Alabama Crimson Tide

Former Crimson Tide safety takes shot at LSU’s new defensive coordinator

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You can take the football player out of Alabama, but you can’t take the Crimson Tide out of the football player.

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix left Alabama as a highly decorated safety before becoming the 21st pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 NFL draft.

The safety didn’t take to Twitter Friday to rip the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions or even the Minnesota Vikings, though.

Clinton-Dix’s contempt for the rival LSU Tigers remains strong, and he made sure to point out what type of hire the program made when Kevin Steele was named its new offensive coordinator.

The game Clinton-Dix referred to was the 2012 Orange Bowl. Steele was the defensive coordinator of the Clemson Tigers at the time. His defense surrendered 595 total yards to the West Virginia Mountaineers on their way to scoring 70 points.

The embarrassing performance eventually cost Steele his job.

Despite the pitiful performance and being a few years removed from defensive coordinator duties, LSU head coach Les Miles was excited about Steele’s inclusion to his coaching staff.

“He has a great defensive mind and he’s an outstanding recruiter,” Miles said when the hire was officially announced, per ESPN. “He knows our players and our system and his knowledge of the SEC and the SEC Western Division makes him a great fit. We are very excited the Kevin will be joining our staff.”

Miles and LSU might be excited about the hire, but Clinton-Dix¬†obviously thinks it’s a joke.

Overhaul of Alabama coaching staff is ‘complete speculation’

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As the coaching carousel continues to spin, most coaches want to become a part of the Alabama Crimson Tide staff, not leave it.

However, three different assistant coaches have left Nick Saban‘s purview since the team’s 42-35 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl.

Tyler Siskey, who served as Alabama’s director of player personnel this past year, was the latest departure.

After linebackers coaches Kevin Steele and Lance Thompson also left for other positions with the LSU Tigers and Auburn Tigers, respectively, questions began to surface whether or not a mass exodus was starting among Alabama’s coaching staff.

Siskey was asked about the possibility after accepting a position as South Alabama’s wide receivers coach under Joey Jones.

“There’s absolutely zero truth to whatever speculation about something like that,” Siskey told Al.com’s Mike Herndon. “It happens every year in this business and in this league. It’s just part of it.

“I’ve been hit with that question about five times today.¬†It’s the first I’ve heard it. You can’t control what people put out there. … You hear stories and it’s just complete speculation because they don’t know the truth.”

Siskey was merely looking for an opportunity to become a position coach, which he found with the Jaguars.

Otherwise, Alabama has yet to lose one of its key coordinators. Kirby Smart¬†returns for his eighth¬†season as the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator. Despite overtures from the NFL, Saban said that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is “committed” to Alabama “right now.”

If either of those two coaches decide to leave, legitimate concern can set in. Until then, Saban will put together the best possible staff to keep Alabama near the top of college football.

(Photo courtesy of Ole Miss athletic department)

LSU names Kevin Steele its new defensive coordinator

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After high-profile names such as Alabama’s Kirby Smart and Chicago Bears’ Mel Tucker were floated Monday, the LSU Tigers had a different target in mind to replace John Chavis as the team’s defensive coordinator.

LSU was able to lure a quality coach from the Alabama Crimson Tide. It just wasn’t Smart.

Alabama linebackers coach Kevin Steele will take over Les Miles‘ defense.

Steele came to Alabama after he was replaced as the Clemson’s defensive coordinator in 2012. It was his second stop in Tuscaloosa. In 2007, Steele served as Nick Saban‘s defensive coordinator before Smart took over play-calling duties.

The move to Baton Rogue also isn’t a first for Steele. The assistant coach spent the 2004 season as Saban’s secondary coach.

Miles has been searching for a new coordinator the Texas A&M Aggies hired Chavis on Dec. 31. Chavis left the Tigers in good shape after leading them to a Top 10 defense in 2014.

The lasting impression of Steele as a defensive coordinator, however, remains the West Virginia Mountaineers hanging 70 points on his Clemson Tigers during the 2012 Orange Bowl.

Steele is considered a top-notch recruiter, but he has big shoes to fill down in the Bayou.

CFT Previews: Allstate Sugar Bowl

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WHO: No. 1 Alabama (12-1) vs. No. 4 Ohio State (12-1)
WHAT: The 80th Allstate Sugar Bowl
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. ET Jan. 1 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: There is more on the line for the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Big Ten Conference during the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide than simply an appearance in the first national championship game decided by a playoff system.

A win provides validity to the both the Buckeyes and the Big Ten. A loss only adds to the narrative that the Big Ten Conference and its teams are nothing more than second-class citizens in the hierarchy of college football.

“Everyone’s gonna try to make it something bigger,” Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett told USA TODAY‘s Michael Schroeder. “Everyone is gonna try to lump everybody into the Big Ten and the SEC.”

