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Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook

Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook

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Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook

Lunghezza:
1,976 pagine
27 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jul 10, 2011
ISBN:
9780981935379
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook is considered the "bible" of college football, an annual preview that includes 3,000- to 4,500-word previews on all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Blue Ribbon is read by avid fans, ABC, CBS and ESPN broadcasters, radio play-by-play announcers, FBS coaches and NFL scouts. See why the ESPN GameDay crew has to have Blue Ribbon.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jul 10, 2011
ISBN:
9780981935379
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Chris Dortch estimates he’s covered close to 1,500 college basketball games since he was sports editor of his college student newspaper back in the late ’70s. “And it never gets old,” he says. “I always get pumped up to watch college hoops.” Dortch came to love basketball growing up in the basketball crazy state of Illinois, watching Missouri Valley Conference and Big Ten games every Saturday and pouring over the sports section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think I learned how to read a box score before I learned how to read,” he says. In college, first at George Mason and later at East Tennessee State, he came under the influence of two coaches that gave him a behind-the-scenes look at basketball from a coaching perspective. “After that I was hooked,” he says. “I knew I wanted to cover college basketball for a living.” And so he did, focusing on the Southeastern Conference at four newspapers and then for Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the famed “bible” of college basketball which Dortch began editing in 1996. In a 30-year career, Dortch has written for numerous publications and websites, served as a college basketball correspondent for Sports Illustrated, appeared on more than 1,000 radio shows and written five books, including String Music: Inside the Rise of SEC Basketball. Dortch has provided commentary for Fox Sports South and NBA TV and also taught sports writing at East Tennessee State and Tennessee-Chattanooga, where his students call him “Professor D.”

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Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook - Chris Dortch

2011 Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook

Edited By: Chris Dortch

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

STAFF

OKLAHOMA SOONERS #1

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE #2

LSU TIGERS #3

STANFORD CARDINAL #4

OREGON DUCKS #5

BOISE STATE BRONCOS #6

FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES #7

TEXAS A&M AGGIES #8

NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS #9

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS #10

VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES #11

OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS #12

WISCONSIN BADGERS #13

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS #14

MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS #15

GEORGIA BULLDOGS #16

TCU HORNED FROGS #17

OHIO STATE BUCKEYES #18

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH #19

ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS #20

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS #21

USC TROJANS #22

WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS #23

MISSOURI TIGERS #24

SOUTHERN MISS GOLDEN EAGLES #25

ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE

BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES

CLEMSON TIGERS

DUKE BLUE DEVILS

GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS

MARYLAND TERRAPINS

MIAMI HURRICANES

NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

NC STATE WOLFPACK

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS

BIG EAST CONFERENCE

CINCINNATI BEARCATS

CONNECTICUT HUSKIES

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

PITTSBURGH PANTHERS

RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS

SYRACUSE ORANGE

USF BULLS

BIG TEN CONFERENCE

ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI

INDIANA HOOSIERS

IOWA HAWKEYES

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS

NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS

PURDUE BOILERMAKERS

BIG 12 CONFERENCE

BAYLOR BEARS

IOWA STATE CYCLONES

KANSAS JAYHAWKS

KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

TEXAS LONGHORNS

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

CONFERENCE USA

EAST CAROLINA PIRATES

HOUSTON COUGARS

MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD

MEMPHIS TIGERS

RICE OWLS

SMU MUSTANGS

TULANE GREEN WAVE

TULSA GOLDEN HURRICANE

UAB BLAZERS

UCF KNIGHTS

UTEP MINERS

MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE

AKRON ZIPS

BOWLING GREEN FALCONS

BUFFALO BULLS

CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS

EASTERN MICHIGAN EAGLES

KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES

MIAMI (OHIO) REDHAWKS

NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES

OHIO BOBCATS

TEMPLE OWLS

TOLEDO ROCKETS

WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE

AIR FORCE FALCONS

COLORADO STATE RAMS

NEW MEXICO LOBOS

SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS

UNLV REBELS

WYOMING COWBOYS

PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE

ARIZONA WILDCATS

CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS

COLORADO BUFFALOES

OREGON STATE BEAVERS

UCLA BRUINS

UTAH UTES

WASHINGTON HUSKIES

WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

AUBURN TIGERS

FLORIDA GATORS

KENTUCKY WILDCATS

OLE MISS REBELS

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

VANDERBILT COMMODORES

SUN BELT CONFERENCE

ARKANSAS STATE RED WOLVES

FLORIDA ATLANTIC OWLS

FIU GOLDEN PANTHERS

LOUISIANA RAGIN’ CAJUNS

MIDDLE TENNESSEE BLUE RAIDERS

NORTH TEXAS MEAN GREEN

TROY TROJANS

ULM WARHAWKS

WESTERN KENTUCKY HILLTOPPERS

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS

HAWAII WARRIORS

IDAHO VANDALS

LOUISIANA TECH BULLDOGS

NEVADA WOLF PACK

NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES

UTAH STATE AGGIES

INDEPENDENTS

ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS

BYU COUGARS

NAVY MIDSHIPMEN

2011 POSTSEASON SCHEDULE

2010-2011 BOWL RESULTS

Welcome to the 10th edition of Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook. We’re not celebrating what would usually be a milestone edition because the book has actually been around 12 years. We didn’t publish in 2003 and 2009 because ownership changes weren’t yet finalized.

That wasn’t our preferred method of doing business, but at least we were able to come back stronger each time. I hope, for example, that you’re pleased with some design changes we made after our 2009 hiatus.

While we’re on the subject of changes, the landscape of college football has been drastically changed heading into the 2011 season, begging some questions:

• Will Nebraska win the Big Ten championship in its first season after bolting the Big 12?

We picked the Cornhuskers to win the league’s new Legends Division. Coach Bo Pelini and his staff spent a lot of time in the off-season familiarizing themselves with their new surroundings. The schedule won’t be easy, but offensive coordinator Tim Beck told our associate editor Bob Asmussen the Huskers aren’t worrying too much about that.

Life’s short, there are a lot of things to talk about and worry about, Beck said. Who we are playing and when isn’t one of them. We have no control over it. If they tell us we’re going to move up a game to midnight, then we’re going to move it up to midnight. There are a lot of other things you have to prepare for.

• Speaking of the Big Ten, what will become of Ohio State, which has dominated the league the last six years, after the resignation of coach Jim Tressel and the departure of star quarterback Terrelle Pryor?

• What impact will newcomers Colorado and Utah have on the Pac-12? Probably not much at first, at least not on the field. But off the field, the league has signed unprecedented television deals with ESPN and Fox. It’s just a matter of time until the increased payouts and exposure trickle down and begin positively impacting every team in the league.

For now, Oregon, which played in the BCS title game against Auburn last season, is going to try and continue its forward momentum.

If the Ducks get past LSU in the opener, the stage could be set for another run at the national championship, wrote our contributing editor Gary Horowitz in his Oregon profile. "Last season Oregon reached No. 1 in the polls at midseason and was not burdened by the bull’s-eye that status brought. The Ducks seem to embrace being a new emerging power on the block.

But for Oregon to reside in the pantheon of college football’s royalty, it needs to do more than just get to marquee games.

