Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.
Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.
“The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.
Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.
Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.
Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Deontay Wilder to defend his heavyweight title for the first time in Birmingham
After winning the heavyweight boxing title in January, Tuscaloosa boxer Deontay Wilder had to pick a place for his first title defense.
Wilder, who broke his hand in his victory over Bermane Stiverne, had to hold off on his next fight to recover. Now that he has been cleared by his doctors, he wants his next fight to be in Birmingham on June 13. In an interview with FightHype.com, he says the fight will be in the “Baldwin Auditorium,” but he meant UAB’s Bartow Arena, according to his manager and trainer Jay Deas.
He doesn’t know who he will fight yet, but Deas told AL.com that the fight should be finalized in the next three days and tickets should go on sale in the next week. Wilder said he’s looking to get three fights out of this year, saying he won’t be a champion that fights just once or twice a year.
“We still got a lot of ironing out to do,” Wilder explained. “But I’ll be back in the ring on June 13 in Birmingham, Alabama.”
Landon Collins vows to ‘prove the doubters wrong’ after not being drafted in first round
While Amari Cooper celebrated being taken fourth overall in the first round of last night’s NFL Draft, Alabama safety Landon Collins waited backstage in Chicago to hear his name.
He waited for more than three hours, through 32 picks, and still wasn’t selected. A standout defensive back for three seasons with Alabama, Collins will return to the Auditorium Theater and sit patiently until an NFL team deems his talents worthy of drafting.
Not discouraged by the slight, Collins is using last night as motivation in his NFL career, which he stated in a series of tweets on Friday.
The second and third rounds of the NFL Draft will take place in Chicago tonight at 7 p.m. Central and will air on ESPN and the NFL Network. Expect to hear Collins’ name early in the second round.
Cooper first receiver drafted in 2015 NFL Draft: ‘I’m ready to go to work’
All eyes were on Chicago for the NFL Draft on Thursday night, but Amari Cooper heard his name on a television set in Tuscaloosa.
The Alabama wide receiver decided to stay in town with family, and was selected fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders.
“I came to Alabama to win, but I also wanted a chance to play in the NFL and that dream was realized tonight,” Cooper said in a statement. “This is a special night and just the start of the next chapter of my football career. I want to thank all of my teammates and coaches at Alabama for an amazing experience. I also want to express my excitement to the Raiders’ organization and all of their fans, and let them know I’m ready to go to work.”
Cooper was the top receiver in college football last season, winning the Biletnikoff Award and leading the country in receptions and receiving yards. He has every receiving record there is to have for Alabama, and NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said Cooper was the “most pro-ready receiver in the draft.”
He can step in right away and play in the offense led by second-year quarterback Derek Carr, on a Raiders team that finished 3-13 last season.
“[Amari] understands the game,” Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said. “You can tell the guy has been playing football and the position for his whole life. You don’t hear any negatives about this guy.”
Cooper is Alabama’s first receiver taken since Julio Jones was taken sixth overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2011. He wasn’t highly touted coming out of high school, but he was the first receiver picked in the 2015 NFL Draft and was a favorite of his offensive coordinator.
With Alabama’s top receiver headed to Oakland, he will also rejoin former Alabama running back Trent Richardson who seemed excited about the prospect of playing with Cooper again.
Cooper being selected at No. 4 is the earliest an Alabama player has been picked since Richardson went third overall to the Cleveland Browns in 2012.
On the defensive side of the football, Alabama safety Landon Collins fell out of the first round. A runner up for the Thorpe Award last season, Collins was one of the mainstays of Alabama’s defensive backfield, as well as being a “demon” on special teams.
Believed to be a top talent, Collins will have to wait another day to hear his name called along with multiple other Alabama players like fullback Jalston Fowler and running back T.J. Yeldon and more.
Cooper is Nick Saban’s 17th first-round pick during his time at Alabama. The last time Alabama had fewer than one player selected in the first round was 2009 when Andre Smith was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Alabama has now had 42 players drafted into the NFL since 2009, and Cooper is just the first of many to be taken in this year’s NFL Draft.
Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones arrested for third-degree domestic violence
Cyrus Jones plays against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. (Photo via UA Athletics)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones was arrested Tuesday night and charged with third-degree domestic violence criminal mischief and third-degree domestic violence harassment, per a Tuscaloosa Police report.
Officers responded to a domestic call and interviewed Jones and the alleged victim. Jones allegedly took a woman’s cell phone and damaged it and then threatened to assault her in front of a witness, according to police. He was transported to the Tuscaloosa County Jail pending a $1,000 bond and a mandatory 12-hour domestic violence hold, per police.
