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We are now less than a week away from live-action SEC football. GET PUMPED, PEOPLE.
Only six coaches have a winning record against ranked teams since 2007: Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Les Miles, Mark Helfrich, Steve Spurrier, and David Shaw. Helfrich barely counts, as has only one year of experience and took over a program in excellent shape. Shaw also took over a program in great shape, though it's been a few years and he went 6-2 against ranked teams a year ago. Spurrier had to go 5-0 against ranked teams last year to get above .500, so he barely made it. Fisher also needed a spotless record a year ago (3-0) to earn this distinction. Miles had to overcome going 1-8 in these games across 2008-09. Even with Saban, most of his distance above .500 comes from just two seasons: 2009 (5-0) and 2012 (4-1). Of course, being a game above .500 in the rest of his post-2007 seasons is still pretty great given the rest of this table.
Landon Collins, S, Alabama
2013 stats: 70 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries
2014 projected stats: 75 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries
Alabama coach Nick Saban discussed Collins’ development with reporters last week. "He’s got a much better understanding from the experience that he gained last year of what his role is and what he needs to do. He’s always been a guy that makes a lot of plays," Saban said. "We’re inspired by his leadership, as well as the kind of player he is, as well as the person that he’s been. I think every player on our team would reiterate the same." For a coach who is fairly stingy with public praise, that’s tantamount to gushing. And with good reason. Collins is a Swiss Army Knife of a safety who makes defensive coordinator Kirby Smart’s job easier. If he helps fill the leadership void left by the departure of linebacker C.J. Mosley, Collins is even more valuable.
"Definitely last year there was a lot of pressure and a lot of nerves," [Jonathan] Allen said. "This year I really feel more comfortable, starting to know the schemes, starting to know what other positions do, so it's really been a great fit for me this year." Coach Nick Saban identified Allen as one of the defensive ends who took advantage of the situation with starters Jarren Reed and A'Shawn Robinson missing parts of camp.
"I think the biggest issue with Trey right now is that he's probably pretty close to 100 percent from an injury standpoint, but based on the time that he missed his conditioning is not what it needs to be," Saban said. "I can't see far enough down the road to our schedule to know when we'll play a team that gets into a huddle. So if you're not in really good condition on defense you're going to have a hard time sustaining and playing well."
What Saban said after Thursday's practice wasn't news to DePriest. He'd heard from his coach at Tuesday's practice, the last before Alabama went into its "school year" schedule Wednesday.
"When you reach this point of the season, he's going to have to play himself in shape," Saban said. "I said, 'You're going to have to push yourself in practice like you never have before because that's the only way you're going to get in shape, because you're not going to have camp to go back to."
"I think he'll do that. And when we play these speedball teams, we might have to play more guys until we get him to that point."
"He said 'I really have a lot of work to do to get my quickness back and to get in shape and be able to sustain,' which is to be expected," Saban said after Thursday's practice. "But we're going to work him and when he's ready to play, we'll play him."
That's as far as Saban went with a timetable for Robinson, who led Alabama with 5.5 sacks last season and is capable of playing multiple spots along the defensive line. He'll have two more practices this week before Alabama's game-week routine gets started Monday.
"He's going to have to work his way back in practice," Saban said. "But we were encouraged by what he was able to do."
There is entirely too much talk of "working back into shape" going on for my liking.
The wide receivers spent a significant portion of the viewing period working on run blocking. For players on the fringe of making it into a rotation, that could be one of the X factors that pushes someone over the top.
Watched CB Eddie Jackson for a while. If it weren't for seeing him sidelined whenever Alabama works with its first- and second-team nickel and dime defenses, you'd think he could be ready to play against the Mountaineers. He's moving with good speed and little hesitation.
Nick Saban Thursday press conference
Dalvin Tomlinson (That's my boy!)
Thursday practice footage
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