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.

Kansas fans will be able to buy alcohol at Memorial Stadium this year

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Les Miles isn’t the only big addition to Kansas football for the 2019 season.

No, the school has something much better that will help pass the time during Jayhawks losses in the form of expanded beer and alcohol sales to general seating areas of Memorial Stadium.

“In consultation with the University, Kansas Athletics has introduced the sale of beer and wine at selected venues on a trial basis to help assess the viability of a broader offering of alcoholic beverages,” athletic director Jeff Long said in a release. “That program has been very successful, and with the support and collaboration of on-campus entities, we are now prepared to expand it. Fans have told us that one of the best ways to enhance their experience at Kansas Athletics events is for them to have the ability to enjoy beer and wine, and we are pleased to provide this opportunity.”

We’re not sure if by “enhance their experience” the fans of KU football mean forget what they’re seeing on the field by we digress.

The school notes that the Jayhawks will be the sixth Big 12 school (along with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas and Texas Tech) to allow such sales in the general seating areas. That should make the conference the first with a majority of its programs selling beer and alcohol to the public during football games this upcoming season.

It also makes Kansas one of some 50 total FBS schools who have opened up the taps officially. Something says the new head coach is no stranger to just such an environment either so good news all around for KU fans during a week where negative headlines were more closely associated with the program.

Rutgers WR Zihir Lacewell transferring to junior college to play DB

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We’re in the final stages of the offseason in college football with training camps across the country starting as early as next week but it’s never too late for a player to transfer elsewhere for 2019.

One such case comes in the form of Rutgers wide receiver Zihir Lacewell, who NJ.com reports is transferring to Garden City Community College in Kansas. While a backup player leaving the Scarlet Knights from time-to-time isn’t all that interesting, the fact that Lacewell is departing to flip sides and play defensive back is.

The Staten Island, NY native did see action last season at Rutgers but played in only four games to preserve his redshirt. He was not expected to crack the starting rotation on offense in 2019.

Rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports, Lacewell was one of the program’s highest-rated recruits in the class of 2018 and held offers from a host of Power Five programs in the Northeast.

Wisconsin launches early Heisman campaign for RB Jonathan Taylor

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The Heisman Trophy has generally been synonymous with the best quarterback on one of the best teams in recent years but there have been a few running backs who have broken through to win the most prestigious award in all of college football.

Hoping to become the next tailback to break the signal-callers’ grip on the stiff arm? That would be Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who appears to have a budding campaign for the trophy that was launched by the school on Thursday:

Herschel Walker. Ron Dayne. Ricky Williams. Adrian Peterson. LaDainian Tomlinson. Dominant running backs. Legendary names. Unrivaled production … until now,” one tagline reads. “There’s a new kid on the block and he’s “Bringing Running Back,” back into the spotlight, just like those that came before him. And his name is Jonathan Taylor.”

The website goes through all of the notable stats that Taylor has piled up in just two seasons in Madison and while it doesn’t explicitly say everything is designed to raise the junior’s awareness ahead of Big Ten Media Days and the upcoming 2019 campaign, it does note that his fellow Wisconsin Doak Walker Award winners have all been finalists in New York at some point in their career.

i.e. hint, hint media this guy is pretty good.

And nobody is debating that after he has set numerous records during his first two years on campus. Key to actually making it to New York though might be how Taylor’s team does around him. If the Badgers can get back to being in contention for the Big Ten title once again in 2019, chances are high that the tailback’s play will play a bigger part in getting him the attention he deserves than a website and a hashtag.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

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Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)