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Bryce Love, Ed Oliver headline Walter Camp Award preseason watch list

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What is arguably the second-most prestigious award in college football has officially joined in on the watch listing fun.

The Walter Camp Foundation became the last (?) of the major awards to release its preseason watch list, with a total of 50 individuals making the cut as the players to watch for its 2018 Player of the Year Award.  Headling that half-century group is a pair of 2017 Camp All-Americans — Stanford running back Bryce Love and Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver.

All FBS conferences are represented, led by nine each for both the Big Ten and ACC.  The ACC (eight) and Big 12 (seven) are next, followed by the Pac-12 (five), AAC (four), Conference USA (three), MAC (one), Mountain West (one) and Sun Belt (one).  Two football independents, Army and Notre Dame, made the initial cut as well.

A total of nine schools placed two players each on the watch list: Alabama, Clemson, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, TCU, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Of the 50 watch listers, 38 come from the offensive side of the ball.  The breakdown of that group goes 17 quarterbacks, 15 running backs, five wide receivers and one tight end.  An even dozen are, obviously, defensive players — seven defensive linemen, three linebackers, two defensive backs.

Breaking down the group by classes, there are 17 seniors, 25 juniors and eight sophomores.

Cam Akers, RB, Sophomore, Florida State
Darius Anderson, RB, Junior, TCU
Rodney Anderson, RB, Junior, Oklahoma
Ben Banogu, DE, Sophomore, TCU
Nick Bosa, DL, Junior, Ohio State #
Spencer Brown, RB, Sophomore, UAB
Jake Bentley, QB, Junior, University of South Carolina
A.J. Brown, WR, Junior, Ole Miss
Jake Browning, QB, Senior, Washington
Devin Bush, LB, Junior, Michigan #
Raekwon Davis, DL, Junior, Alabama
AJ Dillon, RB, Sophomore, Boston College
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Sophomore, Ohio State
T.J. Edwards, LB, Senior, Wisconsin #
Noah Fant, TE, Junior, Iowa
Mason Fine, QB, Junior, North Texas
Ryan Finley, QB, Senior, North Carolina State
Rashan Gary, DE, Junior, Michigan
Myles Gaskin, RB, Senior, Washington
Joe Gilles-Harris, LB, Junior, Duke #
Will Grier, QB, Senior, West Virginia
Justice Hansen, QB, Senior, Arkansas State
Damien Harris, RB, Senior, Alabama
Darrell Henderson, RB, Junior Memphis
Justice Hill, RB, Sophomore, Oklahoma State
Collin Johnson, WR, Junior, Texas
Diontae Johnson, WR, Junior, Toledo
Jaquan Johnson, DB, Senior, Miami (Fla.)
Dexter Lawrence, DL, Junior, Clemson
Brian Lewerke, QB, Junior, Michigan State
Drew Lock, QB, Senior, Missouri
Bryce Love, RB, Senior, Stanford *
Trace McSorley, QB, Senior, Penn State
McKenzie Milton, QB, Junior, UCF
Steven Montez, QB, Junior, Colorado
Ed Oliver, DL, Junior, Houston *
Malcolm Perry, QB, Junior, Navy
Ahmmon Richards, WR, Junior, Miami (Fla.)
Brett Rypien, QB, Senior, Boise State
Kyle Shurmur, QB, Senior, Vanderbilt
David Sills, WR, Senior, West Virginia #
Devin Singletary, RB, Junior, Florida Atlantic
Benny Snell, RB, Junior, Kentucky
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Junior, Auburn
Khalil Tate, QB, Junior, Arizona
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Sophomore, Wisconsin #
Christian Wilkins, DL, Senior, Clemson #
Greedy Williams, DB, Sophomore, LSU
Brandon Wimbush, QB, Senior, University of Notre Dame
Darnell Woolfolk, RB, Senior, Army-West Point

* 2017 Walter Camp All-America First-Team selection
# – 2017 Walter Camp All-America Second-Team selection

Alabama’s 2017 title team visiting President Trump, White House today

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For the fifth time this decade, the Alabama football team will be taking a trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, although there’ll be a decidedly different host this time around.

As had previously been announced, the Crimson Tide is set to be honored at the White House at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday afternoon.  The 2017 College Football Playoff champions will be feted for the first time by President Donald Trump, who also played host to the Clemson Tigers football title squad last year.

The first four trips to the White House came during President Barack Obama‘s administrations.

Despite the fact that some champions in other sports flat-out refused to be feted by the current POTUS, there doesn’t appear any hint of reservation on the part of the ‘Bama team — thanks in very large part to head coach Nick Saban.

“Coach Saban addressed it and just said, ‘Hey, we’re doing this regardless of your political thoughts. We’re going, just to celebrate this team. It’s an honor. And just to be able to say that you’ve gone to the White House is something that you can cherish forever,'” offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher said by way of al.com in the run-up to the visit. “So that was basically the extent of that.”

“It’s an incredible honor for us to be invited to the White House,” said running back Damien Harris. “It’s something that comes with being national champions, so we’re definitely thankful for the opportunity. There’s a lot of young guys that haven’t been able to make that trip yet. We’re glad we’ve got guys that can go for the first time and experience it the way that we did when we were young. Obviously, all the older guys have been there, and we’re looking forward to going back again.”

Incidentally, if you’re so inclined, you can watch the festivities live at whitehouse.gov.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison join Alabama teammates in NFL draft pool

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We already knew that wide receiver Calvin Ridley, running back Bo Scarbrough and defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne would be leaving Alabama early, while running back Damien Harris had opted to stay.  Thursday, we learned the fate of other draft-eligible Crimson Tide football players.

