Around the Watercooler – Podcast Number Three

Ok, so here’s something I’ve contemplated sharing for a while – I’m currently trying my hand at podcasting.  I’m privileged to be working with Doug Segrest, formerly of the Birmingham News and “The Zone”, on a new podcasting venture called “Around the Watercooler” and it’s available thru Itunes.

Before you listen, please know that this is something entirely new for me so expect some rumblin’, bumblin’ and stumblin’ from the likes of me!  But, it’s fun and hopefully you’ll listen in for the value of the content instead of focusing on any of my delivery issues.  You guys can just think of me as the Phillip Rivers of podcasting – it sure is awkward but it usually goes where it’s supposed to go!  But, for any failings on my part you should know that Doug is a pro’s pro.  He’s outstanding!  Doug brings over 30 years of sportswriting experience and still has numerous Capstone connections and insights from his time as an Alabama beat reporter.  Folks, he alone is well worth a listen.

I’m told you can download the app for the podcasts inside the App Store – just search “Bama Sports Radio.”  There are several other very good Alabama podcasts there to choose from so feel free to give them all a try.  Also, I’ll continue to post the links for “Around the Watercooler” here for those who don’t have Itunes. 

So, for those of you who are interested, here’s podcast #3:  http://vspor.to/1ey8Rh6

This week’s topics are the future of Alabama basketball and we discuss the staff changes on offense and defense as we prepare for Alabama’s spring practices.  There’s some good discussion about whether or not we can expect any changes in philosophy in the playbook and in the dressing room.  Good stuff there…

Enjoy!

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Pre Spring Practice Update

Before Bama’s spring practices kick off on March 15, I thought I would tend to a couple of housekeeping items regarding the stellar recruiting class of 2014.  In this cycle, Alabama’s class was voted the unanimous #1 class by every service that covers recruiting.  That’s impressive!  In fact, many recruiting services are saying that since they’ve started tracking and grading recruiting classes, this Bama class is the highest ranked recruiting class in history!

What makes this all the more astounding to me is the fact that Alabama’s current depth chart is loaded with 4 star and 5 star players at nearly every position.  But, instead of going elsewhere, these kids jumped at the chance to get on campus and compete for jobs at Alabama (knowing full well they may have to sit for a year or two before getting their chance).  I just find that to be remarkable.

Believe it or not, our little website has spies everywhere and we had a few spies who were able to hear what the Alabama coaching staff thought of this class after signing day.  Without further ado, we’ll now lift the curtain so the Lighthouse can shine brightly behind the scenes of signing day…

  • In response to the leaked video of Coach Saban doing the electric slide, Saban remarked, “I’m just disappointed they didn’t catch me doing the Wobble.  Now, I can Wobble…”
  • After successfully recruiting his friend Rashaan Evans to Alabama, Reuben Foster told Saban that he was a better recruiter than Saban.  Pretty funny…
  • Like the Seattle Seahawks’ model in the NFL, Alabama has been looking for long athletes (preferably who run track) at corner.  Proof positive – Anthony Averett (6’0), Jonathan Cook (6’0), Eddie Jackson (6’0), Maurice Smith (6’0), Tony Brown (6’0) and Marlon Humphrey (6’0) have been signed as corners in the last two recruiting cycles.  NFL scouts will be drooling over these guys in the next two years.
  • Cameron Sims (6’4 WR) has a 7’0 wingspan.  Red zone target, anyone?
  • Center/guard J.C. Hassenauer (6’3, 295) came to Alabama’s camp at least three different times.  The first time, he was told he good but he was just too small.  The second time he was told he was really good but he was still too small.  The third time at camp, the staff purposefully lined up every stud they could find on the defensive line to challenge Hassenauer and he wasn’t beaten a single time.  He finally earned his offer.  He then went on to the prestigious “The Opening” event and dominated there, as well, moving from a 3 star to a 4 star in the process.
  • The staff thinks Ross Pierschbacher (6’4, 295) could conceivably play all five OL positions.
  • Bobby Williams thinks that Ty Flournoy-Smith (6’3, 245) is ready to play right now at tight end.
  • When Lane Kiffin took the microphone, he received a standing ovation.  He was funny, charming and pretty much killed it in front of a big crowd.  He said he thought he knew how to recruit until he came to Alabama.  When Rashaan Evans committed to Alabama, Kiffin ran down the hall to Kirby Smart’s office yelling, “We got him!  We got him!”  Smart just turned and looked at him and said, “Well, hell, Lane – I’ve known that for two weeks….”
  • David Cornwell (6’5, 235) is on campus as an early enrollee at the QB position.  He’s big, physical and he’s a leader.  (Editor’s note:  He played less than half of his senior season due to a knee injury and is unlikely to do anything but redshirt this season in our opinion)
  • Kiffin stated that the lost recruiting story is Jacob Coker, as he may be the biggest signee.  He nearly beat out Jameis Winston at FSU and has the ability to be the starter next year.
  • Lance Thompson was excited about his linebackers.  He said they are all fast and they can all rush the quarterback!  He also said they can play the zone read which, obviously, was a shot at Auburn.  Thompson said he thought he’d seen it all in recruiting until he saw Burton Burns and Kirby Smart doing the Saturday Night Fever thing at Rashan Evans’ grandfather’s birthday party.  They evidently had a dance off against the Auburn coaches and Burns and Smart were the stars.  Thompson closed by saying, “We’re gonna get this shit right!”
  • Scott Cochran took the mike and evidently received his customary welcome from the crowd.  Cochran said,  “I’ve got all these pretty mid-years (the early enrollees) they’ve been talking about” and that he can’t wait to get his hands on the rest of the class.

