Tag Archives: Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama beat writer Q&A: The view from Tuscaloosa

A.J. McCarron against Texas A&M. (AP Photo. David J. Phillip)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — No. 1 Alabama seems to have few flaws, at least few that have been exposed by anyone other than Johnny Manziel.

We asked Andrew Gribble, Alabama beat writer for AL.com and its associated newspapers, just how good the Tide is.

Gribble previously covered Tennessee for the News Sentinel. Since he started on the Alabama beat, the Tide is 20-1.

1. Does the injury to Vinnie Sunseri leave the Tide’s secondary vulnerable in any way, or is it just on to the next one?

The biggest loss that comes from Sunseri’s injury is the leadership void it creates on the back end of Alabama’s defense. Sunseri had really emerged as the commander of Alabama’s secondary and was in charge of putting players in their proper positions. This aspect of his game was incredibly valuable during a stretch in which CB Deion Belue dealt (and continues to deal) with a nagging injury, S HaHa Clinton-Dix was suspended and a rotating crew of underclassmen was filling the other CB spot.

Sophomore Landon Collins will replace Sunseri in most formations. Collins is incredibly talented and has been playing his butt off wherever Alabama has asked. He’s an absolute monster on special teams. So from that standpoint, Alabama has other positions with a greater drop-off in talent than the one they’re testing at strong safety. That said, a team never gets better when a player like Sunseri goes down.

2. There’s been a lot of talk about the relevance of this rivalry. There have been streaks in the series before, but the margin of Alabama’s recent wins have been very large. How do fans, players and coaches view this series?

I think this rivalry had understandably grown a bit stale with Alabama fans and players over the past couple of years, but Tennessee’s big win against South Carolina seems to have rekindled some of the back-and-forth that makes it one of the best in the SEC. Alabama’s administrators are just as serious as Dave Hart when it pertains to making sure this rivalry game remains in place on future SEC schedules.

With the way Alabama’s 2013 schedule has played out, I think Crimson Tide fans and players have been looking for something to get excited about other than the LSU game, and this seems like the perfect time heading into a bye week.

3. Texas A&M is the only Alabama opponent that has kept the game close. Is there anything that a team without Johnny Manziel on its roster can learn from that game?

That’s tough because Manziel really appears to be this defense’s only version of kryptonite. Perhaps because of what Manziel has done to Alabama over the past two years, there’s a misguided perception that it struggles to stop mobile quarterbacks. That’s not true at all. This defense struggles to stop quarterbacks who can run as well as a running back, scramble for seven or eight seconds and then find a super talented receiver open down the field with accurate passes.

If anything, I suppose this year’s Texas A&M game highlighted Alabama’s need for a cornerback other than Belue to step up and hold his own against man coverage. Belue isn’t at 100 percent and likely won’t be during the rest of the season because of a toe injury. Alabama has started three different players at the opposite cornerback spot and drawn mixed results. No team since Texas A&M has been able to take advantage of it.

4. How does this team compare to past Alabama national championship teams?

When Alabama appeared to be struggling early in the season, many folks started making comparisons to 2010, when Alabama had a loaded roster but ultimately never lived up to expectations and lost three times. Those comparisons have stopped because of what the Crimson Tide has done over the past three weeks. While the 2010 team never seemed to improve, this Alabama team — other than its letdown stinker against Colorado State — has gotten better with each game.

The offense is a bit behind last year’s pace because of the season opener against Virginia Tech and the defense is just off the pace set by the 2011 team because of Texas A&M. This season’s special teams is probably the best Nick Saban has ever had at Alabama. It probably wasn’t until last week when Alabama was able to get all three facets clicking at the same time. When it does, games like Saturday’s 52-0 rout of Arkansas happen.

5. What is the biggest hurdle in Alabama’s path to another title?

From an on-field perspective, LSU and Auburn remain the two toughest challenges. On paper, Alabama has the clear advantage over LSU, but only one game between the teams has been separated by fewer than 10 points since Saban was hired. Auburn has been playing incredibly well, but the Tigers’ strength (running the ball) plays into one of Alabama’s top strengths (stopping the run.) This team has the depth to survive a few more injuries, but there are key spots such as quarterback, left tackle, cornerback and now safety where Alabama’s title run would really be jeopardized if something happened to the starters at those positions.