At what’s become an annual press conference, head coach Nick Saban confirmed that defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison will be leaving the Crimson Tide as well and declaring for the NFL draft.  Fitzpatrick is a first-round lock and could be one of the first five taken in the April draft, while Harrison was given a second-round grade.

Fitzpatrick was one of 14 unanimous All-Americans for the 2017 season, and won both the Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik Awards.  The multi-talented junior became the third player to claim both awards in the same season, joining Michigan’s Charles Woodson and LSU’s Patrick Peterson.

He also missed the game-winning play in the national championship game because he was using the bathroom.

Harrison was a second-team All-SEC selection in his second season as a starter for the Crimson Tide.

Isaiah Buggs was not at the postseason press conference and Saban did not mention that the defensive lineman was part of the group exiting early.  That seemingly means that Buggs will join Harris as draft-eligible players who will return to Tuscaloosa.

It’s not expected that the Tide will lose any additional players, although the official deadline for declaring their intentions to the NFL is Jan. 15.

Damien Harris reportedly eschewing NFL, returning to Alabama

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Just when it looked like it’d be two, it appears as though Alabama may lose just one running back to early-entry this year.

Wednesday afternoon, it was reported that running back Bo Scarbrough, along with teammate and wide receiver Calvin Ridley, had decided to leave Alabama for the NFL draft.  Now, al.com is reporting that Damien Harris has decided to bypass the NFL draft and instead return to the Crimson Tide for his senior season.

Harris’ decision to return comes as somewhat of a surprise, especially given the amount of returning and incoming talent in what’s a loaded backfield.  Najee Harris, who ran for 370 yards as a true freshman, is expected to grab a larger share of the running-game load in 2018.

The past two seasons, Harris has led the Tide in rushing, an even 1,000 during the run to the 2017 national championship and 1,040 in 2016.  His 11 rushing touchdowns were tops om the team this year as well.

No. 4 Alabama avenges loss to No. 1 Clemson in Sugar Bowl, sets up all SEC CFP final

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The College Football Playoff was created in large part in response to an all SEC BCS National Championship. Four years into the new system, the CFP has its own all SEC final. No. 3 Georgia outlasted No. 2 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl earlier Monday, and in the Sugar Bowl No. 4 Alabama avenged its title game loss a year ago by flattening No. 1 Clemson in a 24-6 win that wasn’t as close as the final score.

The win pushes Alabama (12-1) into its sixth national championship game under Nick Saban and its third consecutive title game.

Leading 10-3 at the half, the Tide provided Clemson a window early in the third quarter to climb back in the game and even take the lead. It started when Alabama accepted the ball to open the second half and promptly fumbled the exchange on its first snap, which Clemson recovered at the Tide’s 20-yard line. The Tigers actually went five yards backwards on its possession, but a 42-yard Alex Spence field goal cut the deficit to 10-6.

Clemson (12-2) forced a three-and-out on Alabama’s next touch, then moved to a 2nd-and-2 at the Tide 35 before Alabama defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne single-handedly ended the game. First, he caught a deflected interception and returned the ball 21 yards to the Clemson 42, and a 15-yard horse collar flag staked the ball at the Clemson 27. The Tide moved the ball to the Clemson 1, leading Alabama to put in the jumbo package. Rather than run the ball, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called a pass, and Jalen Hurts hit Payne for the first touchdown catch of the 6-foot-2, 308-pound defender’s career.

If that wasn’t enough, Clemson’s own first-play disaster put the game out of reach. Another deflected Kelly Bryant pass landed in the arms of Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson, who raced the ball 18 yards to pay dirt to give Alabama a commanding 24-6 lead with 5:27 left in the third quarter.

Clemson could pull no closer, and an 18-play, 75-yard drive ended in a turnover on downs after Kelly Bryant threw incomplete out of the back of the end zone with 1:43 left in the game. Alabama harassed Bryant into the worst game of his career, completing 18-of-36 passes for just 124 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions while taking a season-high five sacks. Clemson managed just 64 yards on 33 carries.

Hurts hit 16-of-24 passes for 120 yards with two touchdowns and no picks while rushing 11 times for 40 yards. Damien Harris led all runners with 19 carries for 77 yards.

Looking ahead to next week, the only issue for Alabama moving forward were injuries to offensive lineman Lester Cotton and linebacker Anfernee Jennings. Both left the game with apparent leg injuries.

Alabama dominated the game from the start. After the teams exchanged three three-and-outs to open the game, the Tide opened the scoring with a 10-play, 47-yard drive capped by a 24-yard Andy Pappanastos field goal. Alabama forced another Clemson three-and-out on the Tigers’ next possession — Clemson’s third of the first quarter — Alabama started at the Clemson 46-yard line and leaned on its running game, with seven plays covering 34 yards, all of them in the hands of Hurts, Harris or Bo Scarborough before Hurts found Calvin Ridley wide open on a scramble for a 12-yard touchdown grab, putting the Tide up 10-0 to close the first quarter.

Sensing a now-or-never moment, Clemson turned to Bryant. After a 7-yard sack to open the drive, Bryant converted with runs of five and 20 yards and accounted for 53 of the Tigers’ 54 yards, setting up a 44-yard Alex Spence field goal to get the defending champions on the board at the 10-minute mark of the second quarter.

Alabama didn’t answer with points, but the Tide did chew more than four minutes off the clock and pin Clemson at its own 10 to start its next possession. It was the fourth time in five chances that Clemson started inside its own 17 (and the fifth began at the 24). Clemson moved out of the shadow of its own goal post but punted the ball back to Alabama, allowing the Tide to start a drive with the ball outside its own 40 for the fourth time in five tries. This drive covered 39 yards in 10 plays at 3:44, but Pappanastos’s 38-yard field goal doinked off the right upright with 17 seconds left in the half.