What generally separates the SEC from the other leagues around the country¬†is the quality depth of talent each of its teams claim, particularly along the offensive and defensive lines. The¬†Buckeyes haven’t faced anything quite like Alabama’s defensive line this season.

Alabama’s starting nose tackle, A’Shawn Robinson, is listed at 320 pounds. Jarran Reed, who is one of the nation’s top run defenderd, plays defensive end and nose tackle at 315 pounds. Plus, backup nose tackle Brandon Ivory, a senior, also weighs 310 pounds.

Among Ohio State’s five toughest opponents this season — the Virginia Tech Hokies, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan State Spartans, Minnesota Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers — only one starting defensive lineman weighed over 300 pounds.

Alabama’s overall size and athleticism along its defensive front seven¬†will be difficult for the Buckeyes to handle.

If Ohio State’s offensive line can hold up against that defensive front and get Alabama’s linemen running laterally, ¬†it will open up Urban Meyer‘s entire offense.

First, the Buckeyes’ running game is built around its zone blocking. Running back Ezekiel Elliott emerged as a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. The speedster amassed 220 rushing yards against the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game. Penetration is the key to stopping the Buckeyes’ blocking scheme, though. If Elliott runs free like he’s did during the previous three contest then it will make it easier on quarterback Cardale Jones.

Jones will be making his second career start in one of the biggest games in college football history.

The redshirt sophomore was nearly perfect during his starting debut in the Big Ten Championship Game. He completed 64.7 percent of his passes and threw three touchdown tosses.

Ohio State’s ability to keep Jones clean in the pocket will be vital as the Buckeyes’ wide receivers, particularly senior Devin Smith, attempt to exploit an uncharacteristically porous Alabama secondary. The Crimson Tide is currently ranked 57th overall in pass defense.

But it all starts up front. If Ohio State can slow Alabama’s defensive front and vice versa, the ripple effects will be felt throughout the entirety of the contest.

THE PREDICTION: Alabama 35, Ohio State 28

 

Oregon Ducks make case to be ranked No. 1 overall

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The College Football Playoff committee uses each week as an opportunity to reassess its entire rankings.

This week the Oregon Ducks should enter the conversation to be ranked No. 1 overall.

While a 47-19 victory during the Civil War against the Oregon State Beavers isn’t exactly a major resume builder, cracks were revealed in the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide’s exterior during this year’s vision of the Iron Bowl.

Alabama dug deep and earned an impressive 55-44 victory against the No. 15 Auburn Tigers. But the Crimson Tide was exposed in areas where the Ducks excel.

First and foremost, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the best player in the country. Even if an argument breaks out that Mariota isn’t the nation’s top player, he’s clearly a superior quarterback to Alabama’s Blake Sims.

Sims threw three interceptions against Auburn, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban considered pulling him from the contest. Sims redeemed himself during the second half, but Mariota hasn’t even thrown three interceptions all season.

The Heisman favorite was nearly flawless against the rival Beavers. Mariota only threw six incomplete passes. The Ducks quarterback also accounted for six touchdowns.

Oregon clearly owns an advantage at the game’s most important position.

Second, Auburn wore down Alabama’s defense by playing with constant tempo. Gus Malzahn‘s offense racked up 630 yards against Alabama’s vaunted defense. If Auburn capitalized on three early red zone trips instead of kicking field goals each time, the complexion of the game could have been very different.

Like Auburn, Oregon can play at a breakneck pace and cause plenty of problems for Alabama’s defense.

Oregon also has the play-makers to exploit the Crimson Tide’s lack of talent at cornerback. Auburn’s pair of starting wide receivers combined for 327 receiving yards.

While the Ducks’ skill players don’t present the same size mismatch outside, they are quick and difficult to cover in small areas if Mariota is given time to throw. Byron Marshall accounted for 165 total yards on only eight touches Saturday.

Finally, Oregon should have been ranked higher than Alabama initially.

Prior to the Crimson Tide defeating then No. 1 Mississippi State, Alabama was ranked fifth overall, while Oregon was sitting at the second slot. A loss to the No. 1 overall team usually allows the program just behind them to take over the top spot. Instead, the committee found a way to rationalize placing Alabama at No. 1 overall and leapfrogging the Ducks. However, Mississippi State is now a two-loss team after losing to the Ole Miss Rebels in the Egg Bowl. Alabama’s best win is not as impressive today as it was last week

Oregon’s only loss came at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats. The Ducks will have an opportunity to avenge their line defeat in next weekend’s Pac-12 Championship Game and roll into the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Thankfully, all of this will finally be settled on the field, whether Oregon and Alabama eventually meet in a a semifinal contest or the National Championship Game (as long as they don’t falter in their conference championship games).