,610 yards and 34 scores as a junior in 2011 to earn first-team All-Coast honors from the Florida Times-Union … also a first-team All-Coast running back in 2010 after rushing for 2,788 yards and 38 touchdowns while averaging 8.9 yards per attempt … went for 2,465 yards and 26 scores as a freshman in 2009 … coached by Bobby Ramsay at Yulee High School … chose the Crimson Tide over a myriad of schools, including Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame, Southern California and Florida State.

Brandon Hill
OL, 6-7, 390, Collierville, Tenn. (St. George’s/Hargrave Military Academy
Brandon Hill arrives at Alabama after a season at Hargrave Military Academy with a lot of potential along the offensive line … enrollee in January of 2013 … No. 13 in the Rivals.com 2013 Prep Top 50 … a massive prospect who has good athleticism and quickness for his size … MaxPrep 2011 U.S. Air Force Medium Schools All-American … Scout.com rates him as the nation’s No. 25 offensive guard prospect … the No. 9 player in Tennessee by 247sports.com and the site’s No. 46 offensive tackle prospect … SuperPrep ranks him 11th in the state of Tennessee … earned All-State honors in Tennessee at the Division 2A level … Rivals.com has Hill as the No. 57 offensive tackle and the No. 18 player in Tennessee … ESPNU lists him as the No. 77 tackle nationally and the No. 19 player in Tennessee … PrepStar All-Southeast Region selection … a three-star recruit … helped St. George capture the Class A Division II Tennessee State Championship … coached by Brent Hill … chose Alabama over Mississippi coming out of Hargrave Military Academy … also recruited by Georgia, Mississippi State and Kentucky coming out of high school.

Grant Hill
OL, 6-6, 301, Huntsville, Ala./Huntsville
Grant Hill arrives at the Capstone as one of the top offensive guard prospects in the nation … member of the 2012 All-USA Football Team, chosen by USA Today … a consensus four-star prospect that is rated as the nation’s No. 1 offensive guard by ESPN … 86th in the ESPN150 while being listed as the No. 5 player in the state of Alabama and the No. 47 player in the southeast region … participated in the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game … No. 2 guard in the nation according to 247Sports and the 247Composite while ranking third and fourth in the state respectively … ranked 54th nationally in the Top247 and 60th nationally in the 247Composite … Scout.com ranks Hill as the No. 3 offensive guard and 67th in its Scout300 … PrepStar lists Hill as the No. 1 guard nationally … a member of the PrepStar Dream Team as the No. 71 player in the country … second-team All-American as an offensive lineman by MaxPreps … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps ranked him 40th overall nationally and the No. 5 offensive tackle prospect … Rivals.com rates Hill as the No. 5 offensive guard nationally and the No. 77 player in the Rivals100 … first-team All-State selection by the Alabama Sports Writer Association … finalist for the ASWA 6A Lineman of the Year … played for head coach Scott Sharp at Huntsville High School … chose Alabama over Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Clemson and Mississippi State.

O.J. Howard
TE, 6-6, 235, Prattville, Ala. (Autauga Academy
O.J. Howard comes to Alabama the top tight end prospect in the class of 2013 … participated in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game … arrived at Alabama as an early enrollee in January of 2013 … a five-star prospect is the No. 7 prospect nationally in the Rivals100 … is the outlet’s top-ranked tight end and No. 2 player in Alabama … 247Sports ranks Howard 20th in its Top247 with five stars while listing him as the No. 1 tight in and the No. 2 player in the state … the 247Composite lists him 14th nationally … No. 14 in the Scout300 and Scout.com’s top-ranked tight end … is ranked 45th in the ESPN150, the No. 2 tight end and No. 24 in the southeast region by ESPN … Sporting News’ No. 32 player in the nation … rated eighth nationally by MaxPreps (Tom Lemming) and is the No. 1 tight end … is the No. 13 player nationally by PrepStar, the publication’s No. 1 tight end and a member of the PrepStar Dream Team… three-time was first-team AISA All-State selection … missed part of his senior year due to injury, but amassed 854 of total offense and 12 touchdowns … accounted for 57 tackles on the defensive side of the ball in 2012 … named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association Super 12 team … AISA 2012 Lineman of the Year … as a junior in 2011 had 11 receiving touchdowns, eight rushing scores and also threw for three TDs … caught 41 passes for 926 yards while rushing for 487 yards … had 89 tackles with eight sacks and three forced fumbles on defense … as a sophomore in 2010, set the school record with 31 total touchdowns while also breaking the school’s receiving records … named the team’s defensive MVP after making 89 tackles with six interceptions and four sacks … coached by Chris Honeycutt at Autauga Academy … chose Alabama over Florida, USC and Auburn.

