The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    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 workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    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.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

7 hours ago

Historic storm cleanup: Alabama Power linemen working around the clock to restore service

(Alabama Power/Twitter)

Alabama Power now has more than 300,000 customers back online after Hurricane Zeta tore through the state, and lineman from Alabama and 19 other states and Canada continue their efforts to finish restoration of power.

The damage left behind from the historic storm, which left nearly one-third of all Alabama Power customers without service, is comparable to that of Hurricane Katrina and the April 27, 2011 tornadoes, according to the company.

“Since early Thursday morning, we’ve been working to restore service for customers affected by Hurricane Zeta,” Scott Moore, Alabama Power senior vice president of Power Delivery, told Yellowhammer News. “We’ve made significant progress and are working through some tough conditions due to the number of downed trees and extensive damage across our state. I’m proud of our team members and their commitment to serving our customers. During this challenging time we will not stop until our customers’ service is restored,”

Alabama Power expects to have service restored to 80% of its affected customers by noon on Sunday. More than 500,000 of its customers were without service, at one time.

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Past storms have seen Alabama deploy more than 1,500 team members across the state. Those same crews were joined this week by than 1,700 lineworkers and support personnel from outside the state.

Service to Lamar, Franklin, Winston, Barbour, Covington, Coffee, Geneva, Dale, Houston, Henry, Clayton and Russell counties has been fully restored, while restoration for customers in the hardest hit areas of Eastern, Central and Southwestern Alabama could extend into next week.

The company issued a statement on Friday apologizing to customers for some confusion surrounding information on power status for certain locations:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

13 hours ago

Bama’s roster vs. Clemson’s; Plus, picks for Auburn-LSU showdown, red-hot Razorbacks vs. A&M

(Pixabay, YHN)

A smart guy said something silly this week.

ESPN’s David Pollack used his network’s college football podcast to announce his belief that Jaylen Waddle’s season-ending injury was fatal to the Crimson Tide’s national championship run.

“I think it’s over for Bama,” Pollack said. “I think if you’re just talking about winning a national title, I don’t think they can win a national title without [Waddle].”

While it is a bit early to dip into specific matchups, a quick roster comparison — by position group — with Alabama’s perceived closest competitor may be in order. ESPN’s playoff predictor slots the Tide as the No. 1 seed in the playoff followed by Clemson at No. 2.

Alabama versus Clemson. Let’s see how the two compare.

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Running back. Najee Harris has elevated his game to the same heights occupied by Clemson’s Travis Etienne. Stats for each of these two dynamic backs are nearly identical. While Harris has enjoyed running behind a far superior offensive line (spoiler alert), a deeper group for Bama makes the difference in grading out these units. Edge: Bama

Wide receiver. The largest gap in talent may exist here, which is what makes Pollack’s analysis so puzzling. Both teams lost their best wide receivers for the entire year, Waddle at Alabama and Justyn Ross at Clemson. If he were to switch teams, Clemson’s best remaining receiver would be the third-most talented in Tuscaloosa behind Devonta Smith and John Metchie, III. Edge: Bama

Tight end. The talent in both of these groups is pretty similar, with a slight nod to Clemson’s unit based on production so far  in 2020. Edge: Clemson

Offensive line. Another area where there is a fairly substantial gap. Alabama’s line has overpowered opponents and consistently given Mac Jones a clean pocket. Clemson has four new starters, has generally struggled to get a push in the middle and has allowed Trevor Lawrence to take some tough shots. Edge: Bama

Defensive line. This version of the Tide defensive line lacks the dominant presence of seasons past but remains serviceable. It is a group not asked to do a lot other than free up an athletic group of linebackers to make plays. Clemson’s defensive line is also not in the same class of some of the more heralded units of the Dabo Swinney era, but has a couple of true freshman with significant upside. Edge: Even

Linebacker. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables coaches this position group, and it shows. They are a group of smart overachievers. James Skalski, Baylon Spector and Jake Venables are never short on effort. But none are the type of player for which opposing offensive coordinators have to account. On the other hand, Dylan Moses, Christian Harris and Christopher Allen are a force. Freshman Will Anderson, Jr. is an athletic freak. Edge: Bama

Defensive back. The upgrade in athleticism in the back end of Alabama’s defense is noticeable this year. Patrick Surtain II can wall off his side of the field, while Daniel Wright and Malachi Moore have already recorded two interceptions each. Safety Nolan Turner, a former two-star prospect from Vestavia Hills, is now the dean of the Tigers’ defensive backfield. As a full-time starter this year, Turner is like a coach on the field. Clemson’s unit is in a bit of a rebuild after having lost two first-round draft picks from last season’s squad. Edge: Bama

Special teams. Alabama kicker Will Reichard is perfect on the year. That is a great sign, but there is naturally a little wait-and-see approach when evaluating the Tide’s kicking game. Waddle’s loss in the return game is significant. Clemson has no threats in that area. Edge: Even

