Alabama Spring Game

Alabama’s No.1 goal is improve against up-tempo offenses


Johnny Manziel must haunt the dreams of Alabama head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

The former Heisman Trophy winner terrorized the normally stout Alabama defense the past two seasons. While Manziel’s play-making ability was off the charts, his production was also the by-product of Texas A&M’s spread offense and up-tempo attack.

When Alabama faced Auburn and Oklahoma during the last two games of the season, the defense struggled against other up-tempo offenses that operated completely different from one another.

During those three games, Alabama surrendered 128 points and 1,450 total yards.

As a result, the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 goal this off season was improving against the varied offenses they’ll face this season and be adequately prepared for each.

“It’s definitely challenging, because you don’t face that kind of offense daily,” Smart Smart told “It’s not who we are, offensively. You spend time simulating that in different ways, whether it’s the scout team or your offense, but you can never simulate it as good as a hurry-up team that does it. As far as recruiting, we try to get the best players we can, regardless of size or type of guy. Obviously, you’re going to have to beat LSU in our league, you’re going to have to beat Auburn, you’re going to have to beat Texas A&M.

“(There are) good teams in our league, especially our side, so you’ve got to have enough players that you can play every style of football. That’s obviously what our goal is. One of the No. 1 goals of this fall camp is to improve on that. There’s a lot of ways to improve on that, whether it’s being in shape, cutting weight so you can play more snaps. You’re going to have to play more people, so you have to have more depth. There are a lot of things we can do to improve on that and try to play those style of offenses better.”

The Crimson Tide’s defense has continually been one of college football’s best under Smart’s supervision. Yet, there is an inherent flaw in the composition of their scheme. Saban and Smart prefer bigger and more physical defensive linemen, linebackers and cornerbacks to physically overwhelm offenses. In doing so, the system sacrifices athleticism and speed in certain areas. Thus, teams like Texas A&M can attack the edges of the defense and prove to be successful.

Alabama continues to recruit some of the best overall athletes in the country. Smart and Saban will need to find new and creative ways to take advantage of this type of talent so the defense won’t struggle quite as much against spread offenses that love to vary the pace.

Kansas State holds off Texas, 24-21

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Quarterback Jesse Ertz #17 of the Kansas State Wildcats warms up before the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Wildcats defeated the Wolverines 31-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t pretty, but Kansas State (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) will take it. The Wildcats took control of the time of possession in the first half and held off a bit of a second-half push by Texas (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) to pick up a 24-21 victory Saturday afternoon.

Kansas State certainly gave Texas opportunities. The Wildcats had three turnovers, but Texas followed those Kansas State turnovers with two turnover-on-downs and one missed field goal. Jesse Ertz was efficient in the passing game for Kansas State, completing 20 of 27 pass attempts for 171 yards and a touchdown (one interception). Ertz also accounted for two rushing touchdowns and 78 rushing yards.

Despite missing on a number of opportunities, Texas did still manage to push Kansas State to the end of the game with a pair of second-half touchdowns. Shane Buechele‘s six-yard touchdown pass to Dorian Leonard in the back of the end zone was upheld by a video replay and cut the Kansas State lead to three after an extra-point conversion. Buechele completed 17-pf-24 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. D'Onta Foreman led all players with 124 rushing yards, and Tyrone Swoopes added a rushing touchdown. Charles Jones was Kansas State’s leading rusher with 81 yards on 12 attempts.

Texas will return to Austin next week to host Baylor. Entering this weekend, Baylor as undefeated and looking to make a push in the Big 12. Texas stunned a depleted Baylor last year, so Baylor will be looking for revenge. Once again, Texas head coach Charlie Strong looks to be in need of a big win to save his job.

Kansas State hits the road next week for an early kickoff at Iowa State. The cyclones entered this week with a record of 1-6, with a record of 0-4 in Big 12 play.

WATCH: Purdue honors the late Sam Foltz prior to Nebraska game

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Students of the Nebraska Cornhuskers honor deceased player Sam Foltz with a banner before the game against the Wyoming Cowboys at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Wyoming 52-14. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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The Big Ten has fully embraced honoring the memory of Sam Foltz, and Purdue became the latest to do as much.

Like Illinois before them, the Purdue captains presented their counterparts at Nebraska with a No. 27 jersey at midfield as the two teams met for the ceremonial coin toss prior to the Big Ten contest.  The coin used, incidentally, featured Foltz on one side and Mike Sadler on the other.

Foltz, who would’ve been Nebraska’s punter this season, and Sadler, a former Michigan State punter, were killed in a July car accident on their way home from a kick camp in Wisconsin. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the wreck, but is kicking this season for the Tigers and honoring both by wearing special cleats.

Jeff George Jr. will reportedly get the start for Illini vs. Michigan

Illinois athletics

If you’re in the mood to feel old, here ya go.

Illinois has been hit hard by injuries at the quarterback position, with season-opening starter Wes Lunt dealing with a back issue while Chayce Crouch, last week’s starter in place of Lunt, hurt his shoulder against Rutgers.  Neither of those signal-callers are expected to be available for today’s game against Michigan.

So, just who will line up under center against the No. 3 team in the country in the Big House?  According to the Champaign News-Gazette, that honor will fall to Jeff George Jr., the son of former Illini great Jeff George.

The 6-3, 205-pound George was a two-star recruit in 2014 who took a grayshirt that year before enrolling at Illinois in 2015.  He took a redshirt his true freshman season, and has not thrown a pass at the collegiate level.

Obviously, this will mark his first career start, and it will come against a team with which his father had some familiarity.  From the News-Gazette:

George’s dad, who was scheduled to be at today’s game, started twice against Michigan in the late 1980s.

He had 135 yards in a 1988 loss and threw for 253 yards in a 24-10 loss in 1989 at Memorial Stadium.

Report: Christian McCaffery back for Stanford vs. Colorado

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 02:  Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal runs with the ball against the Kansas State Wildcats at Stanford Stadium on September 2, 2016 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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If Stanford wants to exit Week 8 still entertaining (slim) hopes of repeating as Pac-12 North and conference champs, they’re almost certainly in must-win territory against Colorado today.  Getting their star running back back would certainly help, and it appears that’s what’s exactly going to happen.

In a tweet a short time ago, Bruce Feldman of reported that “Christian McCaffrey is expected back today” for the Buffs game.  Earlier in the week, McCaffrey’s return had been uncertain as he was extremely limited in practice.

In the third quarter of Stanford’s Week 6 loss to Washington State, McCaffrey sustained an unspecified injury that knocked him out for the remainder of the game. He was also sidelined for last Saturday’s win over Notre Dame.

A finalist for the 2015 Heisman Trophy, McCaffrey led the Cardinal in rushing (520 yards), rushing touchdowns (three), yards per carry (5.3), receptions (18), punt returns (8.0 average) and kick returns (22.8 average) prior to the injury that cost him back-to-back games.

His 188.2 all-purpose yards per game was third nationally, but he has not scored a touchdown since Week 2 and had just 84 rushing yards total the last two weeks pre-injury.