Eddie Jackson
DB, 6-0, 175, Lauderdale Lakes, Fla./Boyd Anderson
Eddie Jackson was key addition for the Crimson Tide in the secondary for the 2013 class … a four-star prospect by ESPN and 247Sports … ranks 157th in the Top247 and is the outlet’s No. 5 athlete … ranked as the No. 14 athlete in the 247Composite … also ranked 21st in the state of Florida by 247Sports … ESPN lists him as No. 54 wide receiver … also rated as a wide out by Rivals.com where he was listed 48th … the No. 48 wide receiver by Scout.com … caught 37 passes for 792 yards and touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball as a senior in 2012 … also contributed five interceptions, 66 tackles and one forced fumble on defense … returned two interceptions for touchdowns … coached by Wayne Blair at Boyd Anderson High School … chose Alabama over LSU, Florida State, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Tyren Jones
RB, 5-9, 215, Marietta, Ga./Walton
Tyren Jones is one of the more productive running backs in the class of 2013 … participated in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl … consensus four-star prospect … ranked 63rd in the ESPN150 and the network’s No. eight running back … rated as the No. 9 player in Georgia and the No. 34 player in the southeast by ESPN … 64th in the Top247 and the site’s No. 6 running back nationally … in the 247Composite ranks 66th nationally, eighth at running back and sixth in Georgia … Rivals.com rates Jones as the No. 11 running back and 79th in the Rivals 100 … Rivals.com also lists him as the No. 5 player in the state of Georgia … the No. 91 player nationally by Scout.com and the No. 15 running back … a member of the PrepStar Dream Team as the No. 62 player nationally and the No. 9 running back … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps ranks Jones as the No. 5 running back nationally and the No. 79 overall recruit … rushed for 1,845 yards (6.46 yards per carry) and 18 touchdowns as a senior in 2012 … was a second-team All-State selection in Class AAAAAA by the Georgia Sports Writers Association … earned first-team GSWA All-State honors and was named the AAAAA Offensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2011 … rushed for 2,375 yards and 33 touchdowns while catching 15 passes for 205 yards and two more scores … also scored twice on returns while totaling over 400-return yards … coached by Rocky Hildalgo at Walton High School … chose Alabama over Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Oklahoma State, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Walker Jones
LB, 6-2, 234, Germantown, Tenn./Evangelical Christian
Walker Jones continues a family tradition, inking his scholarship papers with the Crimson Tide, joining Barrett and Harrison as members of the Alabama football team … a middle linebacker and running back in high school that projects to the defensive side of the football at Alabama … ESPN rates him as the No. 26 inside linebacker nationally and No. 11 in the state of Tennessee … the No. 8 prospect in the state by CBSSports.com … Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 22 linebacker and 11th in Tennessee … ranked 40th at his position by Scout.com … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps rates him as the nation’s No. 25 inside linebacker … invited to play in both the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl and the Semper Fidelis All-American bowl (unable to play due to basketball) … earned All-State honors from both the Tennessee Sports Writers Association and TNVarsity.com in both 2011 and 2012 … PrepStart All-Southeast Region selection and the publication’s No. 18 outside linebacker … Memphis Commercial Appeal Best of Preps in 2010, 2011 and 2012 … a finalist for Tennessee Mr. Football in 2012 when he captained Evangelical Christian to a state runner-up finish … All-Region selection in his final three seasons and the Region Defensive MVP in 2011 … set the school record for most tackles in a season and most tackles in a career … led team in tackles as a sophomore, junior and senior … scored 15 rushing touchdowns in 2011 and 10 in 2012 … Southern Prep Stars top linebacker in 2012 … helped lead his team to the State Championship on the basketball court in 2010 … … father, Rex, played basketball for Alabama … will join brother, Harrison, at the Capstone … oldest brother, Barrett, started on three Crimson Tide National Championship teams (2009, 2011 and 2012) … coached by Geoff Walters at Evangelical Christian School … chose Alabama over Tennessee, Arkansas, Nebraska, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

Alvin Kamara
RB, 5-10, 195, Norcross, Ga./Norcross
Alvin Kamara represents one of the nation’s top running backs with excellent versatility … the nation’s No. 2 all-purpose by Rivals.com and the No. 45 player in the Rivals100 … also ranked as the No. 6 player in Georgia by Rivals … selected to participate in the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game … No. 32 in the ESPN150 and the No. 4 running back … ESPN ranks Kamara as the No. 4 player in Georgia and No. 17 in the Southeast Region … 247Sports lists him as the No. 3 all-purpose back and the No. 7 player in Georgia, while ranking him 66th in the Top247 … is the No. 1 all-purpose back in the 247Composite, the No. 5 player in Georgia and the No. 42 player nationally … invited to “The Opening” in the summer of 2012 on the Nike campus in Oregon … the No. 69 player in the Scout300 and Scout.com’s No. 12 running back prospect … No. Sporting News’ No. 47 player in the nation … rushed for 2,264 yards and 26 touchdowns while averaging 7.5 yards per carry as a senior in 2012 … added 22 receptions for 286 yards and five scores … … second-team All-American as a running back by MaxPreps … earned Georgia Mr. Football honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution … was the Class AAAAAA Player of the Year and garnered first-team All-State honors from the Georgia Sports Writers Association … added 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior in 2011 … played for head coach Keith Maloof at Norcross High School … chose the Crimson Tide over Georgia, but also considered Florida State, Georgia Tech, Florida, Southern California, Clemson and Tennessee.

Dee Liner
DL, 6-3, 281, Muscle Shoals, Ala./Muscle Shoals
Dee Liner is one of the elite defensive line prospects in the 2013 signing class … a member of the first-team 2012 All-USA Football Team, chosen by USA Today … participated in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game … ESPN rates Liner as the No. 4 defensive tackle in the nation and ranks him 26th on in the ESPN150 … also second in the state by ESPN and 14th in the southeast region … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps lists Liner as the nation’s No. 21 overall player, a five-star prospect and the No. 3 defensive tackle … No. 7 strongside defensive end by Rivals.com and ranked 61st in the Rivals100 … the No. 3 player in the state of Alabama by Rivals … listed as the No. 8 defensive tackle by Scout.com and No. 48 in the Scout300 … Sporting News’ No. 55 player in the nation … ranked 112th in the Top247, the site’s No. 10 defensive tackle and No. 7 player in the state … No. 46 nationally and the No. 4 defensive tackle in the 247Composite … first-team medium school All-American as a defensive lineman by MaxPreps and a second-team selection on the overall All-American team … was a 5A All-State selection by the Alabama Sports Writer Association … recorded 76 tackles with 18 tackles for loss as a senior at Muscle Shoals High School where he was coached by Scott Basden … made 83 tackles with 17 sacks as a junior in 2011 while also breaking up two passes, forcing five fumbles and recovering two fumbles – one for a touchdown … registered 81 stops with six sacks in 2010 … finished his high school career with over 200 tackles, 68 tackles for loss and 32 sacks … Alabama over Auburn, Georgia, Miami (Fla.), Southern California, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Cole Mazza
LS, 6-1, 246, Bakersfield, Calif./Liberty
Cole Mazza proved to be one of the best long snappers in the country and that was a priority for the Crimson Tide faced with the departure of three-year starter Carson Tinker … earned a five-star ranking as a sophomore in high school at the Rubio Long Snapping Camp … the nation’s No. 1 long snapper by 247Sports and the No. 1 long snapper nationally in the 247Composite … ESPN ranks Mazza as the No. 3 long snapper in the country … three-star prospect by Rivals.com and the No. 11 snapper … three-star prospect by PrepStar and the No. 8 long snapper nationally … also served as the starting center for head coach Tony Mills at Liberty High School in Bakersfield, Calif. … chose Alabama over UCLA, Washington State and Utah.