This is the fourth player to be arrested since March, with safety Geno Smith, defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor and running back Tyren Jones. Smith was arrested for drunk driving, Taylor was arrested and charged with domestic violence, and Jones was arrested for possession of marijuana. Taylor and Jones were dismissed from the football team shortly after these arrests.
Cyrus Jones was Alabama’s most reliable cornerback last season, playing in every game — with a torn labrum in his hip — and had 46 tackles and three interceptions.
Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson was arrested in January on the same charge for kicking a woman’s car. Anderson is still on the team but he did not play at A-Day due to injury, and neither did Jones.
(video) Bo Jackson and Gus Malzahn clean up at charity golf event
Bo Jackson lines for a drive at the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge. (Photo via YouTube)
Bo Jackson is a 51-year-old former football player with a hip replacement, but he is still one of the greatest athletes of all time.
The former Auburn Tiger and Heisman Trophy winner took to the links on Monday and won the long-drive competition at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge in Reynolds Plantation outside Atlanta.
Jackson crushed a 331.5-yard drive, and was 13 yards clear of his nearest competitor, Jon Barry of Georgia Tech. Bo’s drive is well under the longest drive of 2015 in the PGA Tour — Geoff Ogilvy has that title at 409 yards — but he would still be above the tour average of 280-yard drives.
His playing partner, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, took home the closest to the pin title with a shot 7-feet, 9-inches away from the hole. Malzahn also came in third in the coaches long drive competition, losing to Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez.
Both Jackson and Malzahn will also join other celebrities playing in the upcoming Regions Tradition Pro-Am on Wednesday, May 13 at Birmingham’s Shoal Creek.
Here is Jackson getting angry at a golf ball and then acting like he does that every time, followed by Malzahn being very surprised at his close shot. With these wins, the Auburn duo took home $5,000 for their charities.
Making sense of the Braxton Miller to Alabama rumors
Braxton Miller in an Alabama uniform. But will it ever actually happen?
I blame Paul Finebaum.
The ESPN and SEC Network personality stated on Tuesday that a source told him there was “a chance” that Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller could transfer to Alabama, and that’s how these things get started.
With Alabama’s quarterback situation in the hands of Jake Coker, David Cornwell and friends, adding a veteran presence like Miller could be advantageous for the team in a time of offensive transition.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban was asked about the rumors during his first Crimson Caravan stop in Huntsville. He said he knew “nothing about any such rumors,” but his answers were cryptically vague and open-ended.
“If there was somebody out there that I thought could help our team, we have a spot or two available that we could probably —- but it would have to be the right person, in the right place that could make a contribution,” Saban said. “That would be something that would have to be good for that person, and it would have to be good for us.”
So, he’s probably not actively recruiting Miller, but there are spots open. But he’s not allowed to talk about it.
In response to Finebaum’s statement, Bleacher Report’s Marc Torrence reported that a source told him there was “no chance” Miller left the Buckeyes, which was something the source would “bet [his] life savings” on.
On Wednesday, veteran freelance journalist Ray Glier reported that Miller had visited Alabama three times and had a source tell him that he expects Miller to play for Alabama.
One part of that tweet is verifiably correct: Miller did visit Alabama, but not to look at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Dr. James Andrews operated on Miller’s shoulder in Birmingham, and the OSU quarterback returned multiple times to rehab, according to Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer.
And finally on Thursday, Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee reported from a source that Miller to Alabama “is not happening.”
After all of these reports, whether Miller comes to Alabama or not will sort itself out. What is immediately relevant is whether Alabama needs him and how well he would do in Tuscaloosa.
Miller missed all of last season due to injury, and did not participate in spring practice in Columbus. He won’t be able to fully throw and get back into the swing of football until late this summer. He is also one-third of the quarterbacking monster at Ohio State, with the job looking like it will go to national title-winner Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett over Miller.
Miller would be a graduate student transfer, so he would be able to step in and play right away if he won the job. But he would leave a situation with two other viable candidates for Alabama, who could potentially start any of the five quarterbacks on its roster. Miller has also been rumored to be looking at Florida State and Oregon.
Coker tried the transfer market last season with only a bench spot behind Blake Sims to show for it. No matter how highly touted a player is, he still has to master the offense. He also has the possibly even greater challenge of inspiring enough confidence from the team to warrant starting him over another player who has been in the system longer.
“I just know Coach Saban wants to find the best guy for the job,” Alabama fullback Jalston Fowler said, per 247 Sports. “It doesn’t matter if Braxton comes down here or not, he’s going to have to work for that position because those guys compete every day and that’s what Coach Saban wants.”