• Can the Southeastern Conference continue its dominance and add to its streak of five straight national championships? If it can, Alabama and LSU are the likely candidates. Both have won BCS titles during that five-year run of dominance, and both are again loaded with talent.

Blue Ribbon picked Alabama No. 2 and LSU No. 3 in its preseason Top 25.

In closing, we’d like to dedicate this edition to the tornado victims in the Midwest and South, two great college football strongholds. It was uplifting to see that, particularly in Joplin, Mo. and Tuscaloosa, Ala., the Missouri Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide jumped in to help with recovery efforts.

Chris Dortch

STAFF

EDITOR Chris Dortch

SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR Craig Ladd

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Christina Carden

ASSOCIATE EDITOR Bob Asmussen

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Paul Arnett, Mike Ashley, Michael Bradley, Tully Corcoran, Chadd Cripe, Nate Crossman, Dustin Dopirak, Gentry Estes, Al Featherston, Doug Foster, Andy Friedlander, Brett Friedlander, Robert Gagliardi, Ken Gordon Izzy Gould, Andy Hamilton, Gary Horowitz, Dave Ivie, Marcus Jackson, Doug Janz, Nick Jezierny, Jim Mandelaro, Bob McClellan, John Moorehouse, Brian Murphy, Tom Murphy, William S. Paxton, Joe Rexrode, Jeff Rice, Paul Strelow, Jeff Sullivan, Jay Tate, Larry Vaught, Kyle Veazey, Lindsey Willhite, Trey Williams

DESIGN Christina Carden

COVER DESIGN Christina Carden

RANKINGS Richard Billingsley, College Football Research Center

PRINTING Diversified Printing, Chattanooga, Tenn.

COVER PHOTOS U-M Photo Services, University of Arkansas Media Relations, Boise State University Media Relations, Stanford University Media Relations, University of Oklahoma Athletic Communications

BLUE RIBBON COLLEGE FOOTBALL YEARBOOK ALL-AMERICA OFFENSE

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Andrew Luck • Quarterback, Stanford

QUARTERBACK

Andrew Luck, Stanford

6-4, 235, Jr.

RUNNING BACKS

Lamichael James, Oregon

5-9, 185, Jr.

Knile Davis, Arkansas

6-0, 220, Jr.

RECEIVERS

Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

5-11, 187, Sr.

Alshon Jeffery, S. Carolina

6-4, 233, Jr.

TIGHT END

Michael Egnew, Missouri

6-6, 240, Sr.

LINE

Barrett Jones, Alabama

6-5, 311, Jr.

Nate Potter, Boise State

6-6, 300, Sr.

Matt Reynolds, Byu

6-6, 322, Sr.

Mike Brewster, Ohio State

6-5, 305, Sr.

Ryan Miller, Colorado

6-8, 310, Sr.

KICKER

Blair Walsh, Georgia

5-10, 183, Sr.

RETURN SPECIALIST

Eric Page, Toledo

5-10, 180, Jr.

BLUE RIBBON COLLEGE FOOTBALL YEARBOOK ALL-AMERICA DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Vontaze Burfict • Linebacker, Arizona State

LINE

Quinton Coples, N. Carolina

6-6, 285, Sr.

Brandon Jenkins, Florida St.

6-3, 260, Jr.

Jared Crick, Nebraska

6-6, 285, Sr.

Devin Taylor, S. Carolina

6-7, 248, Jr.

LINEBACKERS

Vontaze Burfict, Arizona St.

6-3, 245, Jr.

Luke Kuechly, Boston Coll.

6-3, 235, Jr.

Lavonte David, Nebraska

6-1, 220, Sr.

SECONDARY

Cliff Harris, Oregon

5-11, 165, Jr.

Mark Barron, Alabama

6-2, 218, Sr.

Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech

5-10, 170, Jr.

Stephon Gilmore, S. Carolina

6-1, 194, Jr.

PUNTER

Drew Butler, Georgia

6-3, 210, Sr.

RETURN SPECIALIST

Cliff Harris, Oregon

5-11, 165, Jr.

BLUE RIBBON COLLEGE FOOTBALL YEARBOOK PRESEASON TOP 25

1 Oklahoma

2 Alabama

3 LSU

4 Stanford

5 Oregon

6 Boise State

7 Florida State

8 Texas A&M

9 Nebraska

10 South Carolina

11 Virginia Tech

12 Oklahoma State

13 Wisconsin

14 Arkansas

15 Michigan State

16 Georgia

17 TCU

18 Ohio State

19 Notre Dame

20 Arizona State

21 Mississippi State

22 USC

23 West Virginia

24 Missouri

25 Southern Miss

OKLAHOMA SOONERS #1

Since World War I, five Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches have taken the field at least 150 times with a career winning percentage greater than 80 percent. That’s it.

Their names are Barry Switzer, Tom Osborne, Robert Neyland, Bud Wilkerson and Bob Stoops.

The fact that three of the five have coached exclusively for Oklahoma is almost incomprehensible. Simultaneously, it also illustrates just how the expectations are in Norman on a year-to-year basis.

This will be season No. 13 for Stoops, and while his numbers are unequalled in college football over that stretch, for some, there’s less praise than and more questions as to why the Sooners haven’t won a national championship since 2000 despite three appearances in the title game.

At the moment, though, after a strong 12-2 campaign and bounce back from an injury-plagued 8-5 finish in 2009, there is widespread praise for Stoops, especially in the aftermath of Jim Tressel resigning at Ohio State and the sanctions at USC, those being the lone two schools to really compete for Team of the Decade honors with Oklahoma. And for the record, Stoops has no interest in the recently vacated BCS national title of the Trojans from when the Sooners were defeated 55-19 in the 2005 Orange Bowl.

I don’t have any thoughts [on USC’s situation] and we’re not claiming any championships, Stoops said.

More and more, Stoops seems firmly grounded in Norman for the long haul, and the once rampant rumors of his supposedly impending departure to the NFL have subsided. Sure, he still seems an ideal candidate for the next level, but perhaps, like say a Mike Krzyzewski in basketball, Stoops, who turns 51 in September, decides to remain a college lifer.

As for winning a second national title, this season offers a prime opportunity, with OU returning 22 players with starting experience, including its top three players from 2010. Also, there’s significantly more depth, the majority of which comes from underclassmen hungry to push the established starters for playing time.

That makes for every coach’s ideal scenario.

I don’t think there’s any question that we have more players ready to play this year, maybe more than any other time when you look at, just overall, two-deep guys that you can put on the field and trust, who know what to do and do it, Stoops said.

As for the staff, former OU quarterback Josh Heupel is the new playcaller, a role he assumed at the Fiesta Bowl in January after offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson took the top job at Indiana. He’ll also remain the quarterbacks coach, while co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell also handles the wide receivers.

We’re going to be very similar to what we’ve always done, Stoops said. In the spring, you evaluate and see what players are really going to do what. You try to play to your players’ strengths. What your quarterback does best. From there, your tailback.

And from there, a whole bunch of points and wins, as Stoops looks to conclude the upcoming campaign with a career mark of 142-31, meaning 13-0, and a second national crown.

