Crimson Tide Extra by Marq_Burnett
A source for full coverage of Alabama athletics.
Aug 05, 2013 | 82457 views |  0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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Breakdown of Alabama-Texas A&M
by Marq_Burnett
Sep 14, 2013 | 872 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
The press box view from Kyle Field (Photo/Marq Burnett)
The press box view from Kyle Field (Photo/Marq Burnett)
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Rarely does a game ever live up to the hype, but No. 1 Alabama (1-0) at No. 6 Texas A&M (2-0) has the chance to do that and more. 

All the chatter will soon cease, but here are some things the Tide must do in order to get a victory in College Station with a score prediction.

Four-down territory

1. Out the gate: Alabama can’t afford to get down early. The Crimson Tide must come out and make a play or two early to take the rowdy crowd out of the game. 

2. Eye discipline: Alabama’s defense spent much of the week talking about eye discipline when defending reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. In short, the Tide’s defenders can’t get caught peeking in the backfield at Manziel when in coverage or receivers will burn them for a big play. 

3. Second level: Alabama’s offensive line struggled against Virginia Tech. The unit never established a solid running game and quarterback AJ McCarron had little time in the pocket. The key for the Tide’s offense will be can the line get to the second level when run blocking. If they can, look for T.J. Yeldon and others to have a big performance. If not, Alabama is in for a long day. 

4. Get off the field: In last year’s game, Manziel gained nine first downs on 13 third-down dropbacks. That can’t happen again. The best way to stop Manziel is to keep him on the sideline. While the offense will need to sustain long drives, the defense needs to force some three-and-outs. 

Key matchup 

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel vs. Alabama’s linebacker C.J. Mosley: 

On Wednesday, Mosley said he’ll be the main “spy” against Manziel. It wouldn’t be surprising if Alabama uses a similar game plan to its 2009 defense against Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Rolando McClain spent a lot of time spying Tim Tebow, and while Manziel is a different player, Mosley is capable of running Manziel down in the open field. It’s easier said than done, but Mosley and the Crimson Tide’s defensive line will have to keep Manziel in the pocket to make him one dimensional. 

Prediction 

College football fans couldn’t ask for a better matchup. Texas A&M wants to prove last year wasn’t a fluke and that they are serious national championship contenders. Alabama is seeking revenge against the one team that beat them while chasing an unprecedented three-peat. Johnny Manziel will make it interesting and he’ll put up points, but it’s hard to believe Nick Saban and Kirby Smart won’t figure out a way to make a few key stops to give the Tide the edge. ... Alabama 31, Texas A&M 28.

 


Preview of C.J. Mosley interview with Scott Van Pelt
by Marq_Burnett
Sep 13, 2013 | 1050 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- ESPN sent Scott Van Pelt to Alabama for one of his "Bald Man on Campus" features for College GameDay. Van Pelt's subject was linebacker C.J. Mosley. During the interview, Mosley discusses why he choose not to enter the NFL Draft and what it's like playing for Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. 

ESPN released a preview of the feature in which Mosley and Van Pelt talk about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's signature play in the Aggies 29-24 victory over the Tide in Tuscaloosa last season. 

Scott Van Pelt interviews C.J. Mosley (Courtesy of ESPN Inc.)

 

Five questions with a Texas A&M beat writer
by Marq_Burnett
Sep 13, 2013 | 665 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

TUSCALOOSA -- In order to breakdown Alabama’s opponents, each week we’re reaching out to beat writers who cover the opposing teams. Sam Khan Jr. covers Texas A&M and SEC football for ESPN.com. 

Q: The Aggies defense gave up 59 points to Rice and Sam Houston State. Cause for concern against Alabama? 

A: Yes and no. Yes because it's never good to give up as much on the ground as the Aggies have (they allowed Rice 306 rushing yards and Sam Houston State ran for 240), but no because the Aggies didn't have their full complement of defensive players. Three starters served two game suspensions: linebacker Steven Jenkins, defensive end Gavin Stansbury and cornerback De'Vante Harris. In the first game against Rice, they were also missing three other key defensive for all or part of the game and a total of four were missing for part or all of the Sam Houston State battle for various reasons. With the exception of Floyd Raven, their starting free safety who injured a collarbone last week, virtually everyone should be available for the Aggies' defense, meaning the first team will take the field together for the first time all season. That will help immensely against Alabama? Does it mean that they'll shut down the Crimson Tide rushing attack? Not necessarily. But now the defense won't be almost completely full of first-year players and there's no substitute for experience. 

