Former five-star ‘Bama RB moves to corner… for now

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A five-star member of Alabama’s 2011 recruiting class, Dee Hart was expected to be the latest in a string of very productive Tide running backs.

In July of 2011, Hart suffered a torn ACL that forced him to miss his true freshman season.  After rehabbing that injury, Hart tore the ACL in the same knee during an October win over Ole Miss last year and, obviously, missed the remainder of the season.  While Hart is returning yet again from injury, he’ll be doing so on the other side of the ball.

The two-time defending national champions opened spring practice Saturday afternoon, and Hart was working in the secondary as a cornerback in a black, no-contact jersey.  Head coach Nick Saban, however, stressed that just because players are working at a different position this spring, Hart included, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the moves will be permanent.

“We’re looking to see if any of those guys can help us, and if this would be a better circumstance for how much they would be able to contribute to our team,” Saban said in explaining a handful of position switches.

The Tide is absolutely loaded at the running back position, with second-leading rusher T.J. Yeldon, one of two UA backs with over 1,000 yards last season, returning as well as four RBs in this year’s recruiting class added to a stable of four- and five-star players at the position.  The combination of that depth and Hart’s recent injury history would make switching to the secondary on a permanent basis sensible on several levels.

Hart, though, isn’t the only player making a secondary move.  Cyrus Jones and Christion Jones, wide receivers in 2012, were working with the defensive backs during the first of 15 spring practice sessions.

“I’ve been encouraged by all those guys. They’re all really athletic,” the coach said of the three skill-position players. “They’ve all played defensive back before, so it’s not like they’re lost. But I don’t think there’s any way that all those guys are going to end up on defense. Maybe one. Maybe two, if they both have roles.”

For the most part, and likely to Saban’s liking, the Tide’s first spring practice of the year was an uneventful one.  Here, though, are a few notes and one quote from the Tide’s return to the practice field.

— A total of nine early enrollees took part in the spring practice: quarterback Cooper Bateman, junior college offensive lineman Leon Brown, quarterback Luke Del Rio, wide receiver Raheem Falkins, running back Derrick Henry, offensive lineman Brandon Hill, tight end O.J. Howard, quarterback Parker McLeod and defensive back Jai Miller.

— Bateman, Del Rio and McLeod, incidentally, were three of the eight quarterbacks — yes, eight — who are currently on the roster and received reps.  In addition to those two as well as starter AJ McCarron and backup Blake SimsAlec MorrisPhillip Ely and walk-on Edward Aldag also received some semblance of work.

— Ely had reportedly been considering a transfer earlier this offseason, so his presence served as somewhat of a mild surprise.  Depending on how things shake out over the next five weeks, though, Ely could still look to move on to a program less congested at the quarterback position.

— From the Anniston Star: “During a couple of drills, McCarron was able to throw to someone he said he wanted to play alongside — his brother, tight end Corey McCarron, a rising sophomore.”

— As noted in UA’s release, secondary coach Greg Brown, assistant head coach and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and wide receivers coach Billy Napier getting their first on-field look at the 2013 Crimson Tide squad.  All of those assistants are in their first months on the job after three of Saban’s assistants left this offseason for better jobs title-wise.

— Wide receiver DeAndrew White (knee), running back Jalston Fowler (knee) and linebacker C.J. Mosley were among those wearing the black, no-contact jersey.  There was no word on the specific nature of Mosley’s injury.  (Writer’s note: Mosley underwent offseason shoulder surgery, hence the no-contact jersey.)

— Quasi-starting linebacker Xzavier Dickson was in the mix along the defensive line.  Again, the move is not necessarily a permanent one.  Dickson started six of the 13 games in which he played at LB last year.

— It was noted by al.com that “WR Kenny Bell doesn’t look like someone who broke his leg four months ago.”

— For those who keep track of this sort of thing, the Tide officially returns six starters on offense and seven on defense.  Starting punter Cody Mandell returns as well.

— Quotable, from Saban via the school’s sports information department:

“The main objective to me for spring practice is to focus on player improvement. Whether it is what a player needs to be able to do, the technique of how he should do it and to have an understanding conceptually of why it is important to do it that way.