OFFENSE (STARTERS RETURNING 8)

QUARTERBACKS

Barring the unforeseen, junior Landry Jones (6-4, 230) should finish this season with every major career passing record in school history. He already holds the mark for most completions with 666, ridiculous considering he could conceivably play another 26 games. Of course, as much as the Sooner faithful would like that, chances are Jones is participating in his farewell campaign in the college ranks before taking his game to the NFL.

The Sammy Baugh winner as a sophomore, Jones led the nation in completions (405) while placing second in passing yards (4,718) and TD tosses (38) and third in total offense (327.9 ypg). Since replacing an injured Sam Bradford as a redshirt freshman in 2009, Jones has thrown for at least 300 yards in 13 of his 24 starts, including 429 in earning Fiesta Bowl MVP honors in Oklahoma’s romp over Connecticut last January.

And while Stanford’s Andrew Luck is considered the preseason favorite for the Heisman Trophy, Jones is close behind. And who knows what might happen if OU should finish with a few more wins than the Cardinal.

I’d like to win it, Jones told CBS Sportsline. I’m good enough to be a Heisman candidate. [But] that’s not like my No. 1 priority right now.

The last two off-seasons have witnessed a transformation physically for Jones, too, as he departed spring camp with an extra 20 pounds of muscle from two years ago.

I definitely changed my body more this winter, Jones said. During the season, you are really just trying to survive. During the winter you build on what you already had. I’ve gotten a bit faster and put more muscle on.

Sophomore Drew Allen (6-5, 236) is the backup, and while he was decent in limited action in 2010, even rushing for a touchdown, he showed marked progress this spring, culminating by his 16-of-29, 179-yard performance in the spring game.

He did some really positive things, Heupel said of Allen in the spring game. I think it was good for him to show those things. I’m sure if you talk to him, he’s gonna understand there’s a lot of things he missed that he can be better with.

Redshirt freshman Blake Bell (6-6, 241) is expected to start at some point in the future, but for now, he’s No. 3 on the depth chart.

[Blake] continues to make improvement and he’s such a young guy with so much in front of him and he’ll continue that, Stoops said. He’s worked hard technique wise and he’s a big guy and just getting his footwork, getting his delivery. He’s got a big arm and continuing to refine his techniques. Coach Heupel does a great job teaching him; he’s making steady progress.

ABOUT OKLAHOMA

LOCATION Norman, OK

CONFERENCE Big 12

COLORS Crimson & Cream

HOME FIELD Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (82,112)

WINS (last 5 yrs.) 11-11-12-8-12

BILLINGSLEY RANKING (last 5 yrs.) 12-10-5-23-10

RUNNING BACKS

After seemingly a Jason White-like extended stay in Norman, DeMarco Murray, the program record holder for career touchdowns and all-purpose yards, has moved onto Sundays with the Dallas Cowboys. As for his replacement, let’s just say Stoops and Heupel have options.

There’s sophomore Brennan Clay (5-11, 185), who rushed for just 127 yards last season but impressed Stoops this spring.

Brennan was very good. I thought he found space, made some big runs, had great cuts, and takes care of the ball, Stoops said.

True freshman Brandon Williams (5-11, 189) enrolled early and was listed No. 2 on the depth chart before even the first snap of spring. Rated a five-start recruit and third among prep running backs by Rivals.com, he could easily emerge as the starter, and might be the top receiver of the bunch.

Williams, from Royal High School in Brookshire, Texas, ran for 2,438 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. He also added 144 receiving yards and two more scores.

Hard-playing guy, he’s got a ton of energy, Stoops said of Williams this spring. He’s been very impressive.

Sophomores Roy Finch (5-8, 173) and Jonathan Miller (5-11, 197) and juniors Dominique Whaley (5-10, 197) and Jermie Calhoun (5-11, 214) are also vying for carries.

Finch was the team’s second-leading rusher a season ago with 398 yards while also catching 10 balls.

We don’t need any one guy to do it, Stoops said. "These guys all bring a different speed, a little change up in how they run.

I don’t really believe any of them are 40-snap-a-game guys. We don’t need one guy that has to do it. These guys all bring a different speed with a little change-up in how they run and those kinds of things. As long as they’re taking care of the football, we’ll use them all.

The fullbacks are sophomore Marshall Musil (6-2, 230) and redshirt freshman David Driskill (6-1, 235).

THE STAFF

HEAD COACH Bob Stoops (Iowa ’83)

RECORD AT SCHOOL 129-31 (12 years)

CAREER RECORD 129-31 (12 years)

ASSISTANTS

Brent Venables (Kansas State ’92) Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers • Bobby Jack Wright (Sw Texas State ’73) Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Ends • Josh Heupel (Oklahoma ’01) Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks • Jay Norvell (Iowa ’86) Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers • Cale Gundy (Oklahoma ’94) Recruiting Coordinator/Running Backs • Bruce Kittle (Iowa ’83) Tight Ends/Offensive Tackles • Willie Martinez (Miami ’85) Defensive Backs • James Patton (Miami-Ohio ’93) Guards/Centers • Jackie Shipp (Langston ’92) Defensive Line

RECEIVERS

After breaking every record imaginable as a junior, not only did senior Ryan Broyles (5-11, 187) return, he dedicated himself to changing his body in the off-season.

After the spring, Broyles spoke of his goals this season, saying, "I want to do something that I’ve done before. I want to stay healthy.

"You’ve only got one body. That’s what I’m learning. After every practice, I get in the cold tub. Used to, I would slack off on that. Any tweak of my body, I jump on it right then. I feel like my brain is more in tune with my body.

Mentally, I feel like I’m a step ahead of where I was last year. I feel a little bit more mature.

He has gained about 10 pounds of muscle from the end of last season, and is up 30 since his initial physical as a freshman.

A consensus All-American and one of the three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, Broyles caught 131 balls—the eighth-most in NCAA history—for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. En route, he broke school records for most receptions in a game, season and career. Also, Broyles enters the year as the active leader in catches (266), receiving yards (3,429) and touchdown grabs (35).

He wants to win a national championship, co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jay Norvell said. "He wants to be a leader on a team that does that, and he wants to catch as many passes as he can to help the team win.

I’m very proud of him. When you see the maturity—some of these kids come here and they just don’t have a clue.

He’s very focused, he knows exactly what he wants. He know what he wants to do physically. He came back this year for a reason.

Sophomores Kenny Stills (6-0, 181) and Trey Franks (5-10, 184) are the second and third starting wideouts, with the former having broken the school’s freshman marks of Broyles in 2010 with 61 grabs for 786 yards and five scores. As for Franks, he’s among the quickest players in the Big 12, although he was mostly used underneath last season. He caught 29 passes for 263 yards and a TD.

Sophomore Joe Powell (5-11, 166) is behind Broyles, while redshirt freshmen Sheldon McClain (6-1, 184) and Justin McCay (6-2, 209) are also in the mix.

Also back is senior Dejuan Miller (6-4, 216), who broke into the starting lineup early last season before a knee injury ended his year.

Seniors James Hanna (6-4, 237) and Trent Ratterree (6-3, 248) are the tight ends with sophomore Austin Haywood (6-3, 239) also vying for field time.