Parker McLeod
QB, 6-3, 190, Marietta, Ga. /Walton
Park McLeod comes to the Capstone as the nation’s No. 31 pocket passer according to ESPN … ranks 58th in Georgia by ESPN and 278th in the southeast region … arrived at Alabama as an early enrollee in January of 2013 … the No. 35 pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com … 247Sports lists McLeod as the No. 59 pro-style quarterback nationally in 2013 and No. 41 in its 247Composite rankings … Scout.com has him as the No. 63 QB nationally … as a senior in 2012 played in six games due to injury and threw for 541 yards with four touchdowns … threw for 1,619 yards as a junior in 2011, while completing 63.9 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions … earned All-League and All-Metro honors as a junior … coached by Rocky Hildalgo … chose Alabama over Oklahoma State, Louisville, Maryland and Boston College.

Darius Paige
DL, 6-4, 314, Foley, Ala./Foley
Darius Paige a consensus four-star defensive line prospect out of Foley High School … the fourth-ranked defensive tackle by 247Sports and No. 55 in the Top247 … rated the No. 4 player in Alabama by 247Sports … No. 14 tackle in the 247Composite and 175th nationally … Rivals.com rates him as the No. 15 defensive tackle, No. 240 in the Rivals250 and No. 10 in the state of Alabama … ESPN ranks him 21st among defensive tackles and No. 239 in the ESPN300 … 10th in the Alabama by ESPN and 115th in the southeast region … Scout.com lists him as the No. 23 tackle and No. 221 in the Scout300 … played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl for the East squad … PrepStar ranks him as the No. 18 defensive tackle and No. 176 nationally … earned honorable mention 6A All-State honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association in 2012 at Foley … made 97 tackles with 32 tackles for loss and three sacks as a junior at Washington High School in Pensacola, Fla. … played for Todd Watson at Foley High School … chose Alabama over Florida State, Tennessee, LSU, Tennessee, and Louisville.

A’Shawn Robinson
DL, 6-4, 320, Fort Worth, Texas/Arlington Heights
A’Shawn Robinson is one of the elite defensive linemen in the 2013 signing class … member of the second-team 2012 All-USA Football Team, chosen by USA Today … played for the West squad in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl … a five-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals.com and Scout.com … Scout.com ranks him as the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle and the fifth-best player in the nation at any position … 247Sports lists Robinson as the country’s No. 3 offensive tackle, the 26th overall prospect in the Top247 and the No. 3 player in the state of Texas … the 247Composite has him as the No. 2 offensive tackle, the No. 33 overall player and the No. 4 athlete in Texas … Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 2 prospect in Texas, the No. 4 defensive tackle in the nation and was 33rd in the final Rivals100 … Sporting News’ No. 32 player in the nation … ranked 11th by ESPN at defensive tackle and 13th in the state of Texas … ESPN also listed him as the No. 13 player in the Midlands Region and 105th in the ESPN150 … rated 70th nationally by Tom Lemming at MaxPreps and the No. 4 defensive tackle … No. 30 on the 2013 PrepStar Dream Team … invited to the 2012 “The Opening” all-star event on the Nike campus in Oregon … recorded over 60 tackles with seven sacks and six forced fumbles as a junior in 2011 and graded out at over 85 percent on his blocking assignments at offensive tackle … coached by Todd Whitten at Arlington Heights High School … chose the Crimson Tide over Texas while also considering Southern California, LSU, Arkansas and Florida State.

Maurice Smith
DB, 6-0, 180, Sugar Land, Texas/Fort Bend Dulles
Maurice Smith is a consensus four-star cornerback … played in the Under Armour All-American Game … ranked as the No. 5 cornerback in the class of 2013 by Scout.com and listed 55th in the Scout300 … 247Sports ranks him as the No. 11 corner, rates him No. 121 in the Top247 and 14th in Texas while the 247Composite has him 84th nationally, the No. 9 cornerback and No. 111 in Texas … ranked 12th among corners by Rivals.com and 143 in the Rivals250 … ESPN has him as the No. 8 player in the state of Texas and No. 8 in the Midlands Region … No. 84 in the ESPN100 and the outlet’s No. 12 cornerback … PrepStar ranks him as the No. 7 corner and the nation’s No. 89 player … a member of the PrepStar Dream Team … the No. 15 cornerback by Tom Lemming of MaxPreps … recorded one interception as a senior in 2012 with 21 receptions for 389 yards and seven touchdowns … had 63 tackles and three interceptions as a junior in 2011 … played for head coach Jim Creech at Fort Bend Dulles High School … chose Alabama over Florida, Arkansas, Arizona State, Texas, LSU, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Michigan.