Like a coaching search or a recruiting decision, this story won’t be concluded until Miller is in pads and wearing a jersey in September. Until then, it will remain a storm of sources. The problem is identifying who to believe.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Johnson is tasked with replacing outgoing quarterback Nick Marshall, who led the Tigers to an SEC Championship and a berth in the final BCS title game. Johnson has been Marshall’s backup for two seasons now and will finally get his chance to start full-time.
During his time at Auburn, Johnson has completed 57-of-78 passes for 858 yards and nine touchdowns. He started and played the first half of last year’s Arkansas game while Marshall was serving a half-game suspension.
This decision means the quarterback competition between Johnson and Sean White is over, and the decision to go with Johnson makes the most sense. He’s the only quarterback on the roster who has thrown a pass in a college football game.
Johnson completed 14-of-22 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns on A-Day, and didn’t play in the second half of the game.
While Alabama and many other programs around the country still have a blank space next to their No. 1 QB spot on the depth chart, Auburn has its quarterback locked in.
Auburn opens its season on Saturday, Sept. 5 against Louisville in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Nick Saban is a stunt driver in his spare time in new Mercedes ad
Alabama football head coach Nick Saban has a powerful position in the state. His word of support for a product can sway whether it is successful among his fan base.
Saban is a partner in a new Mercedez-Benz dealership in Birmingham, so, naturally he would be the spokesman in the state.
He’s featured in a new ad that sees a red Mercedes SLS doing complete Men in Black tunnel spins and driving somewhere that appears to be a forest in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe Nick was recruiting someone up there.
The car stops and Saban takes off his helmet — without a hair out of place — and says, “Success is the result of great planning, preparation and execution.”
Amari Cooper competes on ESPN's Sports Science. (Photo via YouTube)
Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper was the best receiver in college football last season, but he still has to sell himself to the NFL.
ESPN’s Sports Science put Cooper and West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White through the paces and scientifically measured their abilities.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwomFBtzj6c (Video above: Amari Cooper and Kevin White enter the Sports Science Lab)
Cooper was faster than White using an infrared timer, though White ran a faster 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Sports Science compared Cooper to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and White was coincidentally compared to former Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Both receivers did well in the catching drills on Sports Science, catching 9-of-10 passes thrown in the drill.
“When you add Cooper and White’s stats from last year,” Sports Science host John Brenkus said, “they racked up more receiving yards and receiving touchdowns than 62 percent of the teams in the FBS.”
Cooper caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, with White catching 109 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Cooper beat out White for the Biletnikoff Award in 2014, and the two will be vying to be the first wide receiver selected in this year’s NFL Draft.
Nick Saban plays commissioner at A-Day 2015. (Photo via UA Athletics)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–While the defense had seemingly won the first two scrimmages of the spring, it was the offense who took home the victory on A-Day.
Despite struggling at times, the first team offense White team of Alabama defeated the Crimson team 27-14 to complete spring practice for the Crimson Tide.
Quarterback Jake Coker took the field first for the White team and looked to be the most competent of the passers. The Crimson team rotated Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett — who switched teams during the game — but none of them did as well as Coker.
“This game was set up to try to look at the quarterbacks, to try to give them an opportunity,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “I think the guys that played with the second team, because of the offensive line, was not up to snuff and where it needs to be, relative to the second defensive line. They probably didn’t have the same opportunity to have success.”
Coker went 14-for-28 passing, throwing for 183 yards and one touchdown, with Robert Foster coming up a yard short on what should’ve been his second touchdown pass. He was also the only quarterback to not be “sacked,” which at A-Day is being touched by a defender.
Coker and the White team offense leaned heavily on wide receivers Foster and ArDarius Stewart, who were named co-MVPs for the game. Foster had six catches for 125 yards, while Stewart caught eight for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Running backs Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake also looked productive for the White team, even though Drake wore a non-contact jersey. Henry rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown during A-Day.
Cornwell had the second-most yardage of any quarterback, throwing for 110 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. After Barnett switched over to the White team, he hit Stewart for a touchdown in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
But the quarterbacks were not all perfect. Coker, Bateman, Cornwell, Alec Morris and Barnett combined for six interceptions for the game, and still managed to put points on the board. Through all of his positive play, Coker’s main mistake was throwing an interception that was returned for a 50-yard touchdown by Maurice Smith.
A crowd of 65,175 fans were on hand to see Coker run a restricted version of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s schemes. The attendance is the ninth-highest in Alabama’s history, but the smallest spring game attendance number of Saban’s career in Tuscaloosa.
While A-Day is a decent litmus test of where Alabama is headed into the summer, it’s rarely indicative of what’s to come in the fall. Coker has a better grasp of the playbook, has learned how to throw it away, and also seems to have improved his decision-making barring that one interception, which all points to him being the favorite to start in the fall.