OFFENSIVE LINE

There was no position Stoops was more enthusiastic about this spring than the O-line, even though All-Big 12 tackle Eric Mensik, who was without question the team’s top blocker a year ago, has departed.

The starters, at least departing the spring, were senior tackle Donald Stephenson (6-5, 305), redshirt freshman tackle Daryl Williams (6-4, 304), junior right guard Tyler Evans (6-4, 326), sophomore left guard Gabe Ikard (6-2, 290) and junior center Ben Habern (6-2, 291).

The offensive line looks significantly better than a year ago, Stoops said after spring practice. They’ve made a big jump.

Our ability and just being sounder in running the football is something I’ve seen through the entire spring. In particular, I guess in the last half of spring, it’s really improved. I’m pleased with the backs, the way we’re running the line, the way we’re blocking people and their technique in what they’re doing.

The backups include sophomore Josh Aladenoye (6-4, 322) at tackle, junior Stephen Good (6-4, 293), sophomore Bronson Irwin (6-4, 308) and redshirt Adam Shead (6-3, 316) at guard and sophomore Austin Woods (6-4, 305) at center.

The wildcard is redshirt freshman tackle Tyrus Thompson (6-4, 290).

Jarvis Jones (6-6, 308) was set to start at right tackle, but he tore his patellar tendon in late March and is expected to be sidelined until October.

KICKERS

What he lacks in leg strength, senior Jimmy Stevens (5-5, 172) makes up for in consistency, having converted 19-of-23 field goals in 2010 including 12 of his last 13. And his 17 points at Oklahoma State tied the school record by a kicker.

However, his long was just 42 yards and he doesn’t handle kickoffs.

Junior Patrick O’Hara (6-0, 192) was 4-of-6 on field goals last season with a long of 45 yards, while redshirt freshman Michael Hunnicutt (5-10, 165) was impressive this spring.

2011 SCHEDULE

Sept. 3 Tulsa

17 @Florida State

24 Missouri

Oct. 1 Ball State

8 Texas*

15 @Kansas

22 Texas Tech

29 @Kansas State

Nov. 5 Texas A&M

19 @Baylor

26 Iowa State

Dec. 3 @Oklahoma State

*Dallas

DEFENSE (STARTERS RETURNING 8)

DEFENSIVE LINE

Six players with double-digit starts return on the defense, but even more impressive is the depth, with at least 13 returning Sooners having started at least one game in 2010.

And while the offense will receive the bulk of the headlines, Stoops thinks the defense could be one of his best at Oklahoma, which is saying a lot.

I believe we’ve got a chance to be really good, Stoops said. I think it could be one of our better ones.

The tackles are juniors Stacy McGee (6-4, 284) and Casey Walker (6-1, 308), who combined to start 15 games a season ago. McGee contributed 3.5 tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries.

Also in the mix are junior Jamarkus McFarland (6-1, 294), who tallied five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in 2010. Daniel Noble was expected to provide further depth, but was forced to quit due to lingering effects from a concussion he suffered last season against Iowa State.

Stacy had a really strong spring, played confidently, defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. Jamarkus made marked improvement, probably the most improvement overall.

After shifting to tackle from tight end, junior Lane Johnson (6-6, 267) shined and isn’t just warranting a spot in the rotation up front; he eventually could press for a starting role.

It’s gonna work out wonderfully for him, and for us, Stoops said. He’s going to end up being a really special player there.

At the ends are senior Frank Alexander (6-3, 259), who despite battling injuries all last season finished with 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks, and junior Ronnell Lewis (6-2, 237). Behind them are juniors R.J. Washington (6-3, 261) and David King (6-4, 258).

Perhaps no defensive player impressed more this spring than Lewis, a converted a linebacker.

I thought [Lewis] had a tremendous spring, learning how to play with technique, fundamentals and footwork … his understanding and being disciplined with regard to gap control and where he needs to be, Venables said.

2010 REVIEW

RECORD

OVERALL 12-2 (.857)

CONFERENCE 6-2 (t-1st, South)

RESULTS

Utah State W 31-24 1-0

Florida State W 47-14 2-0

Air Force W 27-24 3-0

@Cincinnati W 31-29 4-0

Texas W 28-20 5-0

Iowa State W 52-0 6-0

@Missouri L 27-36 6-1

Colorado W 43-10 7-1

@Texas A&M L 19-33 7-2

Texas Tech W 45-7 8-2

@Baylor W 53-24 9-2

@Oklahoma State W 47-41 10-2

Nebraska W 23-20 11-2

Connecticut* W 48-20 12-2

*(Fiesta Bowl)

STATISTICS

Rushing offense 138.0 83

Passing offense 343.4 3

Total offense 481.4 10

Scoring offense 37.2 14

Net punting 40.5 5

Punt returns 8.5 54

Kickoff returns 22.3 53

Rushing defense 148.9 58

Passing defense 212.9 51

Total defense 361.9 53

Scoring defense 21.8 33

Turnover margin 1.00 7

Last column is ranking among FBS teams.

LINEBACKERS

The Sooners will be playing the 2011 season with the heaviest of hearts after linebacker Austin Box tragically passed away on May 19. After starting the last five games of 2010, he was ready to resume that role at middle linebacker.

We’re all shocked and heartbroken, Stoops said. Austin was a great young man, a great young man to coach and a great teammate. He played an integral part in our success the last three years and was looking forward to a big senior year.

Sophomore Tom Wort (6-0, 227) is likely to start in the middle after a stellar freshman campaign that included 66 tackles and 4.5 sacks.

Tom’s just a much more confident player, and more consistent, Venables said. He had a really, really good spring.

Junior Jaydan Bird (6-2, 245) is behind Wort.

At the weak-side spot are senior Travis Lewis (6-2, 233), the team’s leading tackler a season ago with 109 stops, and sophomore Corey Nelson (6-0, 208).

Are you kidding me? Venables said. That’s got to be the best first- and second-teamer at that position anywhere.

Many in attendance for the majority of spring camp said Nelson was the team’s best player on either side of the ball.

We’re going to get him on the field, Stoops said. We’ll find those opportunities, for sure.

Lewis, who should vie for Big 12 Defensive Player-of-the-Year honors, is a veteran of 41 starts. He needs one interception to break the school’s record for linebackers.

Hopefully amazing, great and everything in between, Lewis said after the spring game when asked of the defense. Every time I answer this question, the sky’s the limit for this defense. If we just keep making strides in the right direction and keep pushing each other, I think at the end of the day we’ll be a pretty great defense.

At the strong side is sophomore Tony Jefferson (5-10, 199) and junior Joseph Ibiloye (6-2, 222).

In earning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2010, Jefferson, who can also play safety, registered 44 solo tackles, seven for loss, seven pass breakups, two sacks and two interceptions.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Going into the summer, the secondary was the defense’s No. 1 concern, and the possible loss of All-Big 12 cornerback Jamell Fleming certainly doesn’t help matters. He wasn’t enrolled for the spring semester because of academic issues, but he could return in the fall. Fleming finished last season with 71 tackles, 8.5 stops for loss including a sack, five interceptions and 14 pass breakups.

Junior Demontre Hurst (5-9, 172) is among the returning starters, coming off an impressive campaign that included 11 pass breakups.