ArDarius Stewart
ATH, 6-0, 190, Fultondale, Ala./Fultondale
ArDarius Stewart was one of the top football players in the state of Alabama as a junior and senior … a consensus four-star athlete … ranked as the No. 3 athlete nationally by Rivals.com and No. 66 in the Rivals100 while being listed as the No. 4 player in Alabama … No. 67 in the Top247, the No. 3 athlete nationally and the No. 5 player in the state by 247Sports … No. 86 nationally in the 247Composite, No. 3 athlete and No. 5 in Alabama … ESPN rates him the No. 18 athlete and 181st in the ESPN300 … Scout.com lists him as the No. 10 wide receiver and 94th-best prospect in the nation … No. 59 in Tom Lemming’s MaxPreps Top 100 and the No. 1 athlete … a five-star prospect by PrepStar, which ranked Stewart as the No. 49 player in the nation and No. 3 athlete … first-team small school All-American as an all-purpose player by MaxPreps and a second-team selection on the overall All-American team at defensive back … The Birmingham News Player of the Year … a 2A All-State selection and Back of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association in 2012 after scoring 52 touchdowns on passes, runs and returns in 2012 … had 1,923 yards rushing in 2012 after totaling 2,188 on the ground in 2011 … had 55 tackles with two interceptions in 2012 … also earned 2011 ASWA first-team 2A All-State honors … finished his career at Fultondale High School with 138 total touchdowns … coached by Keith Register at Fultondale High School … chose Alabama over Auburn, Clemson, Florida State and Utah.

Altee Tenpenny
RB, 6-0, 207, North Little Rock, Ark./North Little Rock
Altee Tenpenny comes to the Capstone as one of the best running backs in the nation and the consensus No. 1 player in the state of Arkansas … consensus four-star recruit … selected to play in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl … 247Sports ranks him as the No. 5 running back in the nation and the top player in Arkansas … 51st in the Top247 … Rivals.com rates him as the No. eight running back and No. 53 in the Rivals100 as well as the No. 1 player in the state … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps No. 3 running back and No. 46 recruit nationally … Sporting News’ No. 47 player in the nation … Scout.com lists Tenpenny 84th in the Scout300 and as the nation’s No. 14 running back … a five-star player and member of the PrepStar Dream Team as the publication’s No. 33 player nationally and No. 7 running back … Sporting News’ No. 8 running back … first-team 7A All-State by the Arkansas High School Activities Association … rushed for 1,379 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in 2012 with seven receptions for 135 yards and two more scores … missed the 2011 season with a broken ankle … averaged 7.63 yards per carry as a sophomore with 15 touchdowns and 1,121 rushing yards … invited to “The Opening” in the summer of 2012 at the Nike campus in Oregon … coached by Brad Bolding at North Little Rock High School … chose Alabama over the in-state Razorbacks as well as Auburn, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Tim Williams
LB, 6-3, 235, Baton Rouge, La./University Lab
Tim Williams gives Alabama another top player out of the state of Louisiana … a consensus four-star prospect … selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game … 36th in the ESPN150 and the No. five defensive end in the nation by ESPN … also ranked as the No. 1 player in the state of Louisiana and the No. 18 player in the Southeast Region by ESPN … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps rates Williams as the nation’s No. 35 player and the No. 4 outside linebacker … 247Sports lists him as the No. 2 weakside defensive end nationally, No. 73 in the Top247 and the No. 3 player in Louisiana … 82nd in the 247Composite … Scout.com has Williams as the nation’s No. 20 defensive end and No. 167 in the Scout300 … Sporting News’ No. 48 player in the nation … a member of the PrepStar Dream Team as the nation’s No. 85 prospect and the sixth-ranked defensive end … registered 115 tackles with 45 tackles for loss and 16 sacks as a junior in 2011 … a 2011 and 2012 first-team Louisiana Sports Writers Association All-State selection … second-team small school All-American as a defensive lineman by MaxPreps … named to the Baton Rouge All-Area team and was a Louisiana 2A All-State selection … coached by Chad Mahaffey at University Lab High School … chose Alabama over Miami, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Southern California and Texas A&M.

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Max Wittek takes in Texas’ spring game

Colorado v USC Getty Images

For the better part of the eight weeks or so since Max Wittek announced his transfer out of USC. all — or at least most — of the signs have pointed to Texas being the frontrunner for the quarterback’s services.

Saturday, there was yet another sign pointing in the general direction of Austin.

Late last night, ESPN.com reported that Wittek visited UT earlier in the day and was in attendance for the Longhorns’ spring game.  It was the third time since late January that the quarterback has visited the campus, leading some to believe that Wittek-to-UT is all but a done deal.

In addition to Texas, Wittek has visited Hawaii as well.  Louisville is also thought to be a potential destination.

As Wittek will graduate this spring, he will be eligible to play immediately at any FBS program and maintain two years of eligibility.  There’s no word yet on when Wittek will pull the trigger on a decision on his next collegiate destination, although that could happen as early as this coming week.

Wittek was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country.  Late last month, Wittek announced he would be transferring from USC in search of a better shot at playing time.

Should Wittek land at UT, he would immediately join a competition that includes the incumbent David Ash, who recently underwent surgery on an injured foot but is expected to be available for the start of summer camp, and Tyrone Swoopes, who struggled for the most part leading the first-team offense in the spring finale yesterday.

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Texas LB calls Baylor ‘trash,’ says ‘they still suck to me’

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Other than Tyrone Swoopes‘ struggles, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of news coming out of Charlie Strong’s first spring game at Texas.

Well, that and a Longhorn giving a conference rival some serious bulletin board material.

Following the spring game, Steve Edmond was one of several UT players to make an appearance in front of the media.  When asked about how Strong can improve the Longhorns’ fortunes from the last couple of years, the linebacker decided to go off on a tangent and aim some rather sharp words directly at the reigning Big 12 champs, Baylor.

