By Stan J. Griffin: November 18, 2015

After a long regular season, and then two rounds of the state high school football playoff following that weekly grind, the season is still alive for six schools in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area.
Also alive are dreams of possibly advancing to the Super Seven state title games at Tuscaloosa's Bryant-Denny Stadium, with those contest set to begin on Dec. 2.
First things first, however, and those title aspirations must be put on hold for now as most of the remaining area teams must be focused on taking care of business in quarterfinal play Friday night.
One team, however, that will actually be playing for a state title this Friday is Webb Tutt's Marengo Academy Longhorns.
The Longhorns, led by quarterback/running back Hayden Huckabee and defensive end/tight end Cason Cook among others, have rolled to a 10-1 record, and are now set to play for the AISA Class AA championship at Troy University in Tutt's first season as Longhorn coach.
No. 4 Marengo Academy, which ousted Pickens Academy last week 48-7 will go up against 12-0 Edgewood in a rematch of last season's title game, which Edgewood captured 55-25.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: November 16, 2015

As the No. 2 Alabama football team steps away from conference play this week for a Saturday battle against Big South Conference opponent Charleston Southern, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban acknowledged Monday that much of the emphasis of this week, as per usual, is improvement in his own team from its last game, a 31-6 win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

"We got off to a little bit of a slow start (against the Bulldogs) in the game and just didn't seem to have the energy, especially offensively, to pay attention to detail and get the kind of execution we needed against a very good defensive team," he said. "We played a lot better in the second half and made some big, explosive plays that made a big difference in the game. Defensively, we did a good job of affecting the quarterback (sacking MSU quarterback Dak Prescott nine times) and played well in the red zone. That was probably the difference in the game. We probably didn't tackle as well in space as we'd like to, and we gave up a few big plays that we probably shouldn't have. Those are things that we definitely need to work on and try to fix."

Saban noted that senior tailback Kenyan Drake, who sustained a fractured arm during Saturday's game, had successful surgery Monday and will likely be out at least a couple of week.


"Then (after that period where he cannot play), it will be, how functional can he be at this position with what he has," he said, also noting that freshman defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is day-to-day in terms of practice this week, and he will be questionable for Saturday's game.

Fitzpatrick suffered a sprained knee against MSU, and he and Drake both suffered their injuries during second quarter play against the Bulldogs.

This week's contest marks the last game in Bryant-Denny Stadium for Alabama's seniors, and Saban spoke about that fact, and praised the senior players for their representation of UA both on and off the field.
"It's the last game for a lot of our seniors who have had a great career here and contributed and had a lot of success, and I certainly hope that our fans will show the kind of appreciation that we all should have for what their hard work, and their blood, sweat and tears have contributed to the program over the last four or five years," he said. "A lot of good people and a lot of successful guys, and guys that are going to be successful in life. They've been great ambassadors for the University of Alabama and this program. We're just very thankful for them for what they've contributed."

In terms of Saturday's 3 p.m. game (SEC Network) against Charleston Southern, Saban said third-year coach Jamey Chadwell will bring in a very talented Buccaneer team.
"Charleston Southern is 9 and 1, and probably one of the best teams in their FCS division, and they're ranked in the Top 10 in almost every current category, and one of the top defenses in that league, as well as very productive offensively," he said. "A different style of offense than we've played against, a lot of option and split back and a lot of options that we have not played against and their quarterback Austin Brown does a really good job. He's a very athletic guy who can run as well as he is a good passer. So this is going to be a challenging game for us from a preparation standpoint. Their defense has created a lot of negative plays and very quick. They play a 3-4 and they do a good job in their pressure package in creating negative plays, so this is a good team that we're playing, and hopefully our players will have the kind of respect they need to go out and play good, positive and winning football against them."

He said there are similarities between Charleston Southern and the Georgia Southern team that Alabama played in 2011, in terms of the Buccaneer option offense. But he added that Georgia Southern ran more of a Georgia Tech-style true option offense, and that Charleston Southern presents more multiple formations which create adjustment issues for an opposing defense relative to remaining sound on the option.

When asked about the play of junior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who was a key  part of Alabama's effective pass rush against MSU Saturday, Saban began his response with a lighthearted reference to the inadvertent hit that he took from the 6-foot-3, 283-pound lineman before that game started, leading to a noticeable abrasion on the coach's cheek.