This year’s Crimson Tide has seemingly dealt with more off-the-field issues than any of Saban’s previous teams. The “clutter” hasn’t seemed to affect the players much, as Alabama scored its biggest win of the season just days after the Yahoo! D.J. Fluker story dropped. The only one that truly affected the on-field product, though, was Clinton-Dix’s suspension. Alabama outscored the competition 93-10 during his absence, so it clearly came at an ideal time on the schedule.

Tennessee’s ‘Rock’ has unwelcome ‘Roll Tide’ message

The Rock had some unwelcome artwork today (via @DandyAndy110)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Alabama fans in the student body? Renegade out-of-staters with a scheme to deface Tennessee’s Rock? This guy? Other suspects?

We’re not sure who did the deed, but someone apparently got to the Rock last night.

I assume it’s been painted over by now, but you never know.

It looks like a professional job, what with the stenciling and all. I guess this game is still a rivalry, after all.

I’m not sure who to credit for the photo because it’s been retweeted so many times, but I’m going with @DandyAndy110 for now. Let me know anyone else deserves a hat tip.

Butch Jones: Vols can make rivalries more relevant by winning games


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones echoed comments he made during Florida week about the relevance of the Vols’ traditional rivalries.

Right now, he said, they’re too one-sided.

“In order to make these rivalries relevant, we have to start winning more games,” Jones said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference.

During his portion of the call, Alabama coach Nick Saban praised Tennessee’s progress this season.

“They probably have the best overall offensive line we’ve had to play this year,” Saban said.

Vols prepping for ‘the red team’ in practice Tuesday (video)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — It’s Alabama week — err, red team week — at Tennessee, and Tuesday’s practice clips should offer little doubt.

(For best results, watch in your highest available HD setting.)

Why are the Vols seeing red? Here’s an excerpt from my story in Wednesday’s News Sentinel:

The Vols chanted “RED!” as they wrapped up their stretching with jumping jacks on Tuesday.

When coach Butch Jones referred to Alabama by name on the wireless microphone that he totes around in practice, he quickly corrected himself to “the red team.”

Afterward, Jones downplayed the motivational ploy, saying it was “no big deal.”

But players said it was a way of tearing down some of the mystique that surrounded the nation’s top team, focusing players’ attention on the things they could control.

“Mentally, just by their name, when team’s hear that name, they’re mentally beat already before they step on the field,” said Tennessee receiver Alton “Pig” Howard. “I give them credit, but we’ve got warriors on our team as well. We’re ready to go to war.”

‘Sweet Home Alabama’ blares at Vols practice on Tuesday

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — As is customary, Tennessee’s football practice included a few selections from the opponent’s playlist.

That means the Vols heard “Yea, Alabama,” the Crimson Tide’s fight song, and “Sweet Home Alabama,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Also, Butch Jones included his familiar tweaks of Tennessee players.

To defensive end Corey Miller: “C’mon, Miller. You have to go against the best tackle in the country, Cyrus Kounandjio.”

To offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James: “James, you get to play on the same field as Kouandjio.”

Updated predictions after Vols’ big win: UT’s bowl chances now nearly 80 percent

Infographic for Vols' final record

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee took a huge step toward reaching bowl eligibility with an upset win of then-No. 11 South Carolina on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

The Vols (4-3, 1-2 SEC) only have to win two more games to guarantee a .500 record and a trip to the postseason.

How likely are the Vols to reach that goal? We recalculated our Monte Carlo simulation to find out.

Here are the somewhat subjective odds we are using for the final five games:

Opponent — Chance of winning

at Alabama — 8 percent

at Missouri — 38 percent

Auburn — 42 percent

Vanderbilt — 63 percent

at Kentucky — 81 percent

To make these percentages less subjective, I’ve tried to base them on the anticipated point spread for the game. Given that Alabama is favored by 28 over Tennessee, eight percent is extremely generous. (In other words, teams who are 28-point underdogs win much less often than that). Missouri could be undefeated and ranked in the top-5 when the Vols travel to Columbia, so that spread could grow, too. Auburn is likely to be 8-1 and in the top-10 when the Tigers travel to Knoxville, but the spread will be mitigated by the Vols’ home-field advantage. Vanderbilt is a wild card, too, as the Commodores just beat Georgia.

In any case, when we plug those numbers into the simulation and run it 1,000 times, here’s what we get.