“We could have won the conference. Even though I didn’t get a chance to play in the Baylor game, I really feel like we should have beat Baylor. I really don’t like Baylor. I still think they’re trash. …

“I’m mad as I can be. I knew we were a better team than they were. And then … Baylor gets the win and acts like they had never won before. Even in high school, you know how to react when you win a game. It’s not like you never won a game.

“I’m like, ‘They won it, so what?’ They still suck to me.”

Thanks to Oklahoma State’s upset loss to Oklahoma earlier in the day, the Texas-Baylor game Dec. 7 turned into a de facto Big 12 championship game. After playing to a 3-3 tie through the first two quarters of play, the Bears outscored the Longhorns 27-7 the rest of the way to claim the conference title and its first-ever spot in a BCS bowl.

In fact, Baylor has come out on top of Texas in three of the last four meetings, with the only loss in that span coming by six points in Austin in 2012. Perhaps that’s why Edmonds, who missed last year’s loss due to a lacerated liver, reiterated his stance with an “I don’t like Baylor” to conclude his remarks.

Regardless, current and former members of the Baylor football program had a chuckle at Edmond’s bombast.

Oh, and for those wondering, Baylor and Texas will next meet again Oct. 4 in Austin.  Go ahead and grab yourselves some popcorn now as that one’s going to be some fun.

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Potential secondary starter for UK out up to four months with sports hernia

Alabama v Kentucky Getty Images

The good news is a potential starter for Kentucky on the defensive side of the ball will be laid up for quite a bit of time.  The good news?  It shouldn’t impact the player’s availability for the start of the upcoming season.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, cornerback Nate Willis will be sidelined for the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery in the near future for a sports hernia.  Such a timeline would have Willis out of action no longer than the middle of August, which means the defensive back could be sidelined for the beginning of the Wildcats’ second summer camp under head coach Mark Stoops.

“It’s always hard when you have an injury and you’ve got to be out, because you miss all those reps,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said according to the Herald-Leader. “That frustration sets in, but you’ve always got to look at things on a positive note. He knows that he’ll be back in time for the season, so he just has got to get the mental reps until then, and then when he comes back, he’s just got to be clicking on all cylinders.”

Willis, who transferred to UK from the JUCO ranks, started seven of the first nine games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury.  Despite the missed playing time, Willis still led the team with five pass breakups.

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Tide tops in spring game attendance despite lowest turnout of Saban era

Alabama Spring Game Getty Images

Only at football-mad Alabama could being tops at something nationally also, at the same time, result in a low-water mark for the current era.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon as a total of 73,506 fans took in their Crimson Tide’s annual A-Day spring game.  That total topped the previous 2014 high-water mark of just over 72,000 for Penn State’s first spring game under James Franklin last weekend.

It also bested Iron Bowl rival Auburn, coming off an appearance in the BCS title game, and its 70,465 fans this same day, although weather in that part of the state may have played a role in those numbers.

It’s highly (highly) (highly) likely the Tide’s total from this Saturday will finish out the spring campaign as the most at the FBS level in 2014; of the remaining spring games, only those at Michigan State and UCLA could even remotely hope to surpass that total — and even that’s simply wishful thinking on anyone’s part.

Despite adding a “Spring Game Attendance High” notch in the belt to go along with yet another recruiting title this year, the turnout for Saturday’s A-Day game was the lowest since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa.  In fact, it was the lowest since the 78,200 showed up during Saban’s second spring.

Of course, there’s not really any reason (at all) to fret over spring attendance as the Tide has blown past the 90,000-mark three times –2011 (92,310), 2007 (92,138), 2010 (91,312) — and the 80,000-mark once — 2009 (84,050) — during Saban’s eight years heading the football program.

More to the point, the eight most-attended spring games in the school’s history have come under Saban; prior to Saban’s arrival, the record amount of fans who took in a spring game was 51,117 (1988), or more than 20,000 fewer than the low-tide attendance Saturday.

Yeah, again, no need to fret for those who were even remotely inclined.

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Confident Nick Marshall dazzles as Auburn exits spring

Nick Marhall, Montravius Adams AP

It’s impossible for a player to win a Heisman based on his spring-game performance, just as, barring injury, it’s impossible for someone to lose it.  What a solid-to-spectacular performance — especially when it’s televised — can do is show the level of progress made from the previous year… and put that player on the minds of those with a stiff-armed lean during the dog days of the offseason.

Based on that assumption — howdy, Coach Saban! — you can very well expect rave reviews and upbeat predictions for the upcoming season to be rolling in for Nick Marshall.

During Auburn’s spring game Saturday, the Tigers quarterback led the first-team offense on seven possessions… and put points on the board at the end of every single one of them.  Included in that very efficient and proficient performance were four touchdown passes from Marshall to three different receivers.  Additionally, all of that scoring came in the first half as Marshall didn’t see the field for the last two quarters.

One of the few negatives to take out of Marshall’s day was the fact that he completed 59 percent of his passes; offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has set a standard of a 65-percent completion percentage for Marshall.  Other than that, though, Marshall’s head coach came out of the day pleased with the triggerman of his offense as he grows both as a quarterback and as a leader.

“He’s more of a leader by example,” Gus Malzahn said of the second-year starter. “He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, his teammates listen. …

“Our emphasis was obviously throwing the football. It was good to see our guys throwing and catching the ball in front of a crowd.”

For his part, Marshall had ominous words for what opposing defenses can expect from an offense that was run-centric in 2013 but could be adding a potent dimension for 2014.

We’re going to be a scary sight this year,” the quarterback said. “We can get real scary. We know we can run the ball. We’re just focusing on throwing the ball down the field. That’s the emphasis this year.”