If Fleming doesn’t the return, the second starting corner will probably be sophomore Gabe Lynn (6-0, 188).

I think the secondary has a chance to be even improved from a year ago, Stoops said.

The strong safety is sophomore Aaron Colvin (5-11, 175), a converted corner who finished with 34 tackles and three pass breakups in 2010.

The first day he went [to safety], it was like, ‘Okay, this is gonna be … not easy, but he’s comfortable, Venables said. He has a good feel for the game, has a good understanding of football. He’s also in good position. He’ll come up and tackle.

At free safety is junior Javon Harris (5-11, 203), who had 28 stops last season.

There’s definitely a lack of depth behind the starters, save for senior safety Sam Proctor (5-11, 226), who has played 40 games. After that, there’s a trio of redshirt freshmen: corners Julian Wilson (6-2, 182) and Julian Winters (5-10, 156) and strong safety James Haynes (6-0, 189).

Again, defensively, we’ve been solid, Stoops said. "I thought just overall some position changes are good for us. Joe Powell over there at defensive back is going to be good. Corey Nelson’s had a tremendous spring. All the guys up front have come on and made improvements and the same thing for the secondary.

Aaron Colvin is going to be a great safety; he runs around out there and really plays well. Gabe Lynn’s really come on through this spring to go with these other guys. Javon Harris has been very steady all spring at those positions.

PUNTERS

No punter in the nation launched more boots last season with a higher average than junior Tress Way (6-1, 221). He tallied 44.0 yards on 73 punts, surprisingly high considering the Sooners’ success offensively.

His efforts included 19 punts of at least 50 yards and 18 inside the 20. As a team, OU checked in No. 5 nationally in net punting at 40.5 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Way and O’Hara handled the kickoffs in 2010, with the latter having slightly more success outside of a pair of efforts that landed out of bounds.

As has been the case under Stoops, the coverage units were once again among the country’s elite, with the punt return defense ranking second at 3.04 yards per.

Look for Franks to handle the bulk of the kick returns while Broyles is the primary option on punt returns and also the active NCAA leader in that category with 998 yards. His long in 2010 was 57 yards, so don’t be surprised if he breaks two or three.

NEWCOMERS

A trio of players enrolled early, including defensive tackle Marquis Anderson (6-3, 270), Williams and quarterback Kendal Thompson (6-1, 170), the son of former OU signal caller Charles Thompson. While he’s expected to redshirt, Thompson was rated the No. 14 QB in the nation by Rivals.com.

The 17-player class was ranked 14th overall and included five-star signee in Williams and Kameel Jackson (6-0, 198), the 34th rated wideout in the country according to Rivals.com.

As the case has always been with Stoops, if the youngsters are ready to play, they will.

We were and still are a young team, but our philosophy has been to play the guys who are ready to play, Stoops said. We’re seeing more and more [recruits] who are coming to us with the maturity to be on the field. If they can help us, they’ll have that opportunity.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

No program in the country has been ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll more weeks than Oklahoma’s 97, and there’s a pretty decent chance the Sooners could push that mark to triple digits and beyond this fall.

Of course, Stoops could care less about polls. Much like the Boston Celtics only hang championship banners from their rafters, in Norman, it’s all about the national titles. So could this season’s team bring home No. 8? Absolutely, positively yes.

Now, by no means should the faithful start booking flights to New Orleans for the BCS Championship in January. Most experts believe Oklahoma and Alabama will start the year 1-2 in the polls, but the Big 12 could offer its highest level of resistance since the conference formed, especially in terms of balance. Texas A&M and Oklahoma are considered top-10 material and does anyone expect Texas to have another losing campaign? Even Baylor or Missouri on a given Saturday could knock off the Sooners, and there’s a road trip to Florida State on Sept. 17.

The schedule, though, is mostly favorable, with the Aggies and Missouri visiting Norman, where Oklahoma has won 36 straight games, the sixth longest streak in the FBS since 1920.

Not to swiftly bypass 11 games and three months of football, but it’s impossible not to circle Dec. 3 on the calendar for what could easily be the most anticipated Bedlam matchup to date in Stillwater, which could even feature two undefeated teams playing for an invitation to the Louisiana Superdome.

Stoops isn’t one to boast for the sake of hearing his own voice, so when he says this could be his best defense, that’s pretty frightening when combined with an offense that scored 521 points last season and returns its record-setting quarterback and wide receiver.

The final analysis is quite simple really: It’s 13-0 or bust for the Sooners this year.

Jeff Sullivan

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE #2

The lives of those living in Tuscaloosa on April 27 forever changed, and the path of Alabama’s season to some suddenly became a beacon of healing.

By now, most people know that was the day a killer tornado ripped through town, tearing a swath of chaos and destruction along its path. The event was well documented—a monstrous storm with numerous funnels bursting and spinning from its sides as it plowed just south of the city’s center, just south of the university’s campus. Debris from neighborhoods and businesses was sucked up thousands of feet and scattered across the sky, some of it landing more than 100 miles away. More than 40 people in Tuscaloosa died, the final count still unclear as of press time.

Most of the football team escaped injury, though some—including former players—were affected in some form. Crimson Tide backup center Carson Tinker was in his home with two roommates and girlfriend Ashley Harrison. They took shelter in a closet in the center of the home, but the tornado disintegrated the house literally down to the dirt. It tossed the four young adults into a field where they once walked their two dogs. Tinker suffered a concussion and various injuries. Harrison was found dead a day later, as were the two dogs. Temporary markers were placed in the field, one near the spot Harrison’s body was found, the other where the two dogs were buried.

In the aftermath of the tornado, Alabama athletes spread throughout the community and the state helping in various ways, from debris removal to simply bringing smiles to fans with the stroke of a pen or posing for a picture. Alabama coach Nick Saban, as well as others, have stressed the importance of giving back to a community that has invested so much in the Tide. But he also stressed that what his football team does in 2011 should not be tied to the tornado, that sports and life are separate. And to be fair, pinning the hopes of Tide fans to Alabama’s season would be unfair on many levels.

That said, it seems inevitable many will want to stitch the two together searching for a storybook ending—perhaps an SEC title or winning the BCS national championship.

Alabama begins its fifth season under Saban. All anyone needs to know about his success stands one statue away from that of legendary coach Paul Bear Bryant. That’s where Saban’s image now stands cast in bronze among the Tide’s other national championship coaches. Saban guided the Tide to the 2009 title, but in 2010 Alabama fell short of expectations by losing three games and not even reaching a BCS bowl after being given a preseason No. 1 national ranking.

There already is talk of more huge expectations this season, with many already prepared to place Alabama among the nation’s best. Sure, the defense looks potent and Alabama brings back junior running back Trent Richardson—considered by some experts to be a Heisman Trophy candidate. But Alabama also must replace four NFL first-round draft picks—three of them junior jumpers, including the Tide’s only Heisman Trophy winner in Mark Ingram.

The biggest question is at quarterback, where a highly publicized competition between AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims is expected to last through fall practice. How that battle materializes could determine the success or failure of Alabama’s season.

OFFENSE (STARTERS RETURNING 7)

QUARTERBACKS

Alabama has two quarterbacks competing for the starting job: redshirt sophomore AJ McCarron (6-4, 205) and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims (6-2, 217). Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has painted a picture of a neck-and-neck battle between the two and has taken great care not to indicate either one has gained an edge.

