March 25, 2011
Making the morning rounds.
• The udda team's kwaddaback must go down. As if Alabama's defense wasn't terrifying enough, the Crimson Tide are putting an increased emphasis this spring on generating a better pass rush, the only area the 'Bama D hasn't statistically dominated over the last three years. The Tide finished 71st nationally in sacks per game in 2008, 40th in 2009 and 54th last year, and only climbed that high in 2010 by dropping opposing quarterbacks 16 times in the last four games. One of those was Cam Newton, who went down four times under the 'Bama rush; another was Michigan State starter Kirk Cousins, who was nearly beaten to death in a 49-7 slaughter in the Outback Bowl.
"We went into that game just wanting to get that bad taste [of the second half collapse against Auburn] out of our mouths," said defensive end Courtney Upshaw, last year's sack leader with seven. "We were real confident. I know coming into this season, as a defensive whole, I know as a team that we're just ready step up our game and get back to the top." That from a guy on a unit that finished fifth nationally in total defense and third in scoring. [al.com]
• We'll take him. South Carolina freshman Bruce Ellington, leading scorer for the Carolina basketball team as a true freshman point guard, now plans to join the Gamecock football team as a receiver and return man as soon as he's eligible to go out for a second sport. (USC is checking with the NCAA to determine whether the terms of Ellington's basketball scholarship will allow him to join in the remainder of spring practice, or if he'll have to wait until the fall.) Ellington — short but thick at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds — led his high school to a state championship in 2009 as a dangerous running quarterback. [Charleston Post & Courier]
• The rap sheet. Virginia Tech wide receiver Xavier Boyce, 20, was arrested along with his girlfriend Wednesday on charges related to cruelty and injuries to their infant daughter. The charges apparently stem from an incident at the couple's home on Jan. 31, though Blacksburg police didn't specify how (or why they suspect) the girl was injured; both parents were released on $5,000 bond. Per Virginia Tech policy, any athlete charged with a felony is automatically suspended, putting Boyce — a backup with 11 career receptions — on ice for spring practice, at minimum. [Roanoke Times]
• We're here about the money. Nine former Auburn athletic department employees who were laid off or reassigned have filed a federal lawsuit against the university alleging racial discrimination. According to the suit, 10 of the 11 employees who lost their jobs during a departmental move from Beard-Eaves Coliseum to the smaller Auburn Arena last year were black; of the plaintiffs, five were custodial workers who were laid off and four were reassigned to other departments. [Associated Press]
• You learn something new every spring. In actual football news from the Plains, junior Neiko Thorpe — the only returning starter in Auburn's secondary — is moving from cornerback to safety to replace recently booted starter Mike McNeil. "We thought that would be best for our football team and best for Neiko," said defensive coordinator Ted Roof. "I think it's a win-win for both because right now we've got more depth at corner than we did at safety. I think he's a much better safety than he is a corner. And I think he's very comfortable back there." That may be true, but the move nevertheless leaves the Tigers with only two players on the entire defense, defensive tackle Nosa Eguae and linebacker Daren Bates, returning to the positions they played during last year's BCS title run. [al.com]
Quickly… In other position switch news, Virginia Tech senior Chris Drager, a full-time starter at defensive end in 2010, is looking to be the Hokies' starting tight end in 2011. … At Texas, former running back Chris Whaley is moving to defensive end. … At Pitt, the defense ismaking the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and adding a new face at safety from Michigan. … At USC, Lane Kiffin doesn't expect to to be suspended by the NCAA, Marc Tyler is likely out for the remainder of the spring and Max Wittek hasn't asked Matt Barkley whether he plans to turn pro early. … Oregon isn't worried about getting bigger on the offensive line. … Catching up with Cody Pickett, who kind of regrets returning to Washington for his senior season. … Generic spring practice stuff, Dogs say. … And there is some shocking miscegenation of victory going on at Mississippi State.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.