In Marshall’s first year as a starter at this level of football, the Georgia transfer, by way of the JUCO ranks, played a significant role in leading the Tigers on a magical ride to the BCS title game following the 2013 season.  In two of AU’s biggest games of the season — the Kick-Six win over Alabama in the regular-season finale and the SEC championship game win over Missouri that propelled AU to its date with Florida State — Marshall completed just over 74 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and, most importantly, zero interceptions.  Not only that, but Marshall rushed for 200 yards and a pair of scores for good measure in those huge wins.

Of course, Marshall then proceeded to put up arguably his worst performance of the year against the best defense he faced, barely completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing a pick in what was still just a three-point loss to the Seminoles.

Coming off that inaugural starting campaign, AU coaches have done nothing but privately rave about the work Marshall has put in to improve himself this offseason.

Yes, it’s the spring and, yes, the spring game specifically is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage with fans in attendance.  Marshall has shown the desire to improve as a player, and those results showed themselves this afternoon.  How that all plays out when the real footballs start flying in a handful of months, though, remains to be seen.

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Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon takes home third straight A-Day MVP

TJ Yeldon, Landon Collins

Back in the day, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner derisively referred to his high-priced slugger, Dave Winfield, as “Mr. May.”  With no Steinbrenner-like derisiveness intended, T.J. Yeldon has taken the “Mr. April” mantle and literally run away with it.

As Alabama concluded Spring Practice 2014 Saturday with its annual A-Day spring game, Yeldon was named as the game’s MVP despite his Crimson team falling to the White squad 17-13.  Remarkably, it’s the third time in the running back’s three years with the Tide that he’s claimed those spring honors.

The true junior led all Tide backs with 95 yards on just 11 carries.  Yeldon had one of the three touchdowns the Tide offense was able to muster on the day as well, the other being touchdown passes from Blake Sims, the frontrunner (for now) to replace AJ McCarron, and Cooper Bateman.

Speaking of the quarterback situation, nothing was decided on that front — that battle will continue in earnest when Florida State transfer Jacob Coker gets to town — although there could’ve been a bit of concern this afternoon for a coach as averse to turnovers as Nick Saban.  All told, five Tide quarterbacks combined to toss four interceptions on the day.

Despite the turnovers and all-around lack of scoring in what was the first real public debut of new coordinator Lane Kiffin‘s offense, Saban, as expected, didn’t seem the least bit concerned.  Well, kind of.

After beginning his postgame remarks by stating that, from a coach’s perspective, “[n]obody ever has a bad spring game,” Saban did allow that the offense wasn’t quite where he thought it should be.

“I didn’t think the consistency on offense was what I would’ve liked for it to have been today,” Saban said in quotes distributed by the team. “We did make some plays, but there wasn’t the consistency that you would like to see in the offense.”

Seeing as the Tide is transitioning not only from a three-year starter at the quarterback position to a new coordinator, it’s not surprising that the consistency isn’t where Saban would like it.  Getting that consistency will be tested even further when Coker, who some or even most observers expect to be under center when the Tide opens the 2014 season, enters the fray when summer camp opens in early August and further dilutes the reps.

Regardless of how it ultimately turns out, it’s going to be absolutely fascinating to watch how the Tide gets to Saban’s optimum level of consistency at the position and moves on post-McCarron.

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Key recruiter leaving the Hawkeyes

Eric Johnson

A week ahead of its spring game, the Iowa football program has taken a rather significant hit on the recruiting front.

The Hawkeyes announced in a press release Saturday that assistant coach Eric Johnson has decided to leave Kirk Ferentz‘s coaching staff.  The state reason is that Johnson wants to pursue an unnamed career opportunity outside of football.

Johnson was a part of Ferentz’s first Iowa staff as a grad assistant.

“I know Eric and his family have given this decision great attention and thought, and we all wish them the best as they move forward,” said Ferentz in a statement.  “Eric has been a valued staff member since he joined our original staff in 1999 and has made many contributions to our program and team as a coach, recruiter and mentor.  I am very appreciative of Eric’s efforts and his commitment to Iowa and wish him all the best in the future.”

Johnson has served as assistant defensive line coach (2012-13), tight ends coach (2010-11; 2003-07) and assistant linebackers coach (2008-2009) during his decade-plus career with the Hawkeyes, but it was on the recruiting trail where Johnson made his biggest mark and where his departure will hit the program the hardest.  From the release on Johnson, who had spent the past 10 seasons as the Hawkeyes’ recruiting coordinator:

Johnson has been heavily involved in Iowa’s recruiting efforts since joining the Hawkeye staff. Iowa’s 2006 recruiting class was ranked extremely high by all the recruiting experts. Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class was ranked among the top 10 in the nation by all of the top recruiting services, while Iowa’s classes in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2009 were all ranked in the nation’s top 25. Sporting News ranked Iowa’s 2011 recruiting class second best among Big Ten programs and the 2012 class was ranked third among league programs.

Johnson ranked as one of the top ten recruiting coordinators in the country by Tom Lemming in 2001 and was named one of the Top Ten Recruiters in the Big Ten Conference by Rivals.com in 2007.

“My family and I can’t thank everyone enough for our 15 years at Iowa,” said Johnson. “It has been a great time in our lives. From a family standpoint, we had a chance to raise our children in a tremendous community. From a professional standpoint, I have worked for the best person in college football.

“Coach Ferentz is the best teacher, leader, and person I have ever been around; he truly embodies the Iowa way. I have also been mentored by three great coordinators in Norm Parker, Phil Parker and Ken O’Keefe, and had the opportunity to work with one of the best people anyone can ask for in Reese Morgan.”

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

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Ark. St.’s ‘Coach for a Day’ claims spring game win

Nick Bhardwaj

How much does a win at the FBS level cost?  For Nick Bhardwaj, it was $11,700 of well-spent funds.