Neither player has started a college football game, but McCarron returns with the most experience after he backed up two-year starter Greg McElroy and played in 13 games primarily as a holder. McCarron’s most productive game was during a 48-3 win against San Jose State in the season opener. He finished 9-of-14 passing for 116 yards and a touchdown. For the season, he was 30-for-48 passing for 389 yards and three touchdowns.

One key moment was McCarron’s tolerance of Saban’s wrath. During McCarron’s first drive against Mississippi State, he threw a downfield pass into coverage instead of making a safer throw. Saban unloaded on McCarron with a verbal assault, then a stiff spanking caught by television cameras and later replayed on sports highlight shows. Both men played off the moment and moved on. What it showed was McCarron’s calm demeanor in a pressure-packed moment, which could prove valuable in tight SEC games.

Of course, Sims redshirted last season and has yet to be given a true opportunity to show what he can do. He shared equal snaps last spring with the first-team offense. Each had 38 pass attempts in the Tide’s spring game, which drew a record spring attendance of 92,310. Sims was 11-of-20 passing for 138 yards with the first team, while McCarron was 13-of-19 passing for 129 yards and a touchdown.

Saban would not rule out rotating quarterbacks, and it’s likely both will get playing time through the opener against Kent State before traveling to Penn State on Sept. 10.

As a contingency, redshirt freshman Blake Sims (6-0, 212) moved to quarterback in the spring and for the foreseeable future. He earned strong reviews from Saban and could provide Alabama with an added element behind center.

True freshman Phillip Ely (6-1, 187) enrolled in January to begin learning the offense and is expected to redshirt.

ABOUT ALABAMA

LOCATION Tuscaloosa, AL

CONFERENCE Southeastern (West)

COLORS Crimson & White

HOME FIELD Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)

WINS (last 5 yrs.) 6-7-12-14-10

BILLINGSLEY RANKING (last 5 yrs.) 61-58-6-1-9

RUNNING BACKS

The key to Alabama’s offensive success rests squarely on the shoulders of Trent Richardson (5-11, 224). He enters his junior season as Alabama’s No. 1 threat on offense, and he begins the fall as someone to watch in the Heisman Trophy race.

The Tide’s top returning rusher embraced the opportunity to become one of Alabama’s leaders in the spring, stepping into the role vacated by Alabama’s lone Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, who left a year of eligibility behind to become an NFL first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints.

Richardson learned to flourish in a shared system of carries intended to cut down on the impact running backs often endure throughout a season. That unselfish relationship helped Alabama to its 13th national championship in 2009 and was important last year when both players coped with knee injuries causing each to miss games.

A knee injury on a touchdown suffered against LSU forced Richardson to miss wins against Mississippi State and Georgia State. Richardson’s carries and yards were down from ’09, but he increased his yards per carry (6.2) significantly and finished with 112 carries for 700 yards and six touchdowns.

As the running game struggled to win battles up the middle, Richardson developed into more of a receiving threat, utilizing his speed in the open field for big gains. He had career highs in receptions (23), receiving yards (266) and receiving touchdowns (four). Catching passes out of the backfield and across the middle could become even more common as Alabama’s quarterbacks develop. Richardson led all receivers with 85 yards in the spring game, and all rushers with nine carries for 49 yards.

Sophomore Eddie Lacy (6-0, 220) is the leading candidate to trade carries with Richardson after Demetrius Goode transferred to North Alabama for his senior season. Also in the mix is sophomore Jalston Fowler (6-1, 246) and true freshman Dee Hart (5-9, 187), who enrolled in January. Hart was the U.S. Army National Player of the Year, and Saban compared his explosiveness to former Alabama star defensive back Javier Arenas.

THE STAFF

HEAD COACH Nick Saban (Kent State ’73)

RECORD AT SCHOOL 43-11 (4 years)

CAREER RECORD 134-53-1 (15 years)

ASSISTANTS

Jim Mcelwain (Eastern Michigan ’84) Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks • Kirby Smart (Georgia ’99) Defensive Coordinator • Burton Burns (Nebraska ’76) Running Backs • Mike Groh (Virginia ’95) Wide Receivers/Recruiting Coordinator • Jeremy Pruitt (West Alabama ’01) Secondary • Chris Rumph (South Carolina ’94) Defensive Line • Jeff Stoutland (South Connecticut State ’84) Offensive Line • Sal Sunseri (Pittsburgh ’81) Linebackers • Bobby Williams (Purdue ’82) Tight Ends/Special Teams

RECEIVERS

Another concern with Alabama’s offense is the absence of a big-play wide receiver after the departure of Julio Jones to the NFL. The first-round draft pick validated his decision after he was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 6th- overall pick. But the decision could hinder the development of the quarterbacks, who would have benefited from his presence.

In three season, Jones finished with 179 catches for 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns. He fought through injuries and always proved to be the Tide’s No. 1 option. It’s hard to judge from one spring game what to truly expect from Alabama’s receivers in 2011.

Seniors Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks are the leading contenders to be top targets. Maze (5-10, 180) is fast and elusive, and if he finds the open grass he often wins the race to the end zone. He is Alabama’s top returning receiver with 38 catches for 557 yards and three touchdowns.

Hanks (6-0, 185) has size and good hands. Last season he finished with 32 receptions for 456 yards and three touchdowns.

Others vying for passes include senior Brandon Gibson (6-2, 194), sophomore Kenny Bell (6-1, 175) and freshmen Keiwone Malone (5-11, 165) and DeAndrew White (6-0, 181).

Then there’s the anticipated addition of Duron Carter (6-5, 210), a junior college transfer from Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College and former Ohio State player. He’s the son of former Buckeye and Minnesota Vikings star Cris Carter—an NFL analyst for ESPN.

Duron Carter obviously has been mentored by his father—who finished a 16-year career as the No. 2 receiver in NFL history with 1,101 catches. Cris Carter says his son understands the playbook and terminology tied into Alabama’s pro style offense. His aptitude for Alabama’s specifics could play significantly into the success of the Tide’s passing game.

Last season at Coffeyville, the younger Carter caught 44 passes for 690 yards and 10 touchdowns.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Alabama struggled at times with its offensive line for various reasons, but the unit appears to be the most sturdy on offense. Four starting linemen return, including three-year starters senior William Vlachos (6-1, 294) and junior Barrett Jones (6-5, 311). Vlachos is the only senior among the group and provides plenty of leadership, heart and ability. He says what’s on his mind and is a key at center.

Jones’ role is unclear at the moment. He started the last two seasons at right guard, but his role slightly came into question exiting spring practice.

Alabama’s lone vacancy was at offensive left tackle, where two-year starter James Carpenter played every game. The Tide turned the competition to senior Alfred McCullough (6-2, 311) and junior college transfer Aaron Douglas. But Douglas, who played second-team offensive left tackle during the spring game, died suddenly while on vacation in Florida last May.

McCullough played the spring game next to Douglas at left guard, so it is possible Jones could stay at left tackle. That could put sophomore Anthony Steen (6-3, 303) in position to be the starting right guard in place of Jones.