Q: In what ways has Johnny Manziel improved as a quarterback and how will he attack this year's Alabama defense? 

A: There are three key areas where I see improvement in Manziel: 1) His decision-making during the play. A few times last season when he scrambled and tried to make a play, he would sometimes throw the ball up across the field or across his body in hopes of making something out of nothing. Against Sam Houston State, the only time I saw him do that was when the Bearkats jumped offside and he knew he had a free play. Otherwise, he looks like he got better at throwing the ball away. 2) He is making more of an effort to stay in the pocket. Don't get me wrong -- he still likes to run and will still scramble regularly, but you can tell he's making an effort to go through his progressions on passing plays and find an open receiver. And his grasp of the offense is better too. 3) He looks to me like he's more accurate than he was a year ago. A few of the passes he made against man-to-man coverage last week were really impressive, including a deep sideline pass to Mike Evans and a 20-yard fade pass to the back-corner of the end zone for a touchdown to Ja'Quay Williams. The fade pass wasn't a strong suit for Manziel but he sure lofted a pretty one last week. As for how he'll attack the Tide defense, it sounds cliché but I think he'll take what they give him. If he finds room to scramble, he will, but if not, he'll be more than happy to stay in the pocket and sling it. 

Q: Who is Texas A&M's most important player not named Johnny Manziel and why? 

A: I think there are a few guys who fit this description but I'll go with senior running back Ben Malena. He has improved significantly over the course of his career and he helps set the tone for the offense with his running ability. He can run between the tackles or on the edge and the Aggies run the ball more than people think. He plays on multiple phases of special teams, including the kickoff return team and the punt coverage team. And the fact that he does that leads into what I think is the most important quality about Malena and that's the leadership that he provides. By being a true team player and not being too good to play multiple phases of the game even though he's a starter, he sets an example for other guys on the roster to follow. 

Q: Give Alabama fans an offensive and defensive player that could surprise the Crimson Tide. 

A: On offense I'll go with running back Tra Carson. He transferred from Oregon and sat out last season per transfer rules, so the last two games were his first as an Aggie, but he quickly showed that he's an asset to the loaded backfield the Aggies have. He can move the pile with his 235-pound frame but also has good speed for his size. He'll be key in short-yardage and goal-line situations when the Aggies face them, and he already leads the team with four rushing touchdowns. On defense, I'll pick defensive tackle Alonzo Williams. Last season when these two teams met, senior defensive tackle Spencer Nealy played a key role in the win, matching up against center Barrett Jones and becoming disruptive in the backfield. Nealy (6-5, 277) wasn't a typical SEC defensive tackle size-wise, but he was quick and persistent and was a consistent factor. Williams is of similar size (6-4, 280) and progressed well toward the end of his true freshman season and earned himself a starting job this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Aggies try to use Williams in a fashion similar that they used Nealy. And the benefit that both have is that 6-4, 310 defensive tackle Kirby Ennis will line up next to them in four-down-linemen sets. 

Q: Who wins, why and what's the score? 

A: I'll pick Alabama 31-27. Even though A&M has most of their key defensive players back, I'm not certain that they're going to be effective stopping the run. I know Alabama had offensive line issues in the first game against Virginia Tech and if the Tide struggle in that area again, then to me, that completely changes the look of the game and the Aggies have the upper hand. But I'll bet they got some of those fixed and if the Tide are successful on the ground, that will open up room for play action passes downfield and allow the Tide to control the pace and tempo of the game. I don't think Texas A&M will struggle to move the ball much, I think they'll have a similar effort offensively to what they did a year ago. It's hard to stop an offense that good, especially when a quarterback like Manziel is back there. But the question marks Texas A&M has, between the run defense, the depth and play of the safeties and perhaps even placekicking make me think that the Tide have the slight advantage here, even though they're on the road.

 

Report: Former Alabama lineman D.J. Fluker accused of accepting money from agent while with Tide
by Marq_Burnett
Sep 11, 2013 | 1336 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- After finishing his opening statement, Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked three questions during his Wednesday news conference. 

All three were about allegations that former Crimson Tide offensive lineman D.J. Fluker received extra benefits while with the Tide, according to a Yahoo! Sports report released Wednesday afternoon. 

