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

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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 coachingsearch.com. “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.

JUCO next step for LSU transfer Dominic Livingston

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When Dominic Livingston announced in mid-February that he would be transferring from LSU, the defensive tackle indicated that the move was being made so as to be closer to his home in Texas because of unspecified family issues.  Monday, Livingston followed through on that plan of attack.

Speaking to 247Sports.com, Livingston confirmed that his collegiate playing career will continue at Kilgore College.  A community college in Kilgore, Texas, Livingston’s new college football home is roughly 200 miles from his hometown of Houston; his old home of Baton Rouge is roughly 270 miles from that same hometown.

Not surprisingly, Kilgore told the same website that he “will play a semester at Kilgore and go from there,” an obvious indication that he expects to be back at the FBS level in 2020.

If that is indeed the case, Kilgore would have three years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2020 season.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2018 recruiting class, Livingston was rated as the No. 38 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 74 player at any position in the state of Texas.  As a true freshman, Livingston appeared in exactly one more game than I did.

Illini DE who suffered severe spinal injury speaking, eating and sitting up

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There is some positive news when it comes to a distressing situation that developed over the weekend.

Illinois true junior defensive end Bobby Roundtree sustained what was described as a severe spinal cord injury in a swimming accident Saturday and underwent surgery a day later.  According to the Associated Press, Roundtree is progressing well following the surgery and, while he remains hospitalized, is speaking, eating and sitting up.

Several members of the Illini football program, including Lovie Smith, traveled to Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, Fla., to be with the injured player.

“Bobby Roundtree is exactly what you want in a student-athlete,” a statement from the head coach began. “He is a hard worker, dependable, a dedicated student and a leader.

“This is devastating to his teammates, the entire Fighting Illini family and his family and friends. We will give Bobby all the support possible as he battles through his recovery. Please keep Bobby and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Roundtree, who played his high school football in Largo, Fla., has started 20 games the past two seasons since coming to the Illini as a three-star member of their 2017 recruiting class.  This past season, the 6-5, 245-pound end led the Illini in tackles for loss with 12.5 and pass breakups, and was second in sacks with 7.5 and quarterback hits with four.

For that, the media named Roundtree honorable mention All-Big Ten for the 2018 season.

Iowa State officially adds Arkansas’ leading receiver

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Matt Campbell has officially added an experienced and productive piece to his Iowa State passing attack.

La'Michael Pettway revealed via Twitter in mid-January that he would be transferring from Arkansas; nearly four months later, he used the same social media vehicle to deliver the message that he would be continuing his collegiate playing career at Iowa State.  Monday, it was confirmed by the football program that the wide receiver has officially enrolled in classes at the university.

As a graduate transfer, Pettway will be eligible to play immediately for the Cyclones in 2019.

“I think the biggest thing he brings is he gives a veteran presence to this receiver group,” the head coach said according to the Des Moines Register. “[T]he opportunity to get a guy that’s done it at a very high level against really high-end competition can just add some veteran-ness to a group where there’s a lot of youth.”

This past season, Pettway led the Razorbacks in receiving yards with 499 and receptions with 30.  His four receiving touchdowns were good for second on the team.

Prior to 2018, Pettway had totaled 102 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.

NFL Network to air 10 Conference USA games each fall

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The NFL Network and Conference USA struck a deal that will see the league air 10 C-USA games, starting this fall.

“While exploring new media options for football, NFL Network stood out as an excellent opportunity for national exposure,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “We look forward to showcasing our conference through their tremendous platform and reach.”

The contract runs for four years, and will see NFL Network air one game a week for 10 weeks.

“We are excited to showcase the next generation of NFL athletes to our fans on a weekly basis,” said Hans Schroeder, Chief Operating Officer of NFL Media. “Our fans crave live football, and partnering with Conference USA – a conference which boasts several Hall of Fame players – provides us with an excellent opportunity to do so.”

Specific game announcements will be named at a later date. It’s an important move for C-USA, who has seen more and more of its games moved off of TV and onto streaming platforms, such as ESPN Plus, Stadium and Facebook. The league also has a TV deal with CBS Sports Network.