By Stan J. Griffin: February 4, 2016
Although it will soon be a whole new, and possibly scary world for the 17 brand new members of the University of Alabama football Class of 2016, a class that was once again hailed as the nation's best on Wednesday, eight other members of Wednesday's talent-rich class already have a head start on life in Tuscaloosa and getting acclimated to the Crimson Tide system.
Alabama's big National Signing Day group included the signings of eight prospects who enrolled in January at UA, and, therefore, will be eligible to participate in spring practice early this semester.
Those include offensive lineman Charles Baldwin of Windsor, Connecticut, linebacker Christian Bell of Hoover, tight end Miller Forristall of Cartersville, Ga., quarterback Jalen Hurts of Channelview, Texas, linebacker Shawn Jennings of Dadeville, offensive lineman Chris Owens of Arlington, Texas, wide receiver T.J. Simmons of Pinson and offensive lineman Jonah Williams of Folsom, California.
One of those early enrollees, Bell, who played for Josh Niblett at the prep football powerhouse that is Hoover High School, actually committed to the Tide in April of 2014, but was requested by UA to grayshirt, meaning that he did not become part of Alabama's scholarship count until this year.
Grayshirts are not immediately permitted to enroll as full-time students or receive scholarship benefits or be a part of the program in any official capacity, including practices.
Bell said the grayshirt process ultimately became a positive experience for him.
"I learned a lot mentally, and physically on my body," he said. "I became mentally strong and I know I got a lot faster since last year. (Some members of the UA program) were telling me what I needed to work on and I had a trainer that I would go to in the morning and I was coaching a Little League team."
By Stan J. Griffin: February 1, 2016
Much like Avery Johnson with the University of Alabama basketball team, Ben Howland is in his first year of leading the Mississippi State hoops program, while also facing a similar rebuilding process that Johnson is encountering with the Crimson Tide.
Under Howland, a veteran coach whose impressive resume includes taking tradition-rich UCLA to back-to-back Final Fours in 2007 and 2008, the Bulldogs have struggled thus far to a 9-11 overall record, including a 2-6 mark in Southeastern Conference play that matches the Tide's conference record.
Those two rebuilding programs square off Tuesday night in Starkville as Johnson's Crimson Tide team (11-9 overall) will battle the Bulldogs in Humphrey Coliseum.
The game is set for an 8 p.m tip and will be televised by SEC Network.
Johnson, whose team is coming off a physical 78-64 loss at South Carolina on Saturday, a foul-plagued effort by his team which saw four of his players disqualified due to fouls, said Monday that he hopes his team is ready to rebound from the loss with another road challenge.
"Ready to get back on the court and we had a really good practice today and we get back on the road tomorrow," he said. "We're playing against a team that's pretty dangerous, and they've got a lot of guys that can handle the basketball with (freshman guard Quinndary) Witherspoon, (freshman guard Malik) Newman and (senior guard Craig) Sword. They can all handle the ball and make 3s, they can get inside your defense and they have a couple of big guys that can shoot the ball for three. So it puts your defense in a bind, and we've got to play well and sustain more of our effort for a longer period of time, handle some of the what I call down cycles of the game better as we continue to go through this maturation process. We're always excited to strap it up today in practice and then we'll be ready to play tomorrow."
Happy Spring Break, Tuscaloosa! As with each spring break, the calendar gets a little on the thin side. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do, though. Get outside, enjoy spending time with your kiddos, and above all else, have fun.
Enjoy your week, T-Town!
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.
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.
By Stan J. Griffin: November 11, 2015
For 14 high school football teams in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area, it will be time to buckle their chinstraps again Friday night as they will be participating in the second round of the state playoffs.
One of those teams is Mike Smith's 9-2 Northridge High School Jaguars, who advanced with a particularly impressive 48-23 road victory against Dothan last Friday.
Three Jaguar running backs rushed for over 100 yards in that win.
The challenge increases significantly, however, for Smith's team this Friday as the Jaguars play host to Spanish Fort.
Spanish Fort, who comes to Northridge High with a perfect 11-0 record, was the champion of Class 6A Region 1. It advanced to the second round by topping Pell City last week to the tune of 24-10.
Other playoff action this week involving Tuscaloosa/West Alabama schools includes:
By Stan J. Griffin: November 5, 2015
Due to uncertainty regarding the weather conditions for Friday night, several Tuscaloosa/West Alabama schools have moved their first-round high school football games to tonight.
One of those local schools is Chris Smelley's No. 7 American Christian Academy Patriots.
The 9-1 Patriots, who finished as runner up to undefeated Gordo in Class 3A Region 4, begin postseason play as they host a Slocumb team that went 7-3 during the regular season.
Slocumb also finished a solid 4-2 in Class 3A Region 2, placing third in the region behind only Daleville and Pike County.
ACA had no trouble romping past Sumter Central last Friday behind the three touchdowns of Caleb Squires, and the Patriots are hoping to remain hot, especially offensively, as they begin a hopeful road to Tuscaloosa and the Super Seven state title games.
By Stan J. Griffin: November 2, 2015
Although it no doubt has its mind on a much more serious task ahead, which is navigating through the Class 3A state playoffs and ultimately reaching Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa for the 2015 Super Seven championship games, Ryan Lolley's No. 2 Gordo Greenwave had one remaining order of business to take care of as it wrapped up the regular season last Thursday at home.
And that was finishing a perfect 10-0 for the second consecutive season.
Mission accomplished in smashing fashion as Gordo had little difficulty in getting past James Thompson's Pickens County Tornadoes 53-8 in the renewal of their fabled Tuscaloosa County rivalry.
Collin Herring was the standout of the game for Lolley's team as he had three touchdowns on the night to lead the way for Gordo, two via scoring receptions and one on a pick-six.
The varsity cheerleading squad of Holy Spirit Catholic School in Tuscaloosa attended the Universal Cheerleading Association’s cheerleading, mascot and dance camp held at the indoor football practice facility at The University of Alabama the week of June 16.
The team earned two first place trophies for spirit cheer and overall small varsity squad, a 2nd place trophy for the sideline cheer competition and a 5th place trophy for dance at the final showcase in addition to three blue ribbons and five superior ribbons earned throughout the week.
Sydney Colburn, Holy Spirit upcoming 10th grade student, was chosen for the All American team.