"The first thing is knocking the hell out of the coach," he said, drawing a big chorus of laughter from the assembled media. "Jonathan was a really good high school on-the-edge pass rush guy, very, very good. I think he has gotten bigger and developed a lot of strength to where now he can rush off the edge, but he's a really effective inside rusher because he's gotten bigger and stronger. Certainly he plays the run a lot better and he's athletic and he can still move. I think that's the biggest difference, he just gotten, each year he's been here, a little bigger and stronger. He's always been very athletic and great first-step quickness. He does a great job of using his hands and moving his feet, which is critical in being a good pass rusher."

Asked about the process that goes into the scheduling of non-conference tilts against opponents such as Charleston Southern, the Tide coach said Alabama is sometimes limited in terms of its option when trying to assemble a schedule.

"We don't have a lot of choices," said Saban. "It's not like when you go into a restaurant and you get the menu and say, 'OK, we can play these 24 different teams, which one do we want to play?' Most of the time we're bargaining and begging to get anybody to play us, and so we don't always have a lot of choice, and especially lately where since we went to 14 teams in the league, it put the SEC schedule back a little bit in terms of when we got it so (the Tide was forced to fill in their schedule as well as it could), so those things have been challenges for us in scheduling, and we're going to continue to do the best we can in trying to get the best opponents, but we always don't have a lot of choice."

Alabama junior running back Derrick Henry and Allen earned SEC Player of the Week recognition following the win at Starkville Saturday, the league office announced on Monday.
Henry was named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the fourth time this season after rushing for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries against the Bulldogs. He has rushed for more than 200 yards in consecutive games and three of the past four overall, with each coming against teams ranked in the top-20 nationally. Henry broke free for touchdown runs of 74 and 65 yards to extend his school record of consecutive games with a rushing touchdown to 15, the longest such streak by an SEC player in the last 20 seasons.

In his first season as the team’s starting running back, Henry has amassed 1,474 yards and 19 touchdowns on 240 carries for a 6.1 yard average. He is currently the national leader in rushing touchdowns and ranks second overall in yards rushing. The junior tailback has performed his best in the Tide’s six games against ranked opponents, averaging 178.7 yards per game (1,072 yards) and scoring 12 touchdowns.    

Allen was recognized as the Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week after a dominant performance in Starkville. The junior defensive end finished the day with seven tackles, including three tackles for loss (-17 yards), to go along with three sacks, one forced fumble, and a quarterback hurry. Allen is the first Alabama player to record three sacks in a game since Courtney Upshaw did it against Auburn in 2010. The Alabama defense collectively totaled nine sacks, representing the most by any unit in a single game under head coach Nick Saban.  

In addition to those honors, Saban and his coaching staff recognized ten Crimson Tide standouts as players of the week following the win against MSU.

Henry, Cam Robinson and ArDarius Stewart were the honorees on offense, while  Allen, Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster represented the defense. Kenyan Drake, Adam Griffith, Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve made the special teams list.

It was announced by the SEC Monday that the Nov. 28 Iron Bowl contest between Alabama and Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium will begin at 2:30 p.m., with CBS televising the game.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: November 16, 2015

The second round of the state high school football playoffs proved fruitful for six teams in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area as lived to play for at least another week, with their dreams of capturing a state championship still very much alive.

However, for seven other local schools, their title hopes were squelched as successful seasons ended in defeat.
One of those teams that continues its hunt for that state title trophy, while also chasing perfection is Ryan Lolley's Gordo Greenwave.

The No. 2 Greenwave moved to 12-0 on the season last Friday, while advancing in the Class 3A playoffs with an impressive 33-14 road win against Opp.
After a scoreless first quarter, Gordo exploded in the second period, outscoring the host Opp team 21-0.

At the end of three, Gordo still had a comfortable 27-6 advantage and was able to hold onto a comfortable lead in the final quarter.
Opp's season ended at 8-4.

Koy Chapman threw three touchdown passes, to Tyler Davis, Ben Davis and Collin Herring, for the Greenwave, which now hosts Bayside Academy.

In other playoff action involving Tuscaloosa/West Alabama teams last Friday, it was:

Fayette County 40, Cleburne County 23:  Lance Tucker's Tigers improved to 8-4 and advanced in the Class 4A playoffs by defeating Cleburne County in Heflin.