Fluker is one of five SEC football players named in the report along with Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Mississippi State wideout Chad Bumphis. 

The report notes that the benefits came from multiple sources and involves sports agents. It is based on financial and text message records of former Tide defensive lineman Luther Davis. 

Current Alabama defensive lineman Ed Stinson was also named in the report, but was not accused of any wrong doings. 

Saban said he hadn't read the article because he had just come from practice. He initially told reporters to refer to the statement released by Alabama athletic director Bill Battle.

“We have been aware of some of the allegations in today's story and our compliance department was looking into this situation prior to being notified that this story was actually going to be published," Battle said in a statement. "Our review is ongoing. We diligently educate our student-athletes on maintaining compliance with NCAA rules, and will continue to do so." 

When asked when he became aware of the allegations, Saban told reporters to ask Battle. 


"I already told you. You want to know that, ask him (Bill Battle)," Saban said. "We've done a lot of investigating about a lot of things. Every time somebody brings something up about our program we investigate it, we do the best we can, there's nobody in this organization that wants to do anything that's not above board and we don't want our players to do it either.

"That's not what the program's built on, and that's not what we're going to do. But as I said before. I made a statement, don't ask me any more questions about this." 


As the second question was being asked, Saban became noticeably angry. Saban was asked if the story would be a distraction to the team. 

"It hasn't been distracting to me because I don't read about it," Saban said. "I'm focused on what we need to do to play a game. That's what's fair to our players, and that's what we owe our current players. So this has not been a distraction for me. We have really good people who will manage this, and if anybody didn't do the right things, we'll take appropriate action to take care of it." 

Finally, when asked about the timing of the article and how it would affect the team, Saban exploded.

"I've already answered it three times," Saban said. "Who else wants - can we get in a line and everybody ask the question? We will handle it appropriately, Bill made a statement, this is an administrative issue that our leadership will do a very, very good job of managing. If you want to talk about the Texas A&M game, I'll be glad to talk about it. That's what I'm here to do. I'm here to coach our players, talk about our team."

No more questions were raised and as Saban stepped away from the podium, he said "appreciate your interest in the game." 


In April, Fluker tweeted he received money while in college, but his agent said his account was hacked. 

"Yea I took $ n college so wat. I did wat I had to do. Agents was tryin to pimp me so I pimped them. Cast da first stone," the post said. 

Yahoo! reported it authenticated transactions between Fluker and Davis involving cash transfers, hotel stays, furniture purchases, flights and other expenses.

If proven, the allegations would be in violation of NCAA rules which would impact Fluker's eligibility, possibly forcing Alabama to vacate wins from which Fluker participated in. 


Alabama coach Nick Saban continues praise of Texas A&M's offense
by Marq_Burnett
Sep 11, 2013 | 867 views |  0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama coach Nick Saban and players have spent much of the week praising Texas A&M and its quarterback Johnny Manziel. 

The Crimson Tide and Aggies are just days away from meeting in the most anticipated game of the 2013 season on Saturday in College Station. 

During Wednesday's SEC teleconference, Saban continued to express admiration for the Aggies' offensive prowess. 

"Texas A&M has an outstanding team, one of the best offensive teams probably in college football, maybe in the history of college football in terms of their quarterback's ability to make plays and the great job of executing that they do," Saban said. 

Saban noted that Texas A&M's starts with Manziel. Manziel went 24-of-31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns in last year's game. He also added 92 rushing yards on 18 carries. 

Saban said Manziel "became a passer at some point in time during the season last year." 

"He got more and more confident (as the season went on)," Saban said. "Their team got more and more confident in his ability to effectively throw the ball, which he has just continued to improve in."

Tide puts emphasis on starting fast against Texas A&M
by Marq_Burnett
Sep 10, 2013 | 978 views |  0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama coach Nick Saban understands how important it is for the Crimson Tide to get off to a fast start against Texas A&M on Saturday.

The Aggies jumped out to a three touchdown lead over the Tide in the first quarter of last season's matchup.

During its Monday news conference, Saban and players talked about having a better start in the College Station. Kyle Field is one of the toughest venues to play and the '12th man' makes life hard on opposing offenses to hear their play calls.