But Blake Sims didn’t look great in last year’s A-Day and he led the team to an SEC Championship.
It’s interesting to watch, and will be better once fall rolls around, but this 2015 Alabama team is far from settled.
“There can be no great conclusions drawn from anything that happened today, other than we were pleased in what we saw in some of the guys,” Saban said. “We will certainly take that into fall camp and summer and try to build on it. I was encouraged by the way the first offense played.”
What is settled is that offensive lineman Cam Robinson is a threat in the receiving game, and Kiffin likes his steak cooked medium well.
Alabama lands top-rated basketball player in the state
Dazon Ingram commits to Alabama. (Photo via YouTube)
Apparently Avery Johnson can recruit.
The new Alabama men’s basketball coach has landed his first recruit, and it’s Alabama’s Mr. Basketball Dazon Ingram.
The 6-foot-5 guard from Theodore, Ala. donned an Alabama hat as he picked the Crimson Tide over Kentucky on Friday. He averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds this season for Theodore, and was the first player Johnson visited when he was hired at Alabama.
Ingram had decommitted from Alabama when former head coach Anthony Grant was fired, but he decided to stay in Alabama with Johnson instead of playing for John Calipari and Kentucky.
“I really didn’t think I would go back [to Alabama after Grant’s firing], but I have been talking to Coach Johnson and building a relationship with him,” Ingram told AL.com.
Johnson’s Alabama team has already lost a few players with the departures of Ricky Tarrant and Devin Mitchell, but that should be the end of the transfers.
Johnson’s son plays at Texas A&M, and has not hinted at transferring to Alabama. But he tweeted his congratulations about Ingram on Friday, taking a jab at those who thought his father’s lack of college experience would hurt him in recruiting.
Alabama basketball continues its turnaround under Johnson, and the new coach only had two words to say in celebration.
Alabama cornerback has a point to prove after playing through injury last season
Cyrus Jones plays against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. (Photo via UA Athletics)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–Alabama’s secondary might have been its most questionable unit on the field in 2014, but returning members of the secondary like cornerback Cyrus Jones have a point to prove going into 2015.
“Any time you come off a season where it doesn’t end like you want it to,” Jones said. “It always gives you that extra motivation going into the next time you get back out there.”
Along with outgoing safety Landon Collins, Jones emerged as a reliable defender in 2014. He accounted for 46 total tackles, two tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, three interceptions, and a team-high 13 pass breakups. He was a constant presence against some of Alabama’s best opponents, and will be counted upon as a defensive leader in the fall.
But the way he played on the field is made even more impressive by the fact that he was injured for the entire season. He tore his labrum in his hip last June and finally had surgery for it on January 12, 2015, nearly two weeks after Alabama lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.
“As soon as I was diagnosed with it, I knew eventually I would need surgery,” Jones said. “But I couldn’t get surgery because I would’ve had to sit out during the season, so I just had to deal with it during the season.”
He had to stay conditioned during the summer even with the injury, but he was held out some running workouts and focused more on alternative conditioning exercises. During the season, he got treatment to manage the pain and make sure he could perform during games.
On Tuesday, Jones assessed his health at about 70 percent, and said it would be a few more months before he’s back to full health.
With this injury, Jones hasn’t practiced this offseason — riding a stationary bike next to recovering linebacker Denzel Devall during practices — but he has been able to watch his unit’s improvement.
Jones welcomed the presence of new defensive backs coach Mel Tucker, and has been impressed with new players who have stepped up this Spring.
Focusing on one player specifically, both Jones and running back Derrick Henry have touted the praise of early enrollee safety Ronnie Harrison and his improvement.
“Ronnie Harrison has been doing a great job,” Henry said. “He looks really good, a guy who is an early enrollee and has played well, like he’s been here before.”
No matter who steps up alongside Jones in the defensive backfield, he knows the unit received mountains of criticism last season, and it probably will remain that way this year until the doubters are proven otherwise, which is Jones’ primary goal.
“I know criticism is something that you got to let go in one ear and out the other, but it’s hard to when you’re constantly hearing the same things,” Jones said. “I think it’s definitely something that us as a secondary takes personally. We got a point to prove…and I know once I come back, I’m just going to be ready to prove all the doubters wrong.”
Auburn led the SEC in rushing yards per game in 2013 and 2014. It led the SEC in total rushing yards in both years, and was No. 1 in the nation in rushing in 2013.
This is partly due to Malzahn’s offensive schemes, but also due to NFL-caliber rushers. Running back Tre Mason led the SEC in rushing in 2013 and was invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Last year, Cameron Artis-Payne led the SEC in rushing with 1,608 yards.