Courtesy of DCM Fan Zone

By Erik Stinnett

It was a big weekend for Alabama. 

Not only did the Crimson Tide notch a pivotal and convincing victory over visiting LSU on Saturday, it also hosted a number of recruits who, no doubt, came away impressed with what they saw at Bryant-Denny Stadium. And then a few days later Alabama reeled in a key commitment for its 2017 class -- a hometown kid.
 

Two of college football’s last three national champions will meet in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game to open the 2017 season in epic fashion.

 

The 10th installment of the nation’s longest-running kickoff game will feature the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida State Seminoles in what will be the first regular-season college game to be played in the Falcon’s state-of-the-art New Atlanta stadium.

 

The game is set for Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. Exact kick time and television network are yet to be announced.

 

“With two teams of this caliber, it really is going to be a bowl-game type atmosphere and an epic celebration of college football,” said Percy Vaughn, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl chairman.

 

“These teams represent the best in our sport,” said Gary Stokan, Peach Bowl, Inc. president and CEO.

 “The best players, the best coaches, the best fans. It’s going to be a memorable start to the season and there is no better place to host this than in Atlanta, the capital of college football.

 

The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game averages more than 66,000 fans for each game – higher than 30 bowl games from last year – and its team payout averages $4.3 million, which is higher than 21 bowl games last season. Television viewership is also traditionally strong with more than 40 million viewers tuning in to the series since 2008.

 

Alabama and Florida State have met four times with the Crimson Tide holding a 2-1-1 advantage over the Seminoles. FSU, however, won the most recent game in 2007. The series originally dates back to 1965. This will be Alabama’s fifth appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, where the Tide hold a 4-0 record. It will be the first time Florida State has opened the season in Atlanta.

 

“This game with Florida State fits our scheduling philosophy of playing outstanding opponents in great venues in games that create great exposure for our program,” said Bill Battle, Alabama director of athletics. “Of course, it also continues our tremendous relationship with the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game which goes back to the 2008 season opener. This game with the Seminoles will be an excellent start to the 2017 season and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.”

“This is a great opportunity to open the 2017 season against an outstanding Florida State program,” Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said. “Jimbo has done an excellent job there and this will provide a great challenge for our team. Having this game first on the schedule will give our players plenty to look forward to and prepare for in the offseason.” 

“It’s really an honor and a privilege to be a part of this first-class event hosted by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which has really grown into one of the great traditions in college football. The last four times we've participated in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, it has been a big bowl game atmosphere and I know that will again be the case with these two programs,” said Saban.

“The game with Alabama will be one of the highlights of the college football season,” said Florida State Director of Athletics Stan Wilcox.  “Both schools have significant alumni bases in Atlanta, and we would expect the media coverage of the game to be on par with some of the biggest non-conference games in recent history. The exposure for our University and our athletics program will be invaluable. We look forward to the game and playing in a fantastic venue.”

 

“We are very excited to be opening the 2017 season against Alabama at the new Falcons stadium in Atlanta,” Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Scheduling top non-conference opponents is critical in today’s day and age. These are two great football programs and there will be a tremendous atmosphere. It’s a great matchup for our fans and for college football. We are looking forward to the opportunity.” 

 

The majority of the tickets will be divided between the two teams, creating a true neutral-site environment. All tickets will be sold through the university ticket offices.

 

The teams will battle for The Old Leather Helmet Trophy, one of college football’s iconic rivalry-game trophies. Traditionally, winners of The Old Leather Helmet don the helmet on the field after the game, starting with the head coach and then rotating from player to player as the team celebrates its victory.

For more information, visit Chick-fil-AKickoffGame.com.

By Stan J. Griffin

Anyone who even casually follows University of Alabama softball knows that the Crimson Tide hosting the regional round of the NCAA tournament is simply an annual rite of spring.

For the 11th consecutive season, the University of Alabama softball program will begin the NCAA tournament hosting the regional round in the friendly confines of Rhoads Stadium.

Patrick Murphy's team has earned a bid to its 17th straight NCAA Tournament, slotting in as the No. 6 seed. The Tide will welcome Washington, USC Upstate and Fairfield to Tuscaloosa for three days of games beginning on Friday, May 15.

“We never take this for granted and it never gets old,” said Murphy. “To see Alabama up on the TV make all the hard work worth it. I’m really happy with the senior class, now they’ve made the tournament all four years. This has been a really easy team to coach and I’m really excited for the postseason.”