Read Nick Saban and players' comments on starting fast in the rematch

All four freshmen running backs work with scout team
by Marq_Burnett
Sep 09, 2013 | 994 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama began preparing for its showdown with Texas A&M this Saturday following its bye week.

Here are some takeaways:

--Tide coach Nick Saban announced redshirt freshman Dalvin Tomlinson will miss the remainder of the season. Freshman Jonathan Allen filled in for Tomlinson behind starter Jeoffrey Pagan. Allen is considered a pass rushing specialist off the edge.

--All four freshmen running backs -- Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny -- trotted over to work with the scout team as the media's viewing period was ending.

--Alvin Kamara wore No. 21, which belongs to Texas A&M quarterback Tra Carson. Tyren Jones wore No. 14, which doesn't belong to an Aggie running back. 

--T.J. Yeldon, Dee Hart, Jalston Fowler and Kenyan Drake went through reps once the freshmen tailbacks left the group. Yeldon was the No. 1 back followed by Hart, Drake and Fowler.

--Tight end Brian Vogler practiced with a cast on his left hand. Vogler participated in drills during the media's viewing period.

--Among others, here are some popular scout team defensive numbers: No. 3 (middle linebacker Tommy Sanders), No. 8 (linebacker Steven Jenkins), No. 16 (linebacker Donnie Baggs), No. 42 (defensive lineman Kirby Ennis), No. 72 (defensive lineman Gavin Stansbury), and No. 95 (Julien Obioha).

--No players were in black, non-contact jerseys. 

Nick Saban's news conference during Texas A&M week
by Marq_Burnett
Sep 09, 2013 | 3845 views |  0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama coach Nick Saban's Monday news conference was filled with questions about how the Crimson Tide plan to stop Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. 

Among other things, Saban also gave an update on redshirt freshman Dalvin Tomlinson (knee), how the Tide handled its bye week and his thoughts on Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. 


The Tide and Aggies will meet in College Station this Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 CT. 

Nick Saban's Monday news conference (Courtesy of 247Sports) 

 

Dalvin Tomlinson will miss remainder of season
by Marq_Burnett
Sep 09, 2013 | 782 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- Defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson will miss the remainder of the season after having knee surgery, Alabama coach Nick Saban said during his Monday news conference.

Saban said Tomlinson, a key backup, had successful surgery on Friday.

"He will be out for the year," Saban said. "I don't think he's going to be coming back anytime soon. He'll be at least four or five months in rehab."

Tomlinson, a redshirt freshman, had four tackles in the Crimson Tide's season opener against Virginia Tech. He was expected to help improve the Tide's pass rush this season.

"He was doing a fantastic job for us," Saban said. "Played well in the first game rotating in. We hate to ever see any player get injured. Dalvin has done everything the right way since he's been here. It's just something that's unfortunate that happens in any sport really." 

CBS to use 'Johnny Cam' to follow Manziel during Alabama-Texas A&M game
by Marq_Burnett
Sep 09, 2013 | 797 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- If Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel thought his every move was being followed before, just wait until the Aggies clash with Alabama Saturday, Sept. 14 in College Station. 

Literally, every move the reigning Heisman Trophy winner makes against the Crimson Tide will be caught on camera as CBS will unveil an extra camera they're calling the 'Johnny Cam.' 

"No matter where he is and no matter what part of the game it is, we will have a shot of it," Craig Silver, the coordinating producer of college football for CBS Sports, told SI.com's Richard Deitsch. "If he is anywhere in sight of that camera, we will catch it." 

CBS's pregame show will be onsite. ESPN's College GameDay will also originate from College Station even though CBS will air the game. 

Silver said CBS won't focus much on Manziel's off-the-field issues during the game. 

"By the time we get to kickoff, this thing will have been talked about ad nauseam throughout the sports world," Silver said. "We are not judge and jury. It is not our place, especially within the body of the broadcast, to state whether he should or should not be playing, should have been suspended or should not have been suspended.

"The way I approach it is how has all this stuff affected him as a football player and affected his team." 

ESPN coordinating producer Lee Fitting, who is in charge of GameDay, also told Deitsch that GameDay won't overdo it with the Manziel talk.

"I can promise you the show won't turn into 'Manziel Mania' for three hours," Fitting said. "Will the viewer get their fill of Manziel? Sure. Will we cover every angle of the game? Yes. But will we go overboard? Absolutely not." 

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET from Kyle Field. 

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