Kevin Norwood

South dominating North in Senior Bowl, 20-3 at half

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As if you needed another example of just how good the college football talent is in the south, the South is leading the North 20-3 at halftime in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood has 42 receiving yards and a touchdown, but Colorado State’s Crockett Gillmore leads all players with 51 yards and a touchdown and two of the better catches in the half. Auburn defensive lineman Dee Ford has been having a productive game on the line, always finding his way in the backfield regardless of the North quarterback. Ford has a pair of sacks and a deflected pass right back in the face of Miami quarterback Stephen Morris.

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr had a great week of practice and has established some momentum heading closer to the NFL Draft, and he tossed the first touchdown of the game midway through the first quarter. Carr’s pass was slightly behind Gillmore on the run, but the Rams standout managed to get his hands on the football and run the rest of the way to the end zone on a 17-yard scoring play. The other touchdown of the half was tossed by another Mountain West quarterback, San Jose State’s David Fales. Fales managed to find a wide open Norwood while on the move to get away from pressure midway through the second quarter.

Auburn kicker Cody Parkey has kicked two field goals, one from 50 yards and a second from 39 yards, to help pad the South lead.

HS coach: Jacob Coker gets release from FSU, visit from Saban

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The Jacob Coker-to-Alabama rumors continue to gain steam, with all signs pointing to a final destination of Tuscaloosa at some point after May of this year.

Speaking to al.com, Coker’s high school coach, Steve Mask, confirmed that the quarterback received an in-home visit Tuesday afternoon from UA head coach Nick Saban.  Mask further confirmed that Coker has been granted a release from his Florida State scholarship, freeing him up to talk and ultimately transfer to another football program.

FSU has yet to offer any updates on Coker’s status, with Mask serving as the first “confirmation” that the redshirt sophomore will be, after months of speculation, in a different uniform for the 2014 season.

The report from al.com comes a couple of days after former Tide wide receiver Kevin Norwood let the Coker cat out of the bag during a radio interview, essentially stating that the player was all but signed, sealed and delivered to his former school.

It also comes a week after Luke Del Rio announced his transfer from Alabama.  The quarterback, who was expected to vie for the job of replacing AJ McCarron under center, ultimately landed at Oregon State.

Coker played his high school football at St. Paul’s in Mobile, Ala., the same high school that produced McCarron.  If Coker does end up back in his home state, he’ll likely be a part of a quarterback competition that includes McCarron’s primary 2013 backup Blake Sims and four-star 2014 recruit David Cornwell.  Alec Morris could also be in the mix as well, at least early on.

As Coker will not graduate from FSU until late May, he would not be free to join the Tide until later that summer.  Because he will be a graduate transfer, however, he would be eligible to play immediately and have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2014.

Following Clint Trickett‘s transfer from the Seminoles last spring, Coker and some guy named Jameis Winston “battled” for FSU’s starting job, with the latter winning the job and ultimately the Heisman in leading the ‘Noles to a BCS title.  Coker served as Winston’s backup before suffering what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury in mid-November.

UPDATED 3:03 p.m. ET: A Florida State official has confirmed that Jacob Coker has been released from his FSU scholarship.

DeAndrew White’s return a boon for Tide receiving corps

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On the losing end of a handful of players to early entry into the NFL, and needing to replace its long-time starting quarterback, Alabama will see an experienced member of its offense return for another go in 2014.

As expected, DeAndrew White announced Wednesday that he had opted against an early jump to the NFL and will instead return for his senior season.  Wednesday was the deadline for draft-eligible underclassmen to file their paperwork with the NFL.

“After sitting down with my family and Coach [Nick] Saban, I have decided to return to Alabama for my senior year,” White said in a statement. “I already have my degree and the chance to play in the NFL next year was something that I very much considered, but in the end I didn’t want to pass up my final year at Alabama. I have had the opportunity to speak with Coach [Lane] Kiffin and I’m excited about our offense and what we can accomplish next year as a team.”

In 2013, White was tied for second on the team in receiving touchdowns (four), third in receiving yards (534) and fourth in receptions (32).  His 16.7 yards per catch led all Tide wide receivers.  White’s breakout season came a year after he missed the final two-thirds of 2012 with a torn ACL.

While UA’s leading receiver, Amari Cooper, will return in 2014, the Tide will lose second-leading receiver Kevin Norwood (38-568-7) to expired eligibility.

Prior to the deadline, offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio, linebacker Adrian Hubbard and defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were all confirmed early departures for the NFL.  It had been reported that defensive back Vinnie Sunseri would eschew another season as well, but that’s not been confirmed.

Nick Saban ‘suprised’ by reaction to Lane Kiffin Bama visit

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Nick Saban told media on Tuesday that he’s “suprised” by the reaction people are having to Lane Kiffin’s recent visit with the Alabama offensive coaching staff, saying such a visit is a completely normal part of the professional development process.

“There’s only a few people out there that you have an opportunity to do it with,” Saban said Tuesday. “Lane is a really good offensive coach and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.

“Just to come in and brainstorm a little bit, get some professional ideas with our guys, is a real positive thing, so I don’t know why there’s any reaction to it to be honest with you. I’m really quite surprised.”

Saban’s players were also surprised, but not in the same way their coach was. Like everyone else, they didn’t expect to see Kiffin — perhaps the worst head coach in recent college football history — hanging around a successful program like Alabama.

Alabama senior wide receiver Kevin Norwood said “everybody was shocked” when the offensive players arrived and saw Kiffin in the meeting room.

Kiffin was fired five games into his fourth season with USC. He was 28-15 in his short time with the Trojans.

Alabama wakes up, but Auburn’s Nick Marshall keeps Iron Bowl close at half

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Auburn had their chance to take control of this year’s Iron Bowl early, but as many opponents have found out this season it is difficult to keep Alabama down for very long. Alabama was largely ineffective on offense in the first quarter, but the top-ranked team in the country holds a 21-14 advantage at the half.

Auburn’s dynamic quarterback Nick Marshall tore through Alabama’s defense midway through the first quarter, weaving and dashing for a 45-yard touchdown run against the SEC’s top rushing defense. Alabama then scored 21 straight points in the second quarter, starting with AJ McCarron completing a short pass to Jalston Fowler early in the second quarter to tie the game to finish off a 67-yard drive over 11 plays. A few minutes later McCarron again struck for a touchdown pass, this time to Kevin Norwood from the 20-yard line. T.J. Yeldon pushed a third touchdown up through a goal line pile after a video replay overturned a dazzling touchdown run down the left sideline by Amari Cooper.

Just as it seemed Alabama was going to be in full control after establishing a dominating 21-7 lead, Auburn finally got their running back back on track in the second quarter with a late touchdown. Tre Mason rushed for 64 yards on four quick plays to start the drive and Marshall looked to have a touchdown run from 15 yards out but a video review overruled the original call and placed the football on the one-yard line. Mason punched it in from the goal line to finish off the drive.

The winner of this game will advance to the SEC Championship Game next week in Atlanta. The winner also remains in the hunt for a BCS Championship Game appearance. This should be a dandy of a second half coming our way.