It is the 13th time overall the Tide has hosted a regional, first doing so in 2001. Alabama has made the NCAA Tournament every year since 1999, Patrick Murphy’s first year as head coach of the program.

Play in Tuscaloosa will begin on Friday, May 15. Washington will play USC Upstate at 12:30 p.m. CT live on ESPNU and Alabama will play Fairfield at 3 p.m. live on the SEC Network.

Tickets are on sale now for this weekend's play and can be purchased at the Coleman Coliseum ticket office or online at www.rolltide.com.

By Stan J. Griffin

Although he is no longer with us physically, the presence of former University of Alabama football player and coach and athletic director Mal Moore can still be felt throughout the UA athletic family and Tuscaloosa in general.

If there was anyone who represented a true love for all things Crimson Tide, it was Moore, a native of Dozier, who passed away on March 30, 2013.

That love is evident in the dramatically improved athletic facilities that can be seen all over campus and with the overall strength of the school's athletic department. And of course, much of his legacy is defined by his hiring of Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban, and the victories that Saban continues to accumulate at UA.

Moore's spirit and his impact on people in general is also a prevailing theme of an annual golf tournament that benefits the Boys and Girls Clubs of West Alabama, Inc., also a United Way Agency.

The 2015 edition of the Mal Moore Memorial Golf Tournament is scheduled for May 7-8 at the NorthRiver Golf Club.

By Christopher Chase Edmunds

Now that the dust from Alabama’s A-Day game has settled, it’s time to evaluate the Crimson Tide. Coach Nick Saban referred to the spring scrimmage as a “midterm” for the team, a way for the coaching staff to see what needs improvement before Fall 2015 rolls around. In the spirit of midterms and evaluations, let’s grade the 2015 Alabama Crimson Tide position by position and see where the team is either sharp and ready, or a little rough around the edges. Pencils ready…Begin.

Offensive Line – B-

The members of the first-team offensive line are pretty much settled at this point, and overall the unit did well, but the group is a long way from the dominating presence of Barrett Jones and company. In the A-Day game, the first and second offensive lines gave up a total of eight sacks, and the running backs struggled to find clear holes to break big plays. The good news is that Ryan Kelly has proven himself as a leader in the trenches, and Cam Robinson is still a force to be reckoned with. The line should improve when four-star recruits Brandon Kennedy and Lester Cotton arrive on campus for fall practice and start competing for starting spots. Even if they don’t contribute immediately, the depth will help in the case of another national championship run.

Running Backs – B-

Alabama fans are accustomed to having a stable of Heisman-quality running backs, but in 2015, that won’t be the case. The Crimson Tide is thin at the running back position to say the least, with only two names coming to mind. Derrick Henry is the man for this year. The 6-foot-3-inch, 242-pound bruiser will get plenty of carries as the workhorse, as long as he stays healthy. Kenyan Drake is the wildcard of the offense. He played in a black, non-contact jersey because he’s still recovering from a broken leg that ended last season early for Drake. He has good hands and blistering speed, so he can break big plays as a running back or as a receiver when he’s 100 percent again. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin should have a field day with Drake in his high-powered offense.  

Receivers – A+

Alabama’s receiving corps had the best showing at A-Day. Even though the Tide lost Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White, the team is in good hands. ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster combined for 243 yards and two touchdowns at A-Day, even when quarterbacks were constantly being rotated. Both receivers showed they could make big catches down the field, which bodes well for whichever quarterback settles in to the starting role. Not to mention Calvin Ridley, the No. 1 receiver prospect in the country, will enter the mix this fall. As long as the starting QB can sling the ball, Alabama will have plenty of highlights from the receivers this year.

Quarterbacks – C+

Jake Coker looks like the guy, but none of the quarterbacks looked great at A-Day. The five quarterbacks threw five interceptions, and seemed to all be on different pages with the receivers. This is the position everyone is talking about because Jake Coker might have finally stepped up and shown he can be the starter. Before you assume anything, however, remember that Blake Sims did not look like a starter last year at A-Day, and he ended up leading the team to an SEC Championship and the College Football Playoffs.

