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Alabama LB Cameron Latu showing potential at TE this spring

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Spring is a time for experimentation.

It allows Nick Saban and his coaching staff to see if a player might have a better opportunity to contribute at another position, he said, or bolster the depth for a group that was lacking beforehand.

A couple of Alabama football players have spent time at different positions during the Crimson Tide’s spring practice, including redshirt freshman linebacker Cameron Latu working at tight end.

“Obviously, losing Hale (Hentges) and Irv (Smith Jr.), we’ve got some experience issues at tight end and also some depth issues,” Saban said. “Having another guy suspended for four games next year at that position, I mean, you’re taking three out of the first four guys, so we need to get some people there. We’ve been encouraged by the progress that (Latu)’s made at that position.”

Hale Hentges and Irv Smith Jr. were Alabama’s first-team tight ends the last two seasons, and both are no longer on campus with Hentges exhausting his eligibility and Smith entering the NFL draft a year early. That left the Tide with four scholarship tights on the roster for the spring in Miller Forristall, Kedrick James -- who will be suspended -- Major Tennison and Michael Parker

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Georgia WR enjoys first trip back to T-Town as recruit

Four-star receiver Dacari Collins, one of the top overall prospects in the 2021 class, talks about his visit to Tuscaloosa over the weekend.

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Jumbo Package: Saban is impressed with the kickers, ILBs have “work to do.”

Happy Monday, everyone. As Roger already told you, the baseball team predictably took one on the chin down in Gainesville and will hope to bounce back at home this week. Meanwhile, softball took two of three against Mississippi State despite missing freshman phenom Montana Fouts, who is out indefinitely with what is termed a minor injury. The Gym Tide were off this weekend but saw a league-best six gymnasts named All-SEC, which makes the fifth-place regular season finish a bit perplexing.

In football news, the Tide held its first scrimmage of the spring, and the media were not allowed past a short viewing period, and of course Saban spoke afterward. Practice notes:

“The kicking game was good,” Saban said. “I think we’re a lot further ahead in the kicking game this year. We had to make a lot of changes in the kicking game last year, which really was beneficial in terms of statistics. How explosive we were on kickoff return really improved. We improved punt return explosive plays to the point where in the second we weren’t getting the ball kicked to us so that we could return them. I think that it seems like we have a few more guys that really buy into playing special teams well. Coverage units did a pretty good job last year.

“When you guys say special teams, I think of special teams. When you say special teams, you think a punter and kicker. So, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just ask me about the punter and kicker. Because special teams are special teams, the punter and the kicker are the punter and the kicker, aight.”

Perhaps not so surprising: Terrell Lewis was not with the OLBs as they warmed up. If Alabama is limiting him in spring, makes sense that he wouldn’t be participating in a scrimmage with so much contact.

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Alabama is jumping on the Marcus Burris’ train early

Marcus Burris received his second SEC offer from Alabama on Friday and his recruitment is set to explode.

Burris is a product of Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana, Texas,.  The Crimson Tide’s offer is his third overall offer. After hearing Nick Saban tell him he was going home with an offer, Burris left Tuscaloosa with a crazy feeling.

“It was crazy,” Burris said.  “Alabama has one of the best football programs and to know that I have an opportunity to play there is just a blessing.”

Arkansas is the only other SEC school to offer Burris.  They extended their offer to him on Thursday. With Burris being a rising junior, he still has some room to improve, but his sophomore highlight tape shows he has the potential to be one of the highest ranked defensive tackles in the 2021 class as Nick Saban and the Tide see it in him and plans to get him on campus again this Summer.

“I was talking to coach Saban and he told me that I had tons of potential and that they were going to offer me,” Burris said. “I also got invited to some summer camps.”

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Breaking: Former Alabama DB Kyriq McDonald Expected to Transfer to Cincinnati

via: Jason Getz USA Today Sports

According to Al.com, former University of Alabama defensive back Kyriq McDonald (middle) appears to be transferring to the University of Cincinnati.

McDonald who left the team in February was reported to be looking at Cincinnati as a possible destination last week and has now made it a reality.

The 5’11” safety mainly served as a special teams contributor for the crimson tide as a redshirt freshman. He finished the 2018 season with seven total tackles in five games of playing time.

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Transferring Alabama DB Kyriq McDonald commits to AAC school

ByCharlie Potter Apr 1, 12:10 AM

A now-former Alabama player has found a new home in the American Athletic Conference.

Defensive back Kyriq McDonald has committed to transfer to Cincinnati, according to Chad Brendel of Bearcat Journal. McDonald entered the NCAA transfer portal in early February along with long snapper Scott Meyer and received offers from Florida State, Mississippi State, Louisville, Purdue and Memphis. However, Meyer is still on the Crimson Tide roster and practicing. 

McDonald visited Cincinnati on Thursday.