Earlier this month, Arkansas State and head coach Blake Anderson announced that it was auctioning off the opportunity for a fan to coach one of the Red Wolves’ squads in the annual spring game.  The winning bid went to Bhardwaj, who is the 25-year-old CEO of a California-based tech company.

Friday, Bhardwaj put his football mettle to the test… and came out on the winning side as his Black team dropped a 48-17 decision on the Red squad.  Bhardwaj, a release from the school stated, “gave the team’s pregame and halftime speeches and communicated with the coaching staff on headset throughout the entire game while making play-calling and fourth-down decisions.”  That decision-making came after an extensive film session with offensive coordinator Walt Bell.

Also as part of the promotion, Bhardwaj received a Powerade bath (pictured)following the lopsided win.

The truth was I was just a fan of the sport, a fan of the game, and just happy to be a part of this opportunity,” Bhardwaj, who had never been to the state of Arkansas prior to the spring game, said during a press conference. Even a day after the game, Bhardwaj was still basking in the glow of the unique experience while Anderson was praising the man with the unblemished coaching mark.

In addition to Bhardwaj, ASU had another surprise up its spring sleeves as beloved former Red Wolves head coach Larry Lacewell was on the Red team sidelines as coach.  Lacewell stills holds the school record for career wins.

“[Athletic director] Terry [Mohajir] kept this a big secret that I was going to coach because he didn’t want the crowd to get so big, or he was scared that when everybody finds out I’m going to coach again that nobody’s coming,” Lacewell said.

Well done and very classy on all fronts by Anderson and the football program.

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

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VIDEO: Navy football takes near-annual trip to White House

Navy White House 1

Navy’s trips to the White House in celebration of its gridiron success are becoming such a yearly tradition that we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Midshipmen had their own monogrammed towels in one of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s myriad bathrooms.

Friday afternoon, Navy players and coaches were honored yet again by President Barack Obama at the White House for claiming the 2013 edition of the Commander-In-Chief trophy.  It’s the ninth time in the past 11 years the Midshipmen have staked its claim to the prestigious trophy.

Navy defeated both Air Force (28-10, after it looked like the game wouldn’t be played) and bitter rival (sometimes) Army (34-7) to earn its 14th CIC honor since the trophy was first handed out in 1972.  Despite the recent run of football success, the Midshipmen still trail the Falcons’ 18 trophies.  The Black Knights, the inaugural winner of the award, are well behind both service academies with six, with the last coming in 1996.

The trophy has been shared on four different occasions: 1974, 1976, 1980 and 1986.

Navy White House 2“When you sign up to play at Annapolis, you know you’re in for a different experience,” the President said. “So, yes, it’s about learning to be a good football player, but more importantly, it’s about learning how to be a good leader and to be a good man. And that’s what these outstanding Americans are and will continue to be.”

The President also acknowledged the tragedy with which the program has been forced to deal.  Last month, running back Will McKamey passed away after falling unconscious and into a coma during a spring practice session.

“I understand your motto for this season is ‘I Will’ in memory of him. And that’s what camaraderie is all about: Honor. Courage. Commitment. That’s what makes the Midshipmen so strong,” the POTUS said. “And that’s why I’m so proud to serve as your commander-in-chief. Not primarily because of what you’ve done on the football field, but because of your dedication to each other and your service to America.”

 

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Nick Saban ‘shocked’ at Manning-Gase imbroglio

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

In the course of a post yesterday on Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase having their brains picked on the no-huddle offense by Nick Saban during a recent visit to Tuscaloosa, we mentioned in passing, as noted by our redheaded stepmothers over at PFT, that the confab may have been in violation of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

For its part, the NFL is looking into whether or not Manning and Gase violated the portion of the CBA which prohibits coaches from meeting with players prior to the start of their team’s offseason workouts (the Broncos began their offseason program Monday, after the visits took place).  For his part, Saban is stunned that an NFL issue may have arisen out of what’s sounding like an impromptu get-together, ensuring that he stressed that Manning and his coach were never in the same room discussing football during their overlapping time in Tuscaloosa.

From an interview Saban did with the Denver Post after the situation blew up:

“I’m like shocked that anybody would think someone did anything wrong on their part,” Saban said by phone Friday night. “I never met with Adam. When I talked with him I talked about his family. Peyton, we talked an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Adam had been talking to our assistant coaches. I never talked with Adam about football.”

Asked specifically if Manning and Gase were in a meeting at the same time, Saban said, “Only to say hello and b.s. with each other. Adam came Monday and talked to the offensive coaches and some of the defensive coaches. I know he talked with Kirby (Smart, the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator). He and I just visited casually. We didn’t talk football. Adam was with me through two different college programs (at Michigan State and LSU).”

Saban firmly stated that Manning and Gase did not arrive together; in fact, the coach had been then there “for a couple days” prior to the player’s arrival.

Because of Manning’s proficiency in operating the no-huddle offense, the Alabama head coach and Denver Broncos quarterbacks spent a couple of hours one day — without Gase present — going over what defenses are problematic for that type of offense.

“And Peyton,” Saban said, “we were just talking ball. We talked about particular defenses that give us trouble with the no-huddle. Things like that.”

Given how the situation exploded, Saban took the opportunity to intimate an “ass out of you and me” joke when explaining the cause of the explosion.

“I was asked about their visit at my coach’s clinic press conference but I never said we sat down together. Because we didn’t. That’s what happens when people assume.”

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Hoke: Shane Morris narrowed gap on Devin Gardner after ‘good spring’

Shane Morris, Devin Gardner AP

While Devin Gardner said “it was amazing how much better (the quarterback competition this spring) made me,” the incumbent at the position –despite his pre-spring proclamation — exited the 15 practice sessions without a firm grasp on the starting job.