Like other successful college football programs, Auburn is now tasked with replacing prolific players as they leave for the NFL. Mason recently finished his first season with the St. Louis Rams, Artis-Payne is headed to the NFL Draft, and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall — another key weapon in the team’s rushing attack — is trying to make an NFL roster at his old position of cornerback.
Even with the departure of Marshall and Artis-Payne, Auburn’s rushing attack shouldn’t take a step back in 2015. The Tigers return running backs Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber, but that position won’t be without competition from incoming players. During the summer, Auburn adds junior college transfer Jovon Robinson and Alabama’s “Mr. Football” Kerryon Johnson to its depth at the position.
Quarterbacks Blake Barnett and David Cornwell vie for Alabama's starting position. (Photo via UA Athletics)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–Spring football doesn’t count, so it’s a prime opportunity for some experimenting.
Through two scrimmages, Alabama is still trying various players in new positions with key positions still up for grabs.
Quarterback Cooper Bateman has been practicing with the receivers during the Spring, but was back with the passers today. Cornerback Eddie Jackson has been working with the safeties this week, and freshman safety Deionte Thompson has gotten reps at wide receiver.
After the scrimmage, Saban said Cornwell has played smart and has done as good a job as anyone during Spring practice.
“We’re really encouraged by all the progress that he’s made,” Saban said.
But Cornwell taking snaps with the first team doesn’t eliminate Coker, freshman Blake Barnett, Alec Morris or Bateman from the job. Each day in practice, three quarterbacks handle the bulk of the work, with the other quarterbacks rotating into that routine on the next day.
“They all have shown at some point in time that they can do it,” Saban said. “Nobody has stood out to the point to say, ‘That’s the guy.’
“If we had [the position] resolved, it would be easier to establish an identity on offense.”
All five quarterbacks have been given an opportunity to start, but it’s still anyone’s job. Saban said the issue is who can lead the most consistently, and he said the decision will be made over time.
“It’s not for us to give away,” Saban said. “It’s for somebody to earn.”
Again this week, the scrimmage is closed to the media, so the numbers given are the numbers the team chooses to release.
No passing statistics were given by the Alabama staff.
In the rushing category, Ronnie Clark had 17 carries for 29 yards, Lawrence Erekosima had seven carries for 29 yards, and Derrick Henry had six carries for 24 yards.
Robert Foster had six receptions for 102 yards, Parker Barrineau collected four receptions for 81 yards, Raheem Falkins nabbed two receptions for 46 yards, and O.J. Howard tallied four receptions for 45 yards and two touchdowns.
The defensive stats are a bit more substantial with Jarran Reed amassing five tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, and one pass breakup. Dalvin Tomlinson had five tackles with freshman Ronnie Harrison tallying four tackles. Finally, Dillon Lee and Reuben Foster each had three tackles and one interception.
Alabama will have one final week of practice before the A-Day Spring game on April 18 at 2 p.m. The game is free to the public and will air on the SEC Network.
Johnson’s whirlwind first day includes visit to football practice, welcome from Saban
Avery Johnson speaks with the team at practice. (Photo via UA Athletics)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–The football team was back at practice Wednesday but the day was overshadowed by Avery Johnson.
The newly appointed men’s basketball coach visited football practice and was welcomed to Alabama by head coach Nick Saban and the players. Johnson gave a speech to the football team, telling them a story of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and the team’s perseverance.
After Payton took over the Saints, he called Johnson — a New Orleans native — to give the first speech to the team. Johnson spoke to the team at their temporary practice facility in Jackson, Miss. in what he said was 115-degree heat. Payton brought Johnson back to speak to the team in 2009, and Johnson said he told the team to “Be Special.”
Johnson said he thought the 2009 team would be 14-2 and win the Super Bowl. He was wrong. The team went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl, the first in franchise history, which was also the year Alabama won its first title under Saban.
“[Johnson] told us he wants to be a part of what we’re doing and would love for us to be a part of what he’s trying to do with the basketball program,” Alabama linebacker Dillon Lee said. “What I really took away from [his speech] was when he said, ‘Win every second.'”
Saban welcomed him to Alabama, and spoke about how he supports every team on campus during his press conference Wednesday.
“Avery Johnson is part of our family here now and we want to do everything we can to help him be successful,” Saban said. “We’ve always been a real team player here in terms of the relationships that we try to have with the other sports. We want to be good in everything here.”
Johnson expressed an interest in joining Saban’s famous noon basketball league, but Saban had one stipulation.
“Avery Johnson can be in my noon basketball league,” Saban said. “But I’m going to play point guard and he’s going to play 2-guard.”
