CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 3 Alabama

13 Comments

2013 record: 11-2 overall, 7-1 in SEC (T-1st in SEC West)
2013 postseason: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma (45-31 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 7/No. 8
Head coach: Nick Saban (165-57 overall; 78-16 in seven years at Alabama)
Offensive coordinator: Lane Kiffin (first season)
2013 offensive rankings: 25th rushing offense (205.6 ypg); 49th passing offense (248.5 ypg); 33rd total offense (454.1 ypg); 17th scoring offense (38.2 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: Eight
Defensive coordinator: Kirby Smart (seventh season)
2013 defensive rankings: 7th rushing defense (106.2 ypg); 11th passing defense (180.3 ypg); 5th total defense (286.5 ypg); fourth scoring defense (13.9 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: Four
Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Stadium: Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821; Grass)
Last conference title: 2012

THE GOOD
Replacing a three-year starter at quarterback?  Pffft, no problem for a Tide squad that boasts two Top-Five SEC running backs in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry… and the SEC’s best wide receiver-tight end combination in Amari Cooper and O.J. Howard… and at least three returning starters along the offensive line… and a defense that, despite the return of  just four starters, is littered with four- and five-star recruits throughout the depth chart and will, again, be one of the most stout in the conference… and, hands-down, the best coach in college football in Nick Saban.  In other words, and as they have been for the past few years, the Tide will enter a season as one of the handful of favorites to end the year No. 1.

THE BAD
I wouldn’t necessarily call this “bad,” but still.  Yes, Saban reloads his defense with four- and five-star talent, but the Tide still must replace a whopping seven starters from last year’s Top-10 squad on that side of the ball.  Not only that, three of those starters, all along the defensive line, have had their issues throughout the offseason and on into camp: two with suspensions, one with injury.  There are also experience issues in the secondary, with three starters needing replaced.  Fortunately for what will be a youthful Tide defense, their first three opponents (West Virginia, FAU, Southern Miss) won a total of 11 games last season, with all three finishing 78th or worse in scoring offense nationally.  In other words, the defense will have plenty of time to sort themselves out and gel before facing their first real test in Tuscaloosa against… four-win Florida, which finished T-112th in scoring.  The first real test against a team with more than a Pop Warner offense comes, after a bye, against Ole Miss Oct. 4.  Plenty of time, but still some concern over the inexperience.

THE UNKNOWN
We may have pffft’d replacing AJ McCarron, but it’s easily the biggest unknown heading into the 2014 season.  With less than week left before the start of the regular season, Saban, first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and the rest of the staff have not yet, at least publicly, settled on Jacob Coker, the Florida State transfer viewed as the presumptive front-runner, or Blake Sims, McCarron’s backup last season, as the starting quarterback.  Most believe that Coker will ultimately prevail, but there’s a possibility the Tide could go a game or two — or three of four — giving each an opportunity to grab the bull by the horns.  Saban said earlier this year that “consistency in performance” would be the key in settling on a starter; throughout the first three weeks or so of summer camp, neither Coker nor Sims has shown the type of consistency Saban has craved during his time in Tuscaloosa.  Back in July, Saban downplayed the Tide’s chances at a College Football Playoff title because of the inexperience at the position — Coker has attempted 41 passes in his career, Sims 39.  Saban’s downplaying comes with an asterisk, however, as the last two times he had a first-time full-time starter at the position — AJ McCarron in 2011, Greg McElroy in 2009 — the Tide won a BCS title.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: Nov. 29 vs. Auburn
It took less than a half a second to work my way through the Tide’s 12 games and settle on this one.  Certainly, the Nov. 8 road trip will be rife with implications both conference-wise and nationally, but this one… this one’s easily the “It” game for both sides this year.  The annual Iron Bowl grudge/hate match would get consideration year-in and year-out regardless of the most recent one played.  After last year?  This one comes in head, shoulders and half a torso above the other 11 games for the Tide.  Of course, the “last year” I referenced was the most memorable play of the 2013 season, “The Kick-Six” at Jordan-Hare that stunned the Tide and propelled the Tigers into the SEC championship game and, ultimately, the BCS title game.  While the coach and his team would never express it publicly, revenge will certainly be on their collective minds as the Tigers make their trek to Tuscaloosa in late November.  This year’s version may not match the drama of last year’s, but it’s still compelling, must-see TV — and could very well determine which team comes out of the SEC West and claims that division’s spot in the SEC championship game, with a spot in the College Football Playoff (likely) riding on all of it.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: running back T.J. Yeldon
After rushing for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, this bruising back has it all: speed, power, change of direction and surprisingly soft hands (20-183) for a man his size.  He is everything Nick Saban wants in a running back.  What he doesn’t have?  Sole ownership of the Tide’s running game load, the kind of ownership that would allow him to put up eye-catching numbers, because of the presence of Derrick Henry.  The reality is Henry is too good of a back and too much of a weapon to not utilize, which means Yeldon could still be one of the most Heisman-worthy players in the country and not have the stats to show it.  Such is life on Saban’s Five-Star Island.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Auburn looking into scheduling UAB for future football game

Getty Images
Leave a comment

2017 will mark the return of UAB football after a brief absence on the scene following a controversial disbanding of the program. As part of that return to college football, the school is in the market to schedule several future games down the road and it appears one of the Blazers non-conference games could include a trip up the highway to play in-state power Auburn.