Quarterback. The best debate is saved for last. Both of these quarterback rooms have raw, inexperienced 5-star freshman as backups, so this is all about the high-profile starters. Lawrence is the likely first pick in the 2021 NFL draft. But this comparison is not about who can best help the New York Jets resurrect its franchise. This is about 2020. Lawrence has thrown for 1,833 yards, including 17 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He has completed 71% of his passes and has averaged 9.6 yards per completion. Jones has thrown for 1,905 yards, including 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He has completed 79% of his passes and has averaged 13 yards per completion. We said back in August that the Crimson Tide could win a national championship with Jones at the helm. Confidence in that assertion is now sky high. Jones’ performance this season demands that he take a backseat to no one. Edge: Even

Now that we have dispensed with Pollack’s notion that the Crimson Tide are out of the national championship hunt, let’s get to some picks.

THE BASICS

LSU (-3) at Auburn: Coach O is back. His Tigers hammered South Carolina last weekend by four touchdowns. A 2:30 kick on CBS and then get back to Baton Rouge in time to go out. What could go wrong?

The pick: Auburn 36, LSU 24

Arkansas at No. 8 Texas A&M (-11.5): The Razorbacks had a bye last week, but there has been no shortage of praise heaped upon head coach Sam Pittman, and his improved team, in the intervening days. What a great story.

The pick: Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 17

BUYER BEWARE

No. 15 North Carolina (-7) at Virginia: Another great story is the Mack Brown reunion tour in Chapel Hill. With a national championship ring from his time at Texas, Brown returned to North Carolina, a place he previously coached from 1988 to 1997. His Heels face off against a struggling Virginia team long on grit but short on talent.

The pick: North Carolina 26, Virginia 20

No. 16 Kansas State at West Virginia (-3.5): There are 25,000 more people living in Manhattan, Kansas, than Morgantown, West Virginia. So Kansas State head coach Chris Kleiman will not have to worry about his team being intimidated by a big-city atmosphere. This is a sneaky big game in the Neal Brown era at West Virginia.

The pick: West Virginia 30, Kansas State 19

No. 4 Notre Dame (-20) at Georgia Tech: Notre Dame head coach Bryan Kelly has made no secret about his team’s anticipation for next week’s matchup against Clemson, a team which beat Georgia Tech 73-7 a few weeks ago. With Trevor Lawrence now doubtful in that matchup after a positive COVID-19 test, the Irish can undoubtedly smell blood and will be ready to exact revenge on an embarrassing playoff loss two years ago.

The pick: Notre Dame 24, Georgia Tech 17

Last week: 4-3 straight up; 3-4 ATS
Season: 17-5 straight up; 12-10 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 days ago

Alabama rocket CEO and former Air Force leader: Military threat from China now extends to space

(Pixabay, ULA/YouTube, YHN)

When an Alabama-built rocket powers another critical national security satellite into space next week, it will be the latest such satellite in the ever-increasing use of space to gain military advantage on the ground.

The satellite, operated by the National Reconnaissance Office, will enhance communication for America’s warfighters across the globe.

However, the United States’ ability to operate in space and leverage its potential for national security purposes could be made more difficult, according to two experts who participated in the AscendxSummit conference last week.

Tory Bruno, president and CEO of Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA), and former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson both concluded that foreign governments are challenging America’s space superiority, with China being at the forefront of the effort.

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“The threat has changed,” explained Wilson. “The United States is heavily dependent on space for national security, and we need to respond to that emerging threat.”

That dependence on space comes from satellites which assist U.S. military operations around the world.

By the end of last year, the Air Force had 80 satellites in use, the Navy had 13, and the National Reconnaissance Office was utilizing 40. The smallest satellite being the size of a toaster and the biggest the size of a school bus.

Some serve important communications functions, while others serve as mechanisms for intelligence gathering, including the ability to provide missile warnings. These satellites are trained at the Earth and employ infrared technology to identify the hot plumes of gas that come from the end of rockets and then calculate the trajectory and warn the national command authority.

These capabilities have naturally drawn the attention of America’s adversaries.

Wilson has previously drawn attention to the threat from China with its launch of a missile the size of a telephone pole to destroy a dead weather satellite.

She said China and Russia have been developing the means to interfere with or destroy American military satellites in order to influence military operations on the ground.

Bruno expressed his belief that we stand at a pivotal moment in human history. He cited an “unprecedented set of decades that stretch out in front of us in space” with the potential to tap into near limitless resources which would allow for a self-sustaining economy on Earth.

At the same time, Bruno warned of a need for a national security space strategy which takes into account threats in orbit.

“We are heading back immediately today into an environment of pure competition,” he elaborated. “With a resurgent Russia, a rising China, countries that have ambitions around the world that not only potentially limit America’s influence but potentially limit the growth and expansion of democracy and freedom to be curtailed by totalitarian regimes and governments.”

Bruno sees access to space as essential for America to maintain its position of strength, saying that while the U.S. military is not the largest in the world, it is the most capable because it is enabled by space.