The league meets occasionally, usually after recruiting has finished, and the coaching staff plays each other in Coleman Coliseum — a scrimmage in front of 15,000 empty seats. Saban picks the teams so he can have the best players and he calls his own fouls. He and his staff will be playing pick-up basketball while Johnson is working to fill the arena with fans.
Including his nearly 20-minute introductory press conference, Johnson had a successful day of creating positive PR for his basketball program and ingratiating himself with the fans and the biggest team on campus.
“Practice makes perfect,” Johnson told the football team. “You know this, you have a hall of fame coach…We’re in the pursuit of excellence on the basketball court. You’re in the pursuit of excellence on the football field.
“I’m around, I would love to have your support at the games. I’m going to be at the football games…I can’t wait to see you get started, and all I can say is ‘Roll Tide.'”
Johnson already talking Final Four, wins over Bama fans immediately
Avery Johnson meets with the media for the first time. (Photo via YouTube)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–Avery Johnson has yet to coach a single game of Alabama Men’s Basketball, but in just one press conference he’s already won over the fan base.
On Tuesday, Johnson’s plane landed a few minutes before his 5:30 p.m. scheduled arrival time. He had presumably already stocked his wardrobe with crimson neckties, sporting one as he emerged from the hangar to wave to the crowd and give some opening remarks.
“I’m looking forward to getting to work,” Johnson said. “This has been a lifelong dream of mine to coach on the collegiate level and be a part of a community like Tuscaloosa, like the University of Alabama.”
He made more bold and interesting statements in his brief time in front of the gathered fans than previous Alabama head coach Anthony Grant uttered to the media in the past six seasons. Instead of casual platitudes and coaching cliches, Johnson spoke in broad terms, unafraid to make bold statements and proclamations.
Winning a title as a player in the NBA and finishing second as a coach, Johnson has the experience needed to lead Alabama in a new direction. And the 20th men’s basketball coach in Alabama history isn’t shy about sharing his opinions about how that will happen.
“If you want to make it to the next level as an NBA player, I’m your guy,” Johnson said. “If you want to graduate with a degree, I’m your guy.”
At his introductory press conference on Wednesday, the coach started by thanking Alabama athletic director Bill Battle, his former colleagues at ESPN, and all the gathered guests which included Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy and gymnastics coach Dana Duckworth. He then thanked the current and former players in attendance, and the former coaches present C.M. Newton and Wimp Sanderson.
He already has a catch phrase, and a mantra for this season: “Buckle your seatbelt.”
Behind the fence at the airport and on the podium today, Johnson came off as an energetic person who is ready to get started in collegiate coaching. The 50-year-old Johnson inherited a team that has not made the NCAA tournament since 2012, but you wouldn’t know that by his demeanor.
Now that the celebration has ended and it’s time for him to learn how to recruit. He’s already getting started.
“To every recruit in the state of Alabama, you’re our first target,” Johnson said. “We want to put a fence around the state of Alabama. For all recruits outside of the state, you’re on our radar.”
He wants Alabama’s standards to mirror that of Duke’s, and for the team to aspire to new heights. He’s Alabama’s next hope, and the hope in him is already high.
“For us here at the University of Alabama,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t have taken this job if we couldn’t make it to the Final Four.
Through his first two public appearances, Johnson has galvanized the fan base’s support, and expressed his desire to remake the atmosphere in Coleman Coliseum. He just needs the fans to show up.
“I want to say to the fans,” Johnson said, “get ready, put your seatbelt on, because what you’re about to experience is something you’ve never experienced before.”
Avery Johnson officially named Alabama’s men’s basketball coach
Avery Johnson is Alabama's new basketball coach. (Photo via UA Athletics)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–As the NCAA Championship game tipped off, Alabama officially announced Avery Johnson as its men’s basketball coach.
“I am very pleased to announce that I have reached an agreement with Avery Johnson to become the new head men’s basketball coach at the University of Alabama,” Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said in a prepared statement. “Coach Johnson has an impressive record from the professional ranks, as both a player and a head coach. His personal history is a testament to what character, enthusiasm, perseverance, talent and intelligence can do. He has shown fortitude and skill in every opportunity.”
Johnson spent 16 years in the NBA as a player, and coached in the league for seven seasons. He won an NBA title in 1999 as a player with San Antonio and coached the Dallas Mavericks to the franchise’s first title appearance in 2006. He has no collegiate coaching experience, but immediately emerged as Alabama’s top target once Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall rebuffed the school’s offer.
Battle was transparent in this coaching search, and seemed to get a candidate that would make the fans happy.
“I am confident that Avery will provide our student-athletes with the best qualities of leadership: commitment, hard work, enthusiasm, poise, confidence, and pride,” Battle said. “I am very excited about having Avery join the Crimson Tide family. Not only do I believe that he will be an excellent head coach, but I am also convinced that he will be a tremendous example to our student-athletes in all areas on and off the court.”