“We’ve had conversations with them,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs confirmed to AL.com this week. “We’d love to play them again if we can work it out on the schedule, but finding a common date is often difficult to do some times.”

As Jacobs alludes to, finding a match in terms of dates could prove to be tricky. The Tigers have filled all their non-conference slots through 2019 and already have already agreed to home games against two fellow CUSA programs in 2020 and 2022.

On the flip side, UAB also has signed up their fair share of top-flight SEC competition as well. The school will play at Florida this season and will travel to Texas A&M in 2018 and Tennessee in 2019. Meetings with the state’s two SEC programs are rare (Auburn and UAB last played in 1996) but it could be fun to see the recently revived Blazers find a way to schedule their neighbors up the road at some point in the future.

Based on comments from both schools, the only question left now might be what the date actually is.

Walk-on USF TE arrested on misdemeanor fraud, theft charges

Leave a comment

Another day, another resetting of ye olde arrest ticker.

According to multiple media outlets, South Florida’s Adrian Palmore was arrested this past Monday on one count of fraudulent use of a credit card and count of petit theft.  The tight end’s arrest came at a Tampa-area IHOP.

From WFLA-TV:

In the arrest report obtained by News Channel 8, officers say Palmore tried to pay for a meal with a credit card that the victim, Rigoberto Torres Meza, claimed was stolen.

Before the meal was served, police say the victim contacted the restaurant, telling them the card had been stolen after his bank told him that someone tried to use the card.

The report went on to say that Palmore had initially said a friend gave him the card. Palmore then admitted he took the card after finding it at school and decided to use it “due to being hungry.

“We are aware of the situation and are in the process of collecting information,” the school said in a statement. “The student-athlete has been removed from participation in team activities at this time.”

Palmore is a walk-on who played in one game last season.  He’s also the third Bull to be arrested this offseason, Charlie Strong’s first as USF head coach.

Defensive end LaDarrius Jackson was arrested in May on charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment.  Not long after, he was arrested again on the same charges and dismissed by Strong.

Bulls defensive back Hassan Childs was hospitalized in stable condition after being shot in late March.  A day later, Childs was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one count of misdemeanor marijuana possession in connection to a road-rage incident the night he was shot.  Childs allegedly pointed a gun at least twice at a man, Jovanni Jimenez, and his family and was ultimately shot three times by Jimenez.

Childs too was dismissed from the football program.

Lincoln Riley spells out new responsibilities for Oklahoma staff

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Not surprisingly, there have been some tweaks made to Oklahoma’s coaching staff in the wake of Bob Stoopsretirement.

The OU football program announced Friday that Cale Gundy and fifth-year assistant Bill Bedenbaugh have been named by Lincoln Riley as the Sooners’ co-offensive coordinators.  Both will continue on with their previous roles under Stoops, Gundy as inside receivers coach and Bedenbaugh as offensive line coach.

Riley, however, will retain the play-calling duties he’s held the past two years in Norman.  The head coach will also continue to oversee quarterbacks.

Other than sliding Calvin Thibodeaux from defensive line coach to defensive tackles coach and adding Ruffin McNeill as defensive ends coach — that outside hire was announced earlier this month — all of the other coaches from Stoops’ last staff will remain in the same jobs.

“I feel like I’m the most fortunate first-year head coach ever with the staff we have in place,” said Riley in a statement. “I’ve coached at least two years with each one of these guys and I’m not shy in saying I think we have the best staff in the country.

“All of our coaches are excited to continue to work with each other as we aim to positively impact the young men in our program and bring many more championships to Norman.”

After UCLA, Baylor visits, ex-LSU lineman opts for Texas JUCO

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the end, a former highly-touted high school prospect will start over at a much lower rung on the college football ladder.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Willie Allen has decided to attend Tyler Junior College and play football this season for the Texas JUCO.  The offensive lineman told the Baton Rouge Advocate that he decided to take the JUCO route so as not to miss out on another season of eligibility as he had previously burned his redshirt.

The move comes nearly three weeks after Allen decided to transfer from LSU.

Prior to settling on the Texas JUCO, Allen had taken visits to, among others, Baylor and UCLA.  TCU had also been given serious consideration by Allen, but he was blocked by LSU after that Big 12 program reportedly had contact with the player before he had formally requested a transfer.

A four-star 2016 signee, Allen was rated as the No. 10 player at any position in the state of Louisiana and the No. 17 tackle in the country.  Only one lineman in the Tigers’ class that year, guard Donavaughn Campbell, was rated higher than Allen.

An unspecified leg injury suffered in the midst of summer camp sidelined him for his true freshman season and led to Allen taking a redshirt for 2016.

Allen was the third offensive lineman to transfer since December.  That month, tackle Chidi Okeke opted to leave; four months later, Andy Dodd did the same.

Another member of Allen’s recruiting class, four-star defensive back Savion Smith, announced May 31 that he would be transferring as well.