How tenuous Gardner’s hold on the job was further demonstrated by head coach Brady Hoke, who stated Friday “he might” when asked if Gardner would be his starter when the 2014 regular season commenced.  Gardner and Shane Morris have been engaged in what appeared to be a  neck-and-neck battle to lead the Wolverines offense throughout the spring.

When asked about Morris, Hoke was damn-near effusive, relative to his tepid comments Morris’ competition, in his praise.

“I thought Shane had a good spring,” Hoke said according to mlive.com. “Was it flawless? No. But I think he learned more about the urgency that he has to have to be the quarterback at Michigan.

“I thought he had a good spring.”

Gardner started every game last season before a foot injury he suffered in the loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale sidelined him for the Wolverines’ bowl game.  In his first career start, and as a true freshman no less, Morris completed 24-of-38 passes for 196 yards and interception as UM dropped a 31-14 decision to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

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UGA expects Keith Marshall, pair of WRs back for summer workouts

Tennessee v Georgia

A high-profile running back and a pair of experienced and productive wide receivers missed all or part of Georgia’s spring practice due to injury and/or rehabilitation from injury, but that shouldn’t be the case when the Bulldogs takes its next big step in preparing for the upcoming season.

According to head coach Mark Richt, running back Keith Marshall (pictured) and wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are expected to be healthy enough to participate in the football program’s “voluntary” summer workouts.  Those structured workouts will commence in June.

All three of the players are coming off of torn ACLs suffered last season that forced them to miss various amounts of games.  Marshall and Scott-Wesley both incurred their knee injuries during the Tennessee game last October, while Mitchell’s knee was injured in late August.

Mitchell had been participating — in non-contact fashion — in UGA’s spring practice earlier this year before another leg injury knocked him out for the remainder of the spring.

In addition to those three, Richt said he expects tight end Jay Rome, who suffered a foot injury last year and underwent surgery in the offseason, to be at full speed for the workouts as well.

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Washington latest to unveil new uniforms for 2014

View of Mascot

Another day, another FBS program has itself some new football duds.  Hooray?

This time around, it’s the Washington football players who will wear new uniform combinations for the 2014 season.  From the release:

The new stadium and athletic facilities are filled with Husky references, echoing the team’s ethos that “no dog runs alone.” A graphic symbol and unique coded sequence embroidered into the back inside neckline of the jerseys reinforces this mantra. Representing the quickest/most agile sled dog formation, the focal point of this special graphic is the area representing the “team dogs,” who are the heart and soul of the squad. The symbol is formed by lines that, when turned sideways, make an 11 to honor the 11 players on the field. Like a sled team, the Husky football team competes as a pack through innovative formations on field.

Our players can’t wait to take the field in these new uniforms. The design tells the story of our program and provides modern innovations in materials and design while embracing the rich tradition that has made Husky football so special,” said first-year UW head coach Chris Petersen in a statement.

Below are the three uniform combinations the Huskies will wear this season as well as a video tied to the release:

Washington Uniforms

 

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BYU lands Nebraska DB transfer Harvey Jackson

Monte Ball Harvey Jackson AP

The BYU Cougars are on the receiving end of some B1G transfer help in the secondary for the 2014 season.

The football program announced in a release Thursday that defensive back Harvey Jackson has signed with the football program and will continue his playing career with the Cougars.  As Jackson has already received his degree from NU, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2014.

“Harvey is an experienced player and a mature individual with excellent character,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a statement. “He will join our program after graduating in construction management with a business minor. He is a great fit for BYU on and off the field.”

Jackson played in 35 games the past three years, starting four of those contests.  He started the first three games of the 2013 season before losing that job.

In 2011, Jackson, a three-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2010 recruiting class, was an Academic All-Big Ten selection

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Saban picks Peyton Manning’s no-huddle brain during visit

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

In mid-December last year, Lane Kiffin was brought to Alabama by head coach Nick Saban to help evaluate the Tide’s offense ahead of its BCS bowl matchup with Oklahoma.  Less than a month later, the former USC head coach was hired as Saban’s offensive coordinator.

While another hire likely won’t come out of another high-profile visit, Saban has again decided to pick the brain of some offensive-centric football types in his never-ending quest to improve his football program.

Saban confirmed to the media that current Denver Broncos and former Tennessee Vols quarterback Peyton Manning, along with Manning’s coordinator Adam Gase, visited Tuscaloosa for two days last week for a meeting that may have violated the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Saban said Manning has “been a friend and very well-respected for a long time,” and the visit came about as the player and coach were taking a football tour to select cities across the country.

Given the proliferation of no-huddle, spread offenses in the college game — and the Tide’s notorious struggles in stopping them — and Manning’s expertise in running such a system, Saban jumped at the opportunity to pick the brain of one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

“Since they’re a no-huddle team, we had a lot of questions for them, in terms of what gives them problems and what defensive teams do that give them problems,” Saban said. “That was a mutual benefit. I know it was a benefit to us. I hope it was a benefit to them as well.”

Saban’s attempts to decipher the no-huddle riddle from a defensive standpoint has become almost legendary; earlier this month, a football clinic hosted by Saban featured, among others, the head coach of the fast-paced, high-octane Baylor Bears, Art Briles.

“The goals that you have for next year are basically the things that you struggled with last year,” Saban said in explaining the proliferation of high-profile visitors of late. “You make a list of those things through your quality control, and then you go out and look for people who might be able to help you develop a little more expertise, a better way to teach, a better way to coach some situation.

“Sometimes we bring somebody in here to visit with us. Sometimes we have people call us and ask us if they can come and visit us and try to learn from us, which we share with quite a few people. I think we usually learn from them as well when that happens.”

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