BREAKING: Former NBA star Avery Johnson verbally commits to coach Alabama
Avery Johnson is reportedly Alabama's new men's basketball coach. (Photo via NBA)
After meeting with Alabama last night, it appears that former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson will be the Crimson Tide’s next men’s basketball coach.
The Tuscaloosa News’ Cecil Hurt is reporting that Johnson and Alabama have “an agreement in principle” for Johnson to coach in Tuscaloosa. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that Johnson and Alabama have a verbal agreement and the contract details are being finalized.
While Johnson has no experience coaching in the college ranks, he has years of experience at the NBA level. After playing in the league for 16 years, he retired and coached the Dallas Mavericks to the team’s first NBA finals appearance in 2006 — losing the title to the Miami Heat — and led the Mavericks to four consecutive seasons with 50 wins or more. Johnson was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2006.
He also coached the New Jersey and Brooklyn Nets, and was fired in 2012.
Johnson does have some ties to the SEC, as his son is a freshman on Texas A&M’s men’s basketball team.
With Alabama missing on hiring Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, the arrival of Johnson has been seen as an outside hire with huge potential. He brings name recognition from his years in the league.
A formal announcement of the hire is expected soon.
Former NBA star Avery Johnson in the mix for Bama job
Avery Johnson to be interviewed by Alabama. (Photo via NBA)
After missing out on Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Alabama seems to have found another candidate for its men’s basketball team.
Alabama athletic director Bill Battle is reportedly in Dallas to meet with former Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman first reported the news.
As a coach, Johnson led the Mavericks to the team’s first NBA Finals appearance in 2006 and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2006. Johnson also led the Mavericks to four consecutive seasons with 50 wins or more. He has been an NBA analyst on ESPN since being fired from the Brooklyn Nets in 2013.
Before ending his playing career in 2004, Johnson played in the NBA for 16 seasons for six different teams. His longest stint with a team was in San Antonio from 1994-2001 where he helped the Spurs win the 1999 NBA Championship.
Johnson brings a notable name with years of experience in the NBA as a player and a coach, but he has never coached in college.
(UPDATE) Alabama loses another running back during first Spring scrimmage
Bo Scarbrough takes a hand off in Alabama's first scrimmage. (Photo via UA Athletics)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–After the week it had, Alabama was ready to start playing football again.
But during the team’s first scrimmage on Friday, running back Bo Scarbrough was carted off with an apparent knee injury.
“Bo Scarbrough was injured right at the end of the scrimmage today,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “I don’t know the extent of his injury. It was a knee, but we’ll find out sometime. I’ll let you know when we do find out.”
Scarbrough had 16 carries for 36 yards and two touchdowns before having to leave the field.
He is the second running back Alabama has lost this week with Tyren Jones being dismissed from the team on Wednesday. This is on top of starter T.J. Yeldon leaving for the NFL and backup running back Altee Tenpenny leaving the team in January.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries, suspensions, and lost some people at that position,” Saban said. “So, what seemed like a pretty strong position depth-wise has gotten a little thin.”
The scrimmage was closed to the media, so the statistics provided could be Alabama’s sports information department randomly picking numbers, but here are the rest.
Running back Derrick Henry had 11 carries for 112 yards and one touchdown. Running back Kenyan Drake wore a black non-contact jersey as he still recovers from his injury, but Saban said he and Henry ran the ball effectively.
The receiving statistics were more spread out. Raheem Falkins had five catches for 88 yards, ArDarius Stewart had three receptions for 65 yards and one touchdown, and Robert Foster added three receptions for 52 yards and one touchdown. Tight end O.J. Howard accounted for two receptions for 58 yards, one of which was for a touchdown
Unsurprisingly, Saban said the strongest unit on the team was the defensive line. During the scrimmage, defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson had four tackles, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup, while A’Shawn Robinson had three tackles, one tackle for loss, and one interception returned for touchdown.
Linebacker Reggie Ragland had five tackles, one tackle for loss, three pass breakups and one fumble recovery.
No quarterback stats were given, but Saban said each quarterback got about the same amount of playing time. Saban also said that quarterback Jake Coker is more comfortable in the system now and is playing with more confidence.
Alabama will return to practice for a few more weeks, with Spring football finishing on A-Day, April 18 at 2 p.m.
Jonathan Taylor not eligible for re-admission at Alabama as more details emerge
Dismissed Alabama football player Jonathan Taylor's mugshot
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–Dismissed defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor is no longer a student at the University of Alabama and is not eligible for re-admission, per a University spokesperson.