Record in last five games — likelihood — overall record, SEC record

5-0 — 0.91 percent — 9-3, 6-2

4-1 — 9.75 percent — 8-4, 5-3

3-2 — 32.69 percent — 7-5, 4-4

2-3 — 36.45 percent — 6-6, 3-5

1-4 — 17.56 percent — 5-7, 2-6

0-5 — 2.64 percent — 4-8, 1-7

Bowl eligible? 79.8 percent

Miss a bowl? 20.2 percent

Because a Monte Carlo simulation uses random numbers, this projection may change every time the spreadsheet is edited. In other words, every time a change is made, the random simulation is re-calculated another 1,000 times, providing new projections.

[gdoc link=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AgBQnqCTaaxzdGZtNzJjVlRBb2lLWjllaF9QcFNrT1E&output=html&widget=true” height=”500″]

Vols’ depth chart changes for Alabama game

Devrin Young (News Sentinel photo)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — There were some minor changes to Tennessee’s official depth chart released on Monday morning.

Devrin Young is now listed as the backup slot receiver behind Alton “Pig” Howard, supplanting Johnathon Johnson.

Freshman defensive end Corey Vereen is now listed as the third Leo end behind starter Jacques Smith and Jordan Williams.

Linebacker Curt Maggitt, who hasn’t played all year as he recovers from ACL surgery, is no longer listed as a backup on the depth chart. Christian Harris, John Propst and Greg King are all in the two-deep behind starters A.J. Johnson, Dontavis Sapp and Brent Brewer.

A closer look at the 2nd half of Tennessee’s season: Can the Vols go 3-3, reach a bowl?


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — At the midpoint of the season, now is a perfect time to reevaluate my preseason predictions.

Let’s see how I fared so far and determine if we need to tweak any of the predicted outcomes for the rest of the year.

At the risk of bragging, my August predictions have been pretty spot-on so far.

Aug. 31 vs. Austin Peay

Speculative line: UT by 45.

Actual line: UT by 49.

My prediction: UT, 45-7.

Actual score: UT, 45-0.

Sept. 7 vs. Western Kentucky

Speculative line: UT by 21.

Actual line: UT by 14.

My prediction: UT, 31-14.

Actual score: UT, 52-20.

Sept. 14  at Oregon

Oregon’s Autzen Stadium (photo by Evan Woodbery)

Speculative line: Oregon by 20.

Actual line: Oregon by 28.

My prediction: Oregon, 45-14

Actual score: Oregon, 59-14.

Sept. 21   @ Florida   

Speculative line: UF by 17.

Actual line: UF by 16.5

My prediction: Florida, 31-14.

Actual score: Florida, 31-17.

Sept. 28   vs. South Alabama

Speculative line: UT by 23.

Actual line: UT by 16.5.

My prediction: UT, 38-17

Actual score: UT, 31-24.

Oct. 5  vs. Georgia

The Vols lost in overtime to Georgia.

Speculative line: Georgia by 15

Actual line: Georgia by 13.5

My prediction: Georgia 35-28.

Actual score: Georgia 34-31, OT. (fixed earlier error)

(I’m using line information from VegasInsider, which may differ slightly from other sites. All lines are for informational/entertainment purposes ONLY.)

The rest of the schedule looks more difficult in some areas, but could be easier in others. South Carolina is difficult to figure, but still quite dangerous. Auburn and Missouri have exceeded expectations, although an injury to quarterback James Franklin could be devastating for Mizzou’s powerful offense. (Coach Gary Pinkel strongly disputed a report that Franklin would be out for the rest of the year).

What about the other James Franklin? Well, he and the Commodores are having a rough year, but the UT-Vandy meeting in Knoxville still promises to be an important and emotional meeting.

Here’s a look at the final six games, with both my August predictions and any changes I care to make.

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Tennessee’s 2014 football schedule: A closer look

Butch Jones

Butch Jones talks to special teams players during practice on Aug. 16, 2013, at Haslam Field.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee’s 2014 football schedule may be a tad easier than this year’s slate, but that’s only by the cutthroat standards of the SEC.

The Vols now have Florida and Alabama at home, not on the road.

A trip to Oregon is replaced by a trip to Oklahoma.

The full schedule was released Wednesday by UT and the league office.

Here’s a closer look:

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