Nick Saban

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 3 Alabama

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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)

VIDEO: Body cam footage shows Iowa football player’s encounter with police

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal runs past Faith Ekakitie #56 and Cole Fisher #36 of the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 102nd Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 2016 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The story of an Iowa football player, Pokemon Go and Iowa City police now has some visuals to go along with the oral narrative.

Over the weekend, officers in that police department were searching for a suspect in a bank robbery. Hawkeyes defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie (pictured, No. 56) just happened to be in a park in that area and seemingly matched the description of the suspect — black man in black clothing wearing something on his head — prompting the officers to approach the lineman. When Ekakitie failed to respond to the officers’ commands, because he was wearing headphones, weapons were drawn.

According to Ekakitie in his Facebook accounting of the incident, he had “four gun barrels staring me in the face” at that point.

Because of the national attention the incident has received, the ICPD on Tuesday released two body cam videos that shows exactly how the encounter between their officers and Ekakitie went down.

“I think it’s critical we get the information out so people can actually see the events as they actually occurred in real time,” says ICPD Sgt. Scott Gaarde in regards to releasing the videos.

In his social media missive, Ekakitie thanked the police officers involved for how they handled the situation.

“I would like to thank the Iowa City Police department for handling a situation very professionally,” the lineman wrote. “I would also urge people to be more aware of their surroundings because clearly I wasn’t.

“Lastly, I would urge us all to unlearn some of the prejudices that we have learned about each other and now plague our minds and our society.  I am convinced that in the same way that we learned these prejudices, we can also unlearn them.”

Arrest on UCLA campus led to USC CB’s suspension for opener vs. Alabama

BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 13:  Wide receiver Jay MacIntyre #14 of the Colorado Buffaloes is tackled after a reception by cornerback Isaiah Langley #14 of the USC Trojans during the first half at Folsom Field on November 13, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Alabama may or may not suspend players involved in off-field incidents this offseason for their highly-anticipated opener, but their opponents already have.

The Los Angeles Times reported that USC cornerback Isaiah Langley was arrested back in May at a frat party at rival UCLA on three misdemeanor charges — suspicion of trespassing, intoxication and resisting arrest. USC head coach Clay Helton subsequently confirmed that Langley will be suspended for the opener against Alabama because of the incident.

From the Times on the events surrounding the arrest:

Langley was attending a fraternity party at UCLA when he was arrested, according to Greenstein. She said Langley gave responding officers the wrong age and resisted arrest.

“When he was asked to leave, he refused,” Greenstein said. “Police were called and he was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing.”

As a true freshman last season, Langley appeared in 11 games as a backup corner.  He was credited with 12 tackles in limited action.

On his official bio, the school wrote that “Langley will battle for key playing time at cornerback as a sophomore in 2016.”

Five-star Miss. St. signee Jeffery Simmons sees resolution to legal issues

Jeffery Simmons
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At least when it comes to the legal system, the saga of Jeffery Simmons has come to an end.

According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the touted Mississippi State signee pleaded no contest to a charge of simple assault while he was found guilty on one count of malicious mischief Tuesday.  A disturbing the peace charge he had been facing was dismissed.

Simmons’ restitution consists of $711 for medical bills and $175 for the alleged damage to the victim’s car. Simmons will also pay fines of $175 for the simple assault and $300 for the malicious mischief.

Controversy swirled in late March after a video that showed Simmons violently striking a female several times while she was on the ground went viral. In a Facebook apology, Simmons claimed that the woman had spoken ill of a deceased relative, although he stated that didn’t excuse his actions.

The woman on the receiving end of Simmons’ fists, Sophia Taylor, was subsequently found guilty of disorderly conduct.

The controversy was renewed and grew in early June when Mississippi State announced that Simmons would only be suspended for the opener against South Alabama.  Based on the video, many observers thought that Simmons shouldn’t be permitted to enroll in school let alone see the field at all in 2016.

“I would caution people to be careful about judging a man and his character through 10 or 20 seconds of a video,” Simmons’ attorney, Jay Perry, said according to WTVA.com. “He’s a fantastic young man who made a poor choice but he’s really looking forward to carrying on at Mississippi State.”

Simmons was the only five-star member of the Bulldogs’ 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Mississippi and the No. 15 player overall by Rivals.com.  On National Signing Day this past February, Simmons, in what some recruitniks considered a surprising development, opted for MSU over Alabama and in-state rival Ole Miss.

Reserve Ohio State DL Dylan Thompson academically ineligible for the fall

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03: A cheerleader runs onto the field with an Ohio State Buckeyes flag prior to the Discover Orange Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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Do something. And underline that. Do something.

Those were the words of Urban Meyer back in May when discussing the status of Dylan Thompson with his Ohio State football program.  Fastforward two months, and Thompson did indeed do something, albeit it’s a something that’s not even remotely positive.

At the Big Ten Media Days Tuesday, the OSU head coach announced that Thompson is academically ineligible for the fall semester.  That means the defensive lineman likely won’t play at all in 2016, and it could mean it’s the end of the road for the player in Columbus.

Thompson came to the Buckeyes as a three-star 2014 signee, rated as the No. 21 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 18 player at any position in the state of Illinois. An injured knee cost him his entire freshman campaign, while he didn’t play at all during his redshirt freshman season in 2015.

There was some positive news coming out of Thompson’s plight, however. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Though bad news for Thompson, it frees up another scholarship and has allowed Ohio State to gift scholarships to former walk-ons Craig Fada and Joe Burger, both of which Meyer said will graduate in December and see the field this fall.