Taylor was dismissed from the team on Sunday after being arrested and charged with domestic violence late Saturday night. His alleged victim in his arrest and charge later recanted her accusation Wednesday. She told police that the reported bruising on her neck was self-inflicted, and the damage done to her apartment happened before Saturday night.
The woman told investigators that she made up the allegations because Taylor cheated on her in December and she suspected him of cheating again.
Taylor’s lawyer Kim Stephens told AL.com Wednesday that her client was concerned about his future in football.
“He’s upset as anyone would be when they’ve been accused of doing something they didn’t do and the ramifications in light of his circumstances are huge,” Stephens told AL.com. “He could be prohibited from pursuing a professional career if he’s good enough to do that.”
This case remains under investigation, according to the Tuscaloosa Police, but the one certainty is Taylor will not return to the University of Alabama or its football team.
Marshall was reported to be visiting Tuscaloosa on Friday, but it appears a deal was made beforehand for him to stay at Wichita State.
Alabama made a hard push at Marshall, reportedly offering him between $4.2 and $4.9 million, according to the Wichita Eagle. But the foundation he has built at Wichita State seemed to be more of a draw than a blank check.
But he did use the negotiations to his advantage. CBS Sports is reporting Marshall’s new contract with the Shockers to be a seven-year deal worth $3.3 million per year.
In his eight years with the Shockers, Marshall led Wichita State to a 204–75 record, and after winning the NIT in 2010, the team has made the NCAA tournament four straight years. In 2013, Wichita State went to the Final Four, and were a No. 1 seed in 2014 after finishing the regular season and conference tournament with a 35-0 record. Marshall’s team made this year’s Sweet 16 after defeating Kansas, but was eliminated by Notre Dame in the Elite Eight.
In response to Marshall decided to stay put, Alabama athletic director Bill Battle confirmed the news in a released statement.
“I received word tonight that Coach Gregg Marshall has chosen to remain the head basketball coach at Wichita State,” Battle said. “I fully respect his decision and wish him and his family all the best.”
Now Alabama and Battle will have to re-fuel the plane and go after another coach — one that is more receptive to moving to Tuscaloosa.
“My objective in this search is focused on one goal: to get the best person available to lead the Alabama men’s basketball program,” Battle said. “I remain determined to bring to our program a proven head coach with impressive credentials, one who understands and values our program, wants to lead our program, and is excited about what can be accomplished at the University of Alabama.”
Kenyan Drake overcoming injury: ‘Once I put on those pads and helmet, I was back’
Kenyan Drake looks to return this fall. (Photo via UA Athletics)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–Alabama running back Kenyan Drake hasn’t played football since Oct. 4, 2014, but his return is on the way.
Breaking his leg against Ole Miss last season, Drake has been steadily getting healthier, expanding what he can do in workouts and practice.
“It seemed that once I put on those pads and helmet, I was back to normal,” Drake said. “Sometimes I’m reminded of it. As with anything you have to work through it.”
Just as Drake is nearing full health, Alabama wide receiver Cam Sims injured his ACL on Saturday. Alabama head coach Nick Saban did not mention a specific injury — like a sprain or a tear — but said the receiver would require surgery and be out for a while.
“It will be a lot of hard work for him to get back at all for next season,” Saban said “But we’re hopeful and we know what kind of person he is and he’ll work hard to do it.”
Drake knows what the journey back from a serious injury entails, and he offered some words of encouragement for the injured wide receiver, using an example of an other player with a similar injury.
“I was definitely bummed out for him, but football is a game of collisions, so those kinds of things happen,” Drake said. “He was definitely in high spirits and looking forward to the season. He has an injury similar to [cornerback] Eddie Jackson, who was back playing in the season, so he’s looking forward to it.”
Jackson injured his ACL in spring practice last season and was back on the field for the second game of the season against Florida Atlantic. With Alabama’s top three receivers — Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones — headed to the NFL, the return of Drake and Sims could be crucial for the team’s offense.
Being one of the more seasoned veterans on the team, particularly on the offense, Drake also weighed in on the team’s weekend. He echoed the sentiments of Saban and center Ryan Kelly concerning the recent string of player arrests.
“At the end of the day you can’t condone the behaviors they exhibited,” Drake said. “We came together as a team and realized that at the end of the day you have to be leaders on and off the field and accountable for your actions.”
But concerning things on the field, Drake was excited at the prospect of being in the backfield at the same time as running back Derrick Henry, and said he enjoys playing wide receiver as well as running back.
“We look forward to whatever Coach Kiffin has up his sleeve,” Drake said.
Drake’s speed hasn’t dipped since the injury, and he has no issues cutting or running through a straight line. Once he’s fully healthy, he should be back on the field doing things like this as Alabama’s most versatile weapon.