McDonald filled a role in the Alabama secondary and on special teams this past season after redshirting his first year in Tuscaloosa. He totaled seven tackles and a quarterback pressure through 11 games of action in his redshirt freshman campaign and was named one of the Alabama coaches’ special teams players of the week for his play against Mississippi State and Auburn.

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Charles Kelly has to put Alabama’s secondary back in order

In being hired as associate defensive coordinator and safeties coach for the University of Alabama football program, Charles Kelly has the task of getting the Crimson Tide’s secondary back to the elite play it had from 2015-17.

It had its worst season last year since 2014, finishing 23rd in the nation for pass efficiency defense (115.8 passer rating allowed) while the defense as a whole was No. 12 in points allowed (18.1 ppg) and No. 16 in yards allowed (319.5 ypg). 

Despite recording 14 interceptions in 2018, the Tide faltered in the postseason as its defensive backfield struggled against Georgia, Oklahoma and Clemson. Tigers’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence torched Alabama for 347 passing yards and three touchdowns in Clemson’s 44-16 blowout win to open 2019 in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. 

Prior to last year, Nick Saban’s back five had a create a “No Fly Zone” moniker. 

In all five national titles under Saban, the prize was earned due to the play of the secondary. With the returns of Xavier McKinney, Shyheim Carter, Patrick Surtain II, Trevon Diggs and Jared Mayden among others to this group, Kelly anticipates mentoring guys that are ready for a bounce back year.

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Kicking game, special teams ahead of curve at Alabama for 2019

John David Mercer - USA TODAY Sports

The media learned a valuable lesson on Saturday: Don’t equate special teams with just the kicker and punter around Nick Saban, because the Alabama football coach will get you. 

Upon finishing the conversation on the reporters’ version of special teams versus what the position really entails, Saban went on to state how the Crimson Tide is ahead of the curve in all facets of special teams this year versus last season. After the first scrimmage, he did provide positive insight on the third phase of football – which included him praising the coverage team. 

“Kicking game was good,” Saban said. 

“We made a lot of changes in the kicking game last year, which was really beneficial in terms of statistics. We improved on kickoff and punt return and got explosive plays to the point where in the second half of the season, we were not getting the ball kicked to us so we could return it. I think we have a few more guys that buy in to playing on special teams well. The coverage units did a pretty good job last year.” 

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UA looking for incoming freshmen to bring “winning football” mindset

Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in 12 seasons under Nick Saban, Alabama football was more so feared for its offense than its defense in 2018. Despite achieving its highest marks of the Saban era in both points and yards, while boasting a Heisman finalist at quarterback – Tua Tagovailoa – the staple of the Crimson Tide was picked apart in January as Clemson won the national championship. 

Part of re-establishing the Alabama factor is getting players to have a “winning football” attitude.

After the Tide’s first scrimmage on Saturday, Saban told the media that the communication was there on defense but the execution was not.

Even with the coaching staff needing to make sure veteran guys are prepared, Saban is ready for the incoming freshmen. 

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EJ Williams is hearing good things from the Tide

Eddie “EJ” Williams is one of the top wide receivers in the 2020 class and the hunt for his commitment consist of some heavy hitters as the Crimson Tide are still punching in the fight for his signature.

Williams is a 4-star wide receiver. He is a product of Central High School  in Phenix City, Alabama,. The Crimson Tide has recruited him constantly since they offered him and Saban’s message about the Process still rings true.

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Antonio Doyle gets offer from Nick Saban

Nick Saban told Antonio Doyle personally about his offer from Alabama on Thursday.

Doyle is a 2020 4-Star outside linebacker and is a product of Lutheran High School in  Hazelwood, Missouri,. With Alabama’s offer, he now has 29 Division 1 offers. The success Doyle has enjoyed on the recruiting trail has him feeling like all of his dreams are right in front of him.

“I am blessed by God,” Doyle said. “Everything I ever wanted is in front of me, now I have to go get it.”

Saban spent some time talking to Doyle about his offer and what he could accomplish at Alabama. Doyle echoed the voices of so many other recruits when talking about how their conversation went.

“Our conversation was straight forward and about business.” Doyle said. “We talked about furthering my life.”

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Alabama OL graded highest offensive player for the Iron

Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

Former college offensive lineman J.C. Hassenauer didn’t get much of a chance to start at the University of Alabama. Sure, he was considered a valuable depth player who could provide a quality spot start here and there, but Hassenauer’s talent meant he was capable of so much more.

So far, he’s been able to prove that in the Alliance of American Football league.

According to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound center has graded out as the Birmingham Iron’s top offensive player through seven weeks of the season. His run blocking grade sits at a respectable 69.8, but it’s been his pass protection (81.6 grade) that’s been the most impressive. In fact, that success has been a major reason for his 75.0 overall grade.

After seeing some time with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent back before the 2018 season, Hassenauer could be lining things up for another shot in the NFL. He’s certainly got the talent for it.