Whoever lines up at right guard will play beside sophomore D.J. Fluker, (6-6, 335), who battled some leg injuries last season and during spring practice.

And don’t forget about left guard Chance Warmack (6-3, 320), a junior very much in control at his position. Also look for players such as brothers Arie Kouandjio (6-5, 335), a redshirt freshman, and true freshman Cyrus Kouandjio (6-7, 322) to push for opportunities.

KICKERS

Alabama’s kicking game should be solid and is expected to continue the rotation of junior Jeremy Shelley (5-10, 165) and sophomore Cade Foster (6-2, 216).

Shelley attempted most kicks within 40-yard range last season and was 12-of-16, including 7-of-8 from 30-39 yards. He was 50-of-51 on PATs and led the Tide in scoring with 86 points.

Foster was brought on for longer attempts and finished 7-of-9, including 5-of-6 from 40-49 yards. His long was 49.

DEFENSE (STARTERS RETURNING 7)

DEFENSIVE LINE

The defensive line is arguably the greatest concern defensively entering the 2011 season. Alabama’s base 3-4 defense will feature senior Josh Chapman (6-1, 310) at nose guard. Who starts on either side of him could be an ongoing competition throughout the season.

The anticipated loss of end Kerry Murphy to a career-ending injury kicked off spring practice. As practice rolled along, junior end Damion Square (6-3, 285) talked about shedding a knee brace he once wore to help recover from an injury, and how he was more mobile and confident in his progress.

Saban was pleased with the progress of guys such as sophomore Ed Stinson (6-4, 279) and Darrington Sentimore (6-3, 273), two players that gained valuable experience in the spring and summer months.

Alabama brought in junior college transfers Jesse Williams (6-4, 319) and Quinton Dial (6-6, 294) to compete not only for playing time but starting jobs. They are capable of playing any of the defensive line spots, and have earned praise from teammates for their eagerness to learn and ask questions. The adjustment to Alabama’s defense is not easy, so how quickly they adjust and show they have mastered proper form and technique will determine how much they can contribute.

Williams, who’s from Brisbane, Australia and originally signed with Hawaii, missed the winter conditioning program, also known as the Fourth Quarter Program, after he underwent minor knee surgery. The injury occurred during his time at Arizona Western College, where he was rated by Rivals as the No. 2 JUCO player in the country.

Dial, who’s from East Mississippi Community College, was rated by Rivals as a four-star prospect and the No. 15 JUCO player in the nation. Last season he made 76 tackles, including 3.5 sacks.

Also look for sophomore Chris Bonds (6-4, 269), junior Undra Billingsley (6-2, 288) and senior Nick Gentry (6-1, 284) to be involved.

2011 SCHEDULE

Sept. 3 Kent State

10 @Penn State

17 North Texas

24 Arkansas

Oct. 1 @Florida

8 Vanderbilt

15 @Ole Miss

22 Tennessee

Nov. 5 LSU

12 @Mississippi State

19 Georgia Southern

26 @Auburn

LINEBACKERS

Alabama’s linebackers have plenty of depth, and should be among the Tide’s defensive strengths in 2011. They are led by seniors Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 265) and Dont’a Hightower (6-4, 260). Both considered early jumps to the NFL but decided to return for their own reasons.

Upshaw’s season was highlighted by five sacks in his final two games. He had played through a nagging ankle injury most of the season but unleashed his fiery side to display the talent of a future NFL prospect.

Hightower finally shed a brace that protected his surgically repaired knee in time for Alabama’s 49-7 win against Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. The scary part was how Hightower talked about feeling back to the level he played at before the injury, then proved it by being among the first defenders to race to the ball throughout the spring. Upshaw led the Crimson Tide in 2010 with seven sacks and finished with 52 tackles. Hightower was second for tackles with 69.

Nico Johnson (6-3, 245) provides plenty of run stopping ability in the interior, and sophomore C.J. Mosley (6-2, 234) is stellar in pass protection.

Alabama wants to improve its pass rush, and a knee injury that ended the spring for senior Alex Watkins (6-3, 234) had a negative impact. Watkins is expected to return for the fall camp.

Tide coaches were happy with the progress of senior Jerrell Harris (6-3, 242), sophomore Jonathan Atchison (6-3, 240), senior Chris Jordan (6-3, 240), freshman Adrian Hubbard (6-6, 237) and the ability of true freshman Trey DePriest (6-2, 242), whom Hightower has taken under his wing.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

The secondary should only bolster Alabama’s defense, which is one reason many believe the Tide’s defenders as a whole are among the best in the nation.

It begins with senior safety Mark Barron (6-2, 218), who spent most of the off-season recovering from a torn pectoral muscle. He led Alabama with 75 tackles last season and fought through the injury he suffered in a 28-27 loss to Auburn.

Barron had considered a jump to the NFL but opted to return rather than face an uncertain risk entering the draft after a significant injury. Barron went through spring wearing a black non-contact jersey, but he took every repetition to the point of contact.

Barron will have plenty of talent around him, including junior Robert Lester (6-2, 210), junior Dre Kirkpatrick (6-3, 192) and sophomore Dee Milliner (6-1, 196).

When the Tide shifts to its nickel package, look for senior DeQuan Menzie (6-0, 198) to become the additional defensive back, while junior Will Lowery (5-10, 180) and possibly true freshman Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix (6-1, 203) stepping in for dime situations.

Another true freshman already making an impact is Vinnie Sunseri (6-0, 217), son of Alabama assistant Sal Sunseri. Vinnie converted from hard-hitting linebacker to even harder-hitting safety once he enrolled in January.

There also was the emergence of sophomores Jarrick Williams (6-1, 210) and Nick Perry (6-1, 205) despite playing with injuries last spring.

2010 REVIEW

RECORD

OVERALL 10-3 (.769)

CONFERENCE 5-3 (4th)

RESULTS

San Jose State W 48-3 1-0

Penn State W 24-3 2-0

@Duke W 62-13 3-0

@Arkansas W 24-20 4-0

Florida W 31-6 5-0

@South Carolina L 21-35 5-1

Ole Miss W 23-10 6-1

@Tennessee W 41-10 7-1

@LSU L 21-24 7-2

Mississippi State W 30-10 8-2

Georgia State W 63-7 9-2

Auburn L 27-28 9-3

Michigan State* W 49-7 10-3

*(Capital One Bowl)

STATISTICS

Rushing offense 182.9 29

Passing offense 261.2 27

Total offense 444.1 22

Scoring offense 35.7 18

Net punting 36.2 67

Punt returns 12.5 19

Kickoff returns 24.7 16

Rushing defense 110.2 10

Passing defense 176.2 13

Total defense 286.4 5

Scoring defense 13.5 3

Turnover margin .92 11

Last column is ranking among FBS teams.

PUNTERS

Cody Mandell (6-4, 202) handled the punting duties, and appears to be the go-to guy again. Last season he averaged 39.2 yards per kick.

Mandell could get some pressure from redshirt freshman Jay Williams (6-3, 221), who was rated the No. 6 punter in the nation by Scout and the No. 9 punter by ESPN coming out of Thomasville (Ala.) High School in 2009.