“For the first time in history, space, the previously historically peaceful domain is now being weaponized as we speak by these adversaries,” Bruno remarked. “That brings with it the potential to limit our unrivaled use of space to keep the peace around the globe.”

He said other nations seeking to weaken the U.S. military are attempting to take space away because that is a far easier approach than conventional warfare.

Wilson believes it is the space prowess of the United States which has made it a target of China and other countries.

“One of the reasons why this subject continues to interest me is that America is the best in the world at space, and our adversaries are seeking to develop the capability to deny us the use of space in crisis or at war,” she observed.

The White House earlier this month released a “National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies.” The document outlines how the United States will promote and protect its competitive advantage in fields which include space and military technologies.

A statement from the White House addressed the need to develop such a national strategy:

As our competitors and adversaries mobilize vast resources in these fields, American dominance in science and technology is more important now than ever, and is vital to our long-term economic and national security. The United States will not turn a blind eye to the tactics of countries like China and Russia, which steal technology, coerce companies into handing over intellectual property, undercut free and fair markets, and surreptitiously divert emerging civilian technologies to build up their militaries.

When asked about the White House’s national strategy, Bruno acknowledged the country’s innovation chain is now susceptible to foreign interference in a way it never has been before.

“At least one of our adversaries has figured out, why spy when you can buy?” he remarked.

China’s ability to absorb U.S. technology and innovation is something which will demand significant attention, according to Bruno.

“There are a lot of elements to that innovation chain, and most of them are actually pretty open,” he concluded. “As a Chinese company, you can come and buy key elements of the supply chain where technologies reside. You can sponsor members of your intelligence community, or your armed forces, to go to America and receive the best STEM education on the planet and bring all of that home. You can even invest to influence companies through venture capital and even do that through shell companies so that your presence, influence and access is not as obvious. All of that is right now an open door to both of our adversaries.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 days ago

Huntsville’s Diatherix a national leader in cutting-edge COVID-19 testing technology

(Eurofin/Contributed, Diatherix Laboratories/Facebook, YHN)

When reliable testing for COVID-19 became a national priority earlier this year, one company in Huntsville was already set up to take on a leading role.

Diatherix was equipped to offer testing through its cutting-edge technology, and it was able to do so in a way conducive to effective treatment of the virus by providing same-day results.

An infectious disease clinical laboratory located in the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Diatherix provides testing capabilities for doctors’ offices, hospitals, reference labs and nursing homes.

In a recent conversation with Yellowhammer News, Diatherix president Jennifer Cart described her company’s role in confronting the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We essentially provide a laboratory service so that physicians can more accurately diagnosis their patients,” said Cart. “We are squarely seated in this rapid, providing of same day results for the specimen so we are giving very timely and accurate information in infectious diseases.”

Having been in business since 2008, that role is reflected in the company’s name, which Cart explained represents “where diagnostics meet therapeutics.”

While conventional laboratories provide more generalized testing on a broader range of specimens, Diatherix’s more tailored focus allowed it to rise to the occasion on the front-end of the COVID-19 outbreak in March.

“We are very uniquely specialized in infectious disease, and our proprietary technology is a very high-throughput multiplex that makes us able to run a high volume of specimens with multiple results,” outlined Cart.

The team at Diatherix began its assessment of the coronavirus in December 2019, according to Cart. This early evaluation allowed the company to hit the ground running when the need arose for mass testing.

“Because we are focused on infectious disease, we are always monitoring for emerging pathogens, so this was not our first emerging pathogen,” she remarked. “We have seen in the past MERS, which came from UAE, the Middle East. We are always looking and watching, and then we make determinations whether or not we think it is going to be a player in the United States such that we would need to develop the assay.”

That understanding brought about a testing procedure, or assay, in record time.

“In our history this was probably our fastest launch of a new assay because we actually have it as part of a very complex group of other viruses so we could right off the bat determine if it was COVID or flu right out of the gate,” said Cart. “We already had that capability in March. Everybody has been talking about having that now, having it for the fall. We have already been positioned for that and been able to run results since then.”

Since March, there have been 8.8 million coronavirus cases in the United States. Alabama has seen a little over 160,000 confirmed cases in that same period.

The volume of work at Diatherix has matched the country’s case counts throughout the year.

“From March through July, it was on a very rapid, accelerated incline,” Cart noted. “We then hit a bit of a stabilization in August and September. We are back to what I would not say as rapid of an incline, but a steady incline.”

The nation’s peak for new case counts occurred July 24 when 74,710 new cases were registered with the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Reported daily cases dipped to 23,301 on September 8. The United States hit a new daily high on October 24 when the CDC registered 83,851 new cases.

Without revealing specific internal data, Cart estimates that Diatherix has averaged around 100,000 tests per month, a figure which puts the company on track to process more than one million coronavirus tests by the end of 2020.

Heavily reliant on overnight shipping, specimens have arrived in Huntsville from providers across the