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Kimber enjoys first trip to Tuscaloosa

Alabama hosted four-star cornerback Jalen Kimber on Saturday for this first time to Tuscaloosa. He breaks down the trip and a decision timeline with BamaOnLine.

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Alabama in top five for in-state ATH

ByHank South Mar 31, 12:16 PM

It’s down to just five for Lanett (Ala.) product Kristian Story.

The four-star athlete took to Twitter on Sunday morning to reveal a final list of Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

The one-time Vols commit is a highly sought after prospect following a season that saw him amass 2,434 yards and 40 touchdowns passing, 1,207 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing, and 33 tackles and nine interceptions in the secondary.

Since backing off his commitment to Tennessee prior to his junior season, the 247Sports Crystal Ball has been trending towards Alabama. UA was aided in pursuit of Story after hiring new assistant Charles Kelly from the Vols. The family goes way back with the new UA assistant, as Kelly coached Story’s father during his time at Jacksonville State and recruited the 2020 prospect during his stint in Knoxville.

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Five-star QB intrigued by Alabama

Alabama is after one of the top quarterbacks in the country in USC commit Bryce Young. He breaks down what UA is telling him and where things stand with his Trojans pledge.

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Notebook: Nick Saban talks front seven depth, kicking game

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Following Alabama’s first of three spring scrimmages, head coach Nick Saban was asked about several position groups -- how they performed thus far on the practice field and what he saw from them during the roughly 158-play scrimmage Saturday afternoon.

But even before that, the 13th-year head coach expressed concerns over depth.

“I think we have some really good players, we have some guys that can play winning football,” Saban said during a press conference. “To me, we don't have enough. We don’t have enough depth on our team. We don’t have enough guys that execute with confidence, play fast. So, the way we need to go about that is keep working these guys and keep practicing them.”

Getting into specifics, it started with the defensive line.

Raekwon Davis, Phidarian Mathis and LaBryan Ray currently make up the Crimson Tide’s first unit. Davis was a starter last season while Mathis and Ray were the first two players off the bench for Alabama a year ago. That group has played well up to this point in the spring. But the can’t be said for the players behind the first-team trio, Saban said following the scrimmage.

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Raymond Hawkins becomes first commit of Oats era

2019 center Raymond Hawkins verbally committed to Alabama on Sunday becoming the first pledge of the Nate Oats era.

“I’m going to the University of Alabama,” Hawkins told 247Sports. “A few weeks ago my mom, my brother and my step brother all visited coach [Nate] Oats and coach [Bryan] Hodgson at Buffalo. The culture between the players and coaches was unbelievable. The relationship just made me comfortable. I felt like I can trust them.”

Hawkins, a standout at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, visited Buffalo the weekend of March 8 and scheduled a decision date for March 30. Once Oats made the move to Alabama earlier this week, instead of pushing back his decision he opted to follow him.

“When I found out they were going to Alabama, he called me and said I was the first person he called and let me know that he wanted to bring me with him,” Hawkins said. "I told him I talked to my family and he called them as well.”

“It showed how much he actually wanted me and how much interest he has and how much he believes in me.” He added. “I believe in myself, but you play better when your coach believes in you and gives you that type of confidence.”

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Situational Work Helps Make Alabama Scrimmage Like Game

A football scrimmage is not the same as a football game, at least to those who have seen both, who have noticed there is no scoreboard in a scrimmage and no historical record of a winner. But to Alabama Coach Nick Saban, who is process-oriented, the scoreboard is immaterial. It’s not about the scoreboard to Saban. It’s about performance. That may be the reason his team almost always comes out on the right side of the scoreboard.

There was a reason for Saban to discuss the subject Saturday afternoon after his Crimson Tide football team went to Bryant-Denny Stadium and completed its eighth practice of the spring with its first scrimmage.

There may have been a few thousand fans – boosters, sponsors, football lettermen – scattered among the 100,000-plus seats, but that certainly did not make it like a game. That made part of Saban’s point: “Other than the fans, the noise, football is football,” he said.

And he enumerated:

“I think we try to create as many situations as we can in practice,” he said. “We practice good against good (first team offense vs. first team defense) a lot, so that’s a lot like playing in a game.

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BOL Nuggets: Notes from Alabama's first spring scrimmage

Alabama took part in its first of three spring scrimmages Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

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Women to close out WrestleMania for 1st time

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For the first time in the 35-year history of WrestleMania, WWE's biggest annual pay-per-view, a women's match will close out the show as the main event.

Everything you need to know about WrestleMania 35 -- the match card, results, news, features, history and more from ESPN.com.

Less than four weeks out from WrestleMania 35, the Kofimania movement is in full swing, with a meteoric ascent pushing him all the way to No. 1 in the latest ESPN WWE Power Rankings.

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The Raw women's championship match between Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair will close out the show, which is April 7 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

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