Williams impressed Alabama coaches in the spring. The competition between Mandell and Williams should help both improve as they head into fall camp.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Alabama’s top returning specialists are back in Trent Richardson and Marquis Maze.

Richardson led the Tide with 24 returns for 634 yards and a touchdown. Maze had 21 punt returns for 267 yards. But whether they stick in those roles is not clear, considering both players are expected to step into primary offensive roles with the offense.

There is speculation that true freshman Dee Hart could get some opportunities in the return game. Saban has compared Hart to former Tide return star Javier Arenas. He called Hart explosive.

NEWCOMERS

Not only is Alabama competing for national championships on the field, but off it as well. According to several recruiting analysts, the Tide once again won the national title for its 2011 signing class.

Alabama welcomed five early enrollees in January, including heralded running back Dee Hart, who is expected to compete for playing time.

Also making a quick impact was linebacker Trey Depriest, who is good friends with fellow true freshman Vinnie Sunseri.

The Tide is excited about anticipated additions such as running back Brent Calloway (6-2, 217) and safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, who was Hart’s high school teammate at Orlando (Fla.) Doctor Phillips.

No one will soon forget the flip-flop of offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio, who committed to Auburn live on national television before signing with Alabama, where older brother Arie Kouandjio is an offensive lineman as well.

Alabama also added four wide receivers in transfer Duron Carter, and freshmen Ronald Carswell (6-0, 180), Marvin Shinn (6-3, 193), Bradley Sylve (5-11, 170) and Danny Woodson (6-1, 205).

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

Saban has returned Alabama to prominence, marketing his program as arguably the elite college football factory in the nation. Prospects are impressed by buzzwords such as pro-style offense or pro-style defense and national exposure offered by the biggest names in show business.

Because of that, the Tide has attracted plenty of depth to its roster. And it’s understandable why the prognosticators are entranced when Alabama continues to stockpile arguably the nation’s top signing classes season after season.

This season, it begins with Alabama’s defense. If the group lives up to expectations, it should be among the nation’s best and very hard to penetrate.

Every starter returns in the linebacking corps. And the secondary is certainly a group defensive coordinator Kirby Smart should enjoy coaching.

Offensively, a healthy Richardson should be fun to watch as he trades carries with Lacy and helps to mentor Hart.

But the real test of mettle will be in Saban’s head, where he must figure out how to utilize quarterbacks McCarron and Phillip Sims. Managing the quarterback situation correctly could be the difference between a happy locker room or one that is divided. Make the right decisions, and Alabama very well should be in the hunt for the SEC title and a BCS bowl berth.

Alabama’s schedule certainly helps with its toughest road trips to Penn State and Florida behind it before the second week in October. Sure, the Tide has trips to the Mississippi schools, but those are easy drives for Tide fans, who travel well regardless of distance. And with Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU all traveling to Bryant-Denny Stadium—plus dropping SEC favorite South Carolina for Vanderbilt because of the mandated rotating schedule—the Tide on paper has a much more reasonable schedule than a year ago.

Blended all together and considering what other national contenders bring to the table, it figures that Alabama should be in the thick of the SEC and national title races, as has become the norm under Saban.

Izzy Gould

LSU TIGERS #3

Amonth after Les Miles decided not to return to his alma mater Michigan in 2007, his LSU Tigers won the national championship in the New Orleans Superdome.

The same scenario would encompass nearly 12 months this time around, but the stage is set for déjà voodoo on the bayou from the fluke-fueled coach known as the Mad Hatter.

After entertaining Michigan thoughts for the second time in three years, i.e., a Rich Rodriguez era, Miles opted to sign a seven-year contract with LSU. Along with his lofty new lease on Louisiana life, Miles has a new quarterback to consider in former Georgia Bulldog Zach Mettenberger and a new offensive coordinator to develop him in Steve Kragthorpe, who replaces Gary Crowton after yet another season when LSU needed Houdini acts to escape endgame ineptitude.

Miles got a mulligan against Tennessee when a chaotic conclusion included the Volunteers having 13 players on the field for the final play—the first final play, that is. The improbable decisive drive against the outmanned Volunteers in Tigers Stadium included a delay of game and ensuing fourth-and-14 conversion.

LSU was a bizarre beneficiary the following week at Florida, too. The 33-29 victory was sealed with a 3-yard touchdown pass with three seconds remaining, capping a drive which was kept alive when LSU converted a fourth-and-three by faking a 53-yard field goal with a backward no-look bounce pass from holder Matt Helton to kicker Josh Jasper. Jasper reached the first down marker without much room to spare, and LSU cut it even closer with the nearly horizontal lateral, which necessitated a lengthy review in the replay booth.

The surreal eight-day stretch left LSU’s radio broadcast team all but speechless by the end of the victory at Florida.

Miles’ mojo was also in full swing in reaching the 2007 national championship game with two losses. The Tigers narrowly avoided a third loss that season thanks to a curious call against Auburn that led to a decisive touchdown pass with one second left and a timeout remaining while already in game-winning field goal range.

Miles has definitely milked a few victories out of utter disarray, but not just anyone could maintain a .785 winning percentage in six seasons at LSU.

Yes, the fiery Miles’ teams are always talented, and 2011 won’t be an exception. But they compete with a swaggering passion that must be a byproduct of their unconventional head coach, who ran a two-toss reverse on fourth-and-one to set up the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter against Alabama last season.

So despite losing the likes of defensive tackle Drake Nevis and defensive back Patrick Peterson, the Tigers are on a short list of prospective national title contenders. LSU’s national stature will expand exponentially if it gets past 2010 national runner-up Oregon in both teams’ opener, which is at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. So LSU’s knew play caller will have to hit the ground running with his three-headed quarterback.

I think as a coach—as a competitor—you want to put yourself in a position to play against the best and with the best every week, Kragthorpe said, "and that’s certainly the case here at LSU, and that’s one of things that was intriguing and very appealing about coming here to LSU and working for Les. … I think Les and I are on the same page. We’ve known each other for a long time.

I think our philosophies mesh very, very well in terms of … we want to be a power-running football team, and couple that with a great downfield, quick-strike passing game.

Kragthorpe was the head coach four seasons at Tulsa (2003-06) and three seasons at Louisville (2007-09). He coached Matt Hasselback at Boston College and helped Drew Bledsoe reach a Pro Bowl while in Buffalo.

The former head coach part is really a wonderful piece for me, Miles said, because he comes with some intuitive knowledge of my position and it makes him a tremendous resource for me. But he comes in, you know, also as a guy who brings real expertise in how to teach the quarterback and how to throw the football, and he’s tremendously organized.

LSU isn’t expected to have to win any shootouts. Despite losing Peterson in the secondary, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis could end up with another Heisman Trophy caliber cornerback in sophomore Tyrann Mathieu. Chavis’ former coach and boss at Tennessee, Johnny Majors, who was runner-up to Paul Hornung in the 1956 Heisman Trophy voting, widens his fierce eyes when the topic of LSU’s talent pool and the fiery Chavis’ player development surfaces.

I have tremendous respect for John Chavis, Majors told Blue Ribbon. He did a wonderful job for us as a player, as a graduate coach and as a full-time coach. He’s a man of few words, but good, strong actions and results.

And the actions of Chavis—the defensive coordinator on

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