After the coaches had their turn at the mic, Saban returned and covered a ton of ground while he spoke.  A few of the items he apparently touched on:

  • As a staff, Saban said they are all starting over.  He said they are treating last year like it was the 7-6 season.  Somewhere along the way, Alabama lost their identity and the staff is determined to get that back.  He wants a tough and disciplined team and evidently felt Alabama had gotten away from that.
  • There are numerous books on how to be successful but scant few on how to stay successful.
  • The staff’s biggest task is to reconnect and build relationships with the players.  Saban has said this numerous times after the Auburn and OU losses.
  • Why is Alabama able to recruit so well?  Here’s what they are selling:
    • Alabama broke their own bowl record by having 28 guys on the Sugar Bowl team with degrees.  That’s amazing.
    • Alabama has the highest APR of the bowl teams next to Duke.
    • Alabama has had more All Americans than anyone else since Saban got there.
    • In the last five years, Alabama has won more games than any team in history over a five-year span.
    • Alabama has the highest percentage of NFL players drafted than any other college.
    • Alabama does not negative recruit.
    • Blake Sims isn’t necessarily a typical pro style QB and while he needs to improve he does several good things.
    • Cooper Bateman improved as a QB by running the scout team last season.
    • Saban hates the trend of having players turn pro so early.  The agents sell the players on leaving early so they can get a head start on getting that second contract but then so few of them are even able to secure their first contract.  I don’t believe Saban was pleased with Sunseri and Pagan turning pro – that’s the feeling you certainly get from the various messages Saban has put out there on this topic.

Apparently the last question of the night was in regards to the running back situation and, in particular, Kenyan Drake.  Saban talked about the other backs and then finished with some strong words regarding Drake.  He said that the audience has the opinion that Alabama lost the Auburn game because Kenyan Drake didn’t play.  Saban said the audience has that opinion because Drake actually tweeted that out (that Bama lost b/c he didn’t play).  The fact that Drake would tweet that should tell you everything you need to know about the young man.  Saban stated that Kenyan Drake didn’t do the things he was supposed to do (like go to class), so he was punished.  Now, if Drake doesn’t go to class and he doesn’t get to play, is that Drake’s fault or is it Saban’s fault?  This was a pretty easy answer for the crowd to figure out…

There were strong messages all night long about the work that is needed by the staff to start over and rebuild their identity while, at the same time, building relationships with the players.  Good stuff – glad to hear that complacency isn’t an issue in Tuscaloosa.  Certainly not anymore.

Solving the HUNH Debate

It’s been a while since I last posted anything but, as the song says, “looking at my Gucci, it’s about that time.”  So, if you’ll pardon the pun, let’s get rollin’!

Since Alabama’s spring practices are set to begin on March 15, I think it’s high time that I started contributing some material as we whet our appetites for what should be very interesting spring practices.  But, before we really start focusing on the upcoming positional battles and the new coaches who will be putting the players through the paces, I wanted to touch on the hot button topic that has consumed the college football world – the so-called “Nick Saban Rule” that attempts to slow the pace of the game down 10 seconds before every snap.

By this time you should all know the details regarding the rule so I won’t go into great detail outlining the proposal.  Just know that it won’t happen in the upcoming 2014 season and, honestly, it’s unlikely to get passed any time in the near future.

Why?  Well, mainly because it’s a bad rule.  I think the coaches are correct in trying to find a way to allow substitutions on the field but, in my opinion, this is not the right approach.  I also believe that the needs of the officials to get into the proper position do need to be taken into consideration but, as I have confirmed by talking with actual FBS official, their needs will be more taken care of by adding an eighth member of their crew than anything this ruling would do.

Ok, so why is it a bad rule?  Aside from assessing a delay of game penalty for going too fast??  Well, I’m so glad you asked.  Here’s a scenario you should consider:

  • Alabama is down 14 points with five minutes to go in the 4th quarter
  • Bama hurries to the line of scrimmage in an effort to get as many snaps as possible before the clock expires.  As you know, being down two scores forces a hurry up approach.
  • Jacob Coker rushes up to the line of scrimmage and Alabama is set to call the play but…they…have….to…..waaaait.  And wait.  And wait.
  • Ugh.  Bama fans would lose their minds as precious seconds ticked off the clock.  I know I would lose my mind.

All of the haughty talk about “player safety” is bogus to me.  As many have pointed out, if you are truly concerned about player safety, then adding three additional games (a conference championship game, a semi-final game and then a championship game) for the sake of gaining a ton of extra revenue probably isn’t the safest thing for these players to endure, either.  Frankly, I don’t think this issue is truly about safety.

What I do think the discussion is truly about is the ability to substitute a player when he is completely gassed.  Reasonable people realize that a coach should be able to get his kids out of the game when they are completely spent, and they should be allowed to do so without resorting to having their players fall prey to invisible snipers.  You’ve seen it.  It’s a joke – a perfectly healthy football player belatedly falls to the ground, faking an injury.  Like we don’t all know what’s going on.  In all honesty, I think the coaches want to remove these infamous flops as much as they want to slow down the pace of the game.

Listen, 300 pounders are going to need a break and they should be allowed to come off the field if they are unable to put forth an effort to defend themselves.  In my opinion, after every first down, the clock is stopped to move the chains and it’s at that time that you should be able to substitute liberally.  No additional rules are needed.  The ref would simply stand over the ball (as they do now whenever the offense substitutes) and allow the defense to send in their reserves.

New rules aren’t needed and aren’t necessary.  What is necessary is a break in the action to allow these kids to be substituted out of the game.  Doing so after every first down would alleviate the safety concerns and it would protect the pace of the game throughout the game.

Folks, it’s just so simple.  Even the cavemen at the NCAA could do it…