Sugar Bowl notebook: Kouandjio is '50-50' about returning for senior year
by Marq Burnett
Dec 29, 2013 | 2125 views |  0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio talks to reporters during the Alabama offensive press conference Sunday at the Marriot at Convention Center in New Orleans.  (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Alabama offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio talks to reporters during the Alabama offensive press conference Sunday at the Marriot at Convention Center in New Orleans. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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NEW ORLEANS -- After Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest announced Saturday he will return for his senior season, another Crimson Tide junior is holding out.

During his interview session Sunday, left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said he is “50-50” and will make a decision after the Sugar Bowl.

“I’ll look at my pros and my cons, write it all down and make a decision,” Kouandjio said. “(I’m) like 50-50 now.”

Kouandjio is a third-year junior and is considered to be a lock as a first-round pick. In his mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay has Kouandjio going 10th overall to the Tennessee Titans.

Most draft analysts have Kouandjio ranked behind Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan in his position group. Lewan and Matthews are both seniors who returned to their respective schools after receiving first-round projections before this season.

Kenyan Drake

Alabama running back Kenyan Drake got only four rushing attempts in the Iron Bowl, and when asked about the sophomore Sunday, Tide offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier danced around the question.

“Well, the running back rotation, obviously T.J. (Yeldon) has done an outstanding job this year and what we’ve done is try to get a number of other players in the game to spell him at times,” Nussmeier said. “Obviously, Kenyan has played a significant role for us throughout the season. Really, really excited about the progression that Derrick Henry made.”

Nussmeier went on to talk about Jalston Fowler’s abilities and called Yeldon the team’s feature back, but wouldn’t delve more into Drake’s lack of carries down the stretch. In practice, Drake is working at the third running back spot during the media viewing period behind Yeldon and Henry, a true freshman.

Against Auburn, Drake's four carries all came on one first-half drive, gaining 33 yards. He took a hit to the knee on one of his carries, but he continued to play on special teams. In the week following the game, Drake posted on Twitter he wasn’t injured in the Tide loss.

For the season, Drake has rushed for 694 yards, averaging 7.5 yards a carry. He has scored nine touchdowns, which rank second on the team.

Stoops on McCarron

As he wraps up his career at Alabama, senior quarterback AJ McCarron’s game will be put under a microscope to see what his pro potential is.

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops compared McCarron to Oklahoma’s two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks.

“He compares probably more to guys we’ve had at Oklahoma, the Jason Whites, the Sam Bradfords, the prototypical throwers, that play behind traditional sets,” Stoops said. “(Alabama is) under center, probably 70-75 percent of the game. So it’s different than what we’ve seen. They’re a little bit like Notre Dame in some of the things they do. But he’s more comparable to the guys we had at Oklahoma. I guess that’s probably why we recruited him.”

During a recent interview, McCarron said he was going to sign with Oklahoma because he was a fan of Bradford’s, but ultimately stuck with his pledge to the Tide.

Nussmeier on offensive line play

After not speaking with reporters since August, Nussmeier finally had the opportunity Sunday to assess publicly the play of the Crimson Tide’s offensive line. Nussmeier said the team knew there would be growing pains after losing starters Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker to the NFL, but he pointed to tight end Michael Williams as one of the biggest losses. Williams spent the season with the Detroit Lions on injured reserve.

Now, Nussmeier feels the current group has developed into a good offensive line.

“I feel like we’ve really grown,” Nussmeier said. “We’ve tried to simplify a little bit, get back to teach basics better.”
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