Defensive Line – A

All around, Alabama’s defense looks solid. Anchoring the defense is a defensive line that should be able to pressure opposing quarterbacks well this year. At A-Day, both defensive lines combined for eight sacks, and pressured the quarterbacks regularly. The line will feature a mix of experienced playmakers like A’Shawn Robinson and young talent like Da’Ron Payne. Hopefully the veterans will be able to set an example for the new recruits and make opponents think twice about running up the middle.

Linebackers – A+

Alabama’s linebackers are straight-up nasty this year. Fans should look forward to a season full of Reuben Foster’s trademark bone-crunching tackles and Reggie Ragland’s explosive playmaking abilities. This is one position where the Crimson Tide has plenty of depth and competition for starting spots. This group is Alabama’s best chance at re-establishing itself as a team that opponents hate to play against.

Defensive Backs – B+

Big pass plays have been the Achilles’ heel for Alabama in recent years, but this year’s group is laying the foundation to change that. At A-Day several long completions were given up, but defenders were never too far behind. For the first time in two seasons, the Tide has a new assistant coach — Mel Tucker from the Chicago Bears — to focus just on the defensive backs, which should help bring the group up to snuff. Last year, Bama’s high-powered offense made up for mistakes in the secondary, but with the quarterback situation in question, it’s up to the defensive backs to step up and keep the game in front of them.

Special Teams – B-

JK Scott is rock solid, but anybody who saw him punt last year could have told you that. He has a heck of a leg, and he has consistency. Adam Griffith, however, is still lacking the consistency and swagger that Scott has. Griffith missed two of his four attempts at A-Day, including an easy 37-yarder. While Scott has proven to be a special teams weapon, Griffith seems destined to be an average kicker. Bama fans are tired of squirming in their seats and holding their breath during field goal attempts, so let’s hope he proves himself this year.

Photos: UA Athletics


By Stan J. Griffin

Although it is basically a glorified scrimmage in many respects, the University of Alabama's annual spring football game serves a couple of very significant purposes.

First of all, the A-Day contest allows Nick Saban and his staff an opportunity to take a look at many of the Crimson Tide players, especially the younger and less-experienced ones, in a live situation that is as close to an actual game as possible.

Secondly, it allows football-starved Alabama fans a first opportunity to get a first glance at the team that will take the field later in the fall. It offers them a little taste of pigskin action to watch, cheer on and, later, dissect until Saban's team kicks off the season for real on Sept. 5 against Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas.

The 2015 A-Day Game is set for April 18, with the game scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m.

The A-Day game is the culmination of a full day of activities on campus, including 2014 permanent captains Amari Cooper, Blake Sims, Landon Collins and Jalston Fowler putting their hands and cleats in cement outside of Denny Chimes prior to kickoff.

Admission is once again free for the contest, and another large crowd is expected. Last year, an announced crowd of 73,506 attended the game.

As usual, there are several interesting storylines heading into the contest, and several individual players that those attending will be keeping a sharp eye on.

The Crimson Tide enters the season with questions at several spots, including at quarterback, at receiver, and in the secondary.

As usual, the quarterback competition will likely be the most scrutinized position for the 2015 Crimson Tide, and several of those candidates for the position will likely get extended playing time during the spring game, including senior Jake Coker, sophomore David Cornwell, junior Cooper Bateman, senior Alec Morris and perhaps even highly-touted freshman Blake Barnett.

Barnett, from Corona, California, is one of eight freshman (now seven after Jonathan Taylor's dismissal) early enrollees, along with running back DeSherrius Flowers, safety Ronnie Harrison, offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy, running back Bo Scarbrough, safety Deionte Thompson and offensive lineman Dallas Warmack.

Several of those early enrollees may figure prominently into the Tide’s plans for the A-Day game, and also for the 2015 season, including Barnett, and possibly athletes such as Harrison and Thompson in the Tide secondary, as Alabama looks for much improvement in that area.

Although Alabama lost talented offensive contributors such as Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon, the Tide will be bringing in talented newcomers at those positions, but A-Day will also allow some weapons still on the roster, such as Chris Black, Cam Sims, Ardarius Stewart and Robert Foster a chance to shine and show their abilities.

It will also be interesting to see how much all-purpose threat Kenyan Drake will be allowed to participate in the game, as he continues to get back to speed after suffering a devastating leg injury against Ole Miss last season. Saban has said that Drake continues to recuperate well from the injury, but is still a bit behind in his overall conditioning.

Photo: UA Athletics

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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