Nick Saban talks QBs, Confederate flags, second chances, draft grades

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Day 3 of SEC Media days has officially kicked off — as Ohio State/Auburn fans already know — and leading off the festivities was, along with the Ol’ Ball Coach, the headliner of the four-day event, Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

Not surprisingly, the man entering his ninth year in Tuscaloosa was asked a variety of questions on myriad topics, with those questions encompassing both on- and off-field issues his Tide and the game of college football are currently facing.  One in particular, involving what some are already perceiving as an excuse for the semifinal loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff, will likely grab most of the headlines.

And in that vein, with a note-by-note look at Saban’s half-hour at the podium, we’ll lead off with The Nicktator’s complaint regarding NFL draft grades.

PUSH BACK NFL DRAFT GRADES
Saban expressed his displeasure at the fact that the NFL delivered its grades to the Tide’s draft-eligible players Dec. 15, while his squad was in the midst of preparing for its CFP matchup with the Buckeyes.  According to Saban, his team’s chemistry between the SEC Championship game and the Sugar Bowl (semifinal) was affected by those draft grades, and that some players played not to get hurt in the game.

The solution to that “problem,” per Saban, is for the NFL to not release the draft grades until the player has played his last game.  That would mean the NFL would need to push back the deadline for declaring for the draft from Jan. 15 to a week to 10 days later.

One thought on this: didn’t Ohio State’s players also receive their NFL draft grades around that same time?  Just thinking out loud.  Spitballin’, if you will.

SECOND-CHANCE NICK
If the NFL draft grades brouhaha doesn’t grab the headlines, this one likely will.

The UA football program sustained a bit of a black eye earlier this year when Jonathan Taylor was dismissed from the Tide after he was arrested on a domestic violence charge.  If it were Taylor’s first offense, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.  However, the defensive lineman was dismissed by Georgia last July after he was arrested on similar charges, then given a controversial second chance by Saban.

So, does the coach regret giving Taylor a second chance?  From al.com:

Says it’s an emotional and complicated issue. Saban said he does not regret giving a player an opportunity and [Taylor] didn’t get due process in the case.

Saban did say “we don’t condone domestic violence in our program,” although that stance doesn’t mesh with his initial decision to give a second chance to a player already charged with domestic violence.

CONFEDERATE FLAG FLAP
With the likes of its Head Ball Coach and his boss joining the overwhelming chorus of voices calling for its removal, it was announced earlier this month that the Confederate flag would no longer fly over the South Carolina Capitol grounds.  In a move that should surprise no one, Saban was asked about the flag flap during his time at the podium and (surprise!) the coach is against anything as divisive as the symbol that’s been co-opted by hate groups.

“My opinion is anytime we have a symbol that represents something that’s mean-spirited or doesn’t represent equal rights for all people, that I’m not for having that symbol represent anything we’re involved in,” Saban said. “It’s not my decision what the governor does or what our university does. It’s just my opinion and how I feel about symbols that are not positive towards human rights and everybody having equal opportunity.”

AND THE STARTER UNDER CENTER IS…
In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, Saban didn’t tip his hand when it comes to a starter at the quarterback position.  And a big reason why he didn’t tip anything?  The Tide’s waiting for someone to take “the bull by the horns” and grab the starting job.  That didn’t happen in the spring, and the competition will resume in summer camp early next month.

Jake Coker is still the presumptive front-runner for the job, although those around the program are disappointed he has yet to grab the job by the throat and run with it.  In that vein, Saban stated that there are still “several guys” still fighting for the job, and that group would include Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and freshman Blake Barnett.

Joe Burrow reportedly passing on Senior Bowl

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow will not attend the 2020 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, according to a report.
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LSU quarterback Joe Burrow will reportedly be passing on the opportunity to play in next week’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Ben Baby, who covers the Cincinnati Bengals for ESPN, reported the Burrow Senior Bowl news, via Twitter, Saturday morning.

The Senior Bowl is the highest-regarded college football all-star game and is the last major offseason event on the NFL Draft schedule before the annual scouting combine. Many of the nation’s top seniors will arrive in Mobile, Alabama next week to begin a week of workouts instructed by coaches from the NFL. This year’s Senior Bowl teams will be coached by the staffs from the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions.

The Bengals own the top draft pick in this year’s NFL Draft, and they just so happen to be a team many believe might draft Burrow to inject some life into the Bengals offense. The Lions own the No. 3 overall pick. The Senior Bowl is attended by scouts and coaches from around the NFL, and with the top tier of seniors typically at the Senior Bowl, the whole week is a terrific opportunity for seniors to impress their future employers.

Of course, Burrow not playing in the Senior Bowl will be made out by some to be a negative on his draft profile, but that should not be the case. Burrow admitted to playing the national championship game against Clemson with a rib injury. Coming off a historic season that saw Burrow break the NCAA record for most passing touchdowns in a single season (and doing so in the SEC), missing out on the Senior Bowl shouldn’t be a concern. The Heisman Trophy winner has done more than enough to raise his draft stock for 2020 off the wild successes of the 2019 season. Burrow will still get a chance to focus on the scouting combine and decide what’s best for him in Indianapolis.

LSU students will go to class on Saturday to make up for national title game

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LSU students who got to skip class for the national title game (and the ensuing celebrations…) were hit with a dose of reality returning to Baton Rouge on Friday.

According to an announcement from the university, classes that were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday for the championship game have been rescheduled. As a result, students will have to go to class on Saturday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 8.

So yes, Saturdays in the fall have resulted in a few Saturdays of work in the spring.

The school had received a bit of criticism when it was announced that classes were cancelled on the dates surrounding the championship game. While the practice has happened elsewhere, the nature of the game being less than an hour from campus in New Orleans certainly made things unique for the Tigers and their large fan base.

While some students no doubt had hoped that the classes at the time were indeed cancelled, it turns out they were in fact just being rescheduled. Going to school on a Saturday probably isn’t what many had in mind when signing up for the spring semester but there’s probably not a soul in purple and gold will take issue with the change given that it comes as a result of hoisting the ultimate football trophy on Monday night in the Big Easy.

Virginia safety Chris Moore enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal has claimed another name.

As first noted by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Virginia safety Chris Moore has entered his name into the database as he explores a move out of Charlottesville.

Moore started five of his nine appearances for the Cavaliers in 2019 and wound up recording 42 tackles. While he was in line to become one of the key members in the secondary going forward, a prior  suspension for violating team rules back in November may have wound up playing a role in his departure and standing with the team.

The safety had previously missed all of the 2018 season with an injury as well.

Moore was originally a three-star recruit out of Ashburn, Va. in 2016 and, assuming the redshirt senior has a degree, likely has a season remaining as a grad transfer.

DL Jay Tufele, WR Tyler Vaughns skipping draft to stay at USC

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Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.

The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.

Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.

Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.

Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.