“In the spring you don’t have game plans. You don’t have to change what you are doing and it is an opportunity for everyone to know our offense, our defense and our special teams – and to understand what is expected of them. I think it is also a time that a player needs to learn how to practice.”

USC transfer Clayton Bradley tweets move to UNLV

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One former USC football player has found himself a new home.  Unofficially.

Clayton Bradley had entered the NCAA transfer database back in January.  Four months later, the offensive lineman took the next step in leaving USC football by committing to UNLV.

Bradley made the announcement of a move to the Rebels on Twitter.

“I would like to thank the Trojan family for the past five years at the [U]university of Southern California,” Bradley wrote. “My experience and the relationships I’ve made will last a lifetime.  I’d like to thank the coaches who have recruited meduring my time in the transfer portal for the opportunity to complete my final year of eligibility.

“After speaking with Coach Arroyo and Coach Norcross I am excited about the program that they and the staff are building.  I have decided to attend the University of Las Vegas for my final season.  Excited for the journey ahead!”

Bradley had been granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA earlier this offseason.

Bradley was a four-star member of the USC football Class of 2015.  The Anaheim, Calf., product was rated as the No. 33 tackle in the country.  He was also the No. 42 player regardless of position in the Golden State.

In five seasons with the Trojans, Bradley appeared in 17 games.  The lineman started three of those contests.  All three of the starts, and 14 of the appearances, came during the 2016 season.  Bradley didn’t see the field at all this past season for USC football.

In December, UNLV turned to Marcus Arroyo as its next head football coach.  The Oregon offensive coordinator replaced the dismissed Tony Sanchez.

Clemson announces football players can return to voluntary on-campus activities June 8

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Thanks to Clemson football, another return domino has fallen.

Last week, the NCAA announced that it would allow schools to bring its student-athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts starting June 1.  The SEC subsequently confirmed its players would be returning June 8.  Both Ohio State and Illinois from the Big Ten will be doing the same on the same date.

Monday afternoon, Clemson announced that some student-athletes, including football players, will be permitted to return to campus for voluntary activities starting June 8.  Clemson is the second ACC school to announce such a return, View.

As will be the case with the Cardinals, the Tigers are doing a phased approach to the return.  From the school’s release:

Clemson Athletics has planned a three-phase approach to return, with oversight from the University, as well as guidance from local and national health officials and best practices. The first phase is expected to commence in conjunction with Clemson University’s previously-announced Phase I target date.

All phases include guidelines for social distancing, face coverings, enhanced sanitization, limited groups, modified use of space and other safety measures. In addition to the overarching plan, the department has worked at a granular level with coaching and support staffs, looking at each facility and developing guidelines for those individual spaces. The plans are subject to change based on guidance from the CDC, DHEC, State of South Carolina, Clemson University, the NCAA or the ACC or new medical information and research.

Phase I includes just those staff members directly responsible for the health and well-being of student-athletes, as well as those preparing facilities for Phase II. Sport coaches are expected to work remotely for Phase I, which will last no fewer than 14 days. Coaches may begin activity within facilities in limited numbers and employing recommended protocols with objective-based duties no sooner than Phase II.

Phase II and Phase III each further integrate staffs and student-athletes, and make adjustments to capacities and group settings, as well as facility access. Clemson will continue to evaluate policies and procedures on spacing, contact tracing, testing, and other safety measures as more is known from the CDC, DHEC, ACC, NCAA or other medical research or guidance. Details regarding fall competition are not available at this time.

“We are encouraged to begin the first step in the implementation of our Phase I planning, and appreciate the leadership of our University in helping us prepare for our student-athletes and staff to return in early June,” said athletic director Dan Radakovich in a statement. “We are confident in our ability to provide a safe environment and have put our energy into that goal. We’re encouraged by the progress and remain vigilant as we begin to welcome a limited number of student-athletes back to our facilities.”

Iowa State reveals it would limit Jack Trice Stadium to half-capacity this fall

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Thanks to Iowa State, we have yet another tangible sign that there will quite possibly be a 2020 college football season.  Maybe.  Possibly.

In a message to fans of the Cyclones, Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard stated that he and the university “fully anticipate playing football this fall.” In fact, “[a]s of today, we fully anticipate playing football in Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5.,” Pollard wrote.

That was in response to the question of whether football will be played this fall.  When it comes to fans in the stands?  Pollard revealed that Iowa State home football games would be played at about of the capacity at Jack Trice Stadium.  The home of the Cyclones officially holds 61,500.  Per Pollard, the university is “planning as though the capacity of our stadium would be limited to 30,000 spectators.”

And, just how will the university determine who gets in?  And who gets shut out?  From the letter:

As of today, approximately 22,000 season tickets have been renewed for this fall. That leaves us approximately 8,000 seats to be filled. Because we need to make plans to accommodate those fans who will be allowed into the stadium (based on state and local guidelines), we have decided to implement the following:

  1. Any fan who does not renew their season tickets and make their Cyclone Club donation by June 12, 2020, will not be provided the opportunity to attend any games this fall unless it is later decided that we can safely exceed the 50% capacity restriction.

  2. The only fans who will have the opportunity to be in the stadium this fall are those who renew their season tickets and their required Cyclone Club donation (if applicable) by June 12, 2020. If you have not done so already, please contact our staff ASAP to complete those processes. +Renew Now

  3. Because we expect to reach the 50% capacity limitation through season ticket sales, we do not anticipate selling single-game tickets unless the capacity limits are raised.

  4. Any season ticket holder who does not renew their season tickets for 2020 will continue to have first rights on their same seats for 2021. We believe it is very important to honor prior loyalty, as there may be some fans who are not comfortable attending games this fall or are experiencing financial challenges.

  5. Any season ticket holder who renews their season tickets but later decides they are not comfortable attending games this fall because of COVID-19 may request a refund of their season ticket purchase or defer the purchase of their season ticket to the 2021 season.

The university’s game-day mitigation strategies and measures that will be implemented will be unveiled at a later date.  Iowa State had previously confirmed that its coaches, including head football coach Matt Campbell, will take a one-year reduction in pay and eliminate all bonuses.

Iowa State is scheduled to open the 2020 college football season at home against FCS South Dakota Sept. 5.

WATCH: Ex-Notre Dame WR Corey Robinson tackles ‘voluntary’ aspect to return of on-campus workouts

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The NCAA confirmed May 20 that it would allow student-athletes, including college football players, to return to campus for workouts.  Voluntary workouts.

As we wrote at the time, the NCAA made sure to stress that the on-campus activities are voluntary.

“Voluntary on-campus athletics activity must be initiated by the student-athlete. Coaches may not be present unless a sport-specific safety exception allows it, and activity cannot be directed by a coach or reported back to a coach.”

This past week, one former college football player tackled the voluntary aspect of the return of workouts.  And, yes, used air quotes around the word “voluntary.”

“We’re talking all things college football-related.  This kind of seems, like, normal, to be completely honest with you,” ex-Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Robinson said on NBCSports.com. “Normally, I’m pretty sure we had to be back on campus June 1 anyways.  And all the summer activities beyond weight-room activities were all ‘voluntary’ and led by us.  They weren’t led by the coaches, the coaches couldn’t be on the field for seven-on-seven or any type of wide receiver-quarterback drills.  So, this looks very normal to me.

“I think that when it comes to voluntary, we had a saying back in the day called ‘mandatory optional.’ And I think that’s what this is. You’re going to have people wondering, ‘oh, the SEC is coming back June 1*, but then the Big Ten is thinking about June 8.’ People are gonna look for any edge they can get.  I feel like I’d be pressured into wanting to play or wanting not to play.

“That’s going to be a really sticky situation.”

(*For clarity, the SEC subsequently announced that schools could allow college football players to start returning to campus for voluntary workouts June 8.  A handful of Big Ten schools will return at the same time.  The Big 12, meanwhile, likely won’t allow a return until mid- or late June.  Neither the ACC nor the Pac-12 has announced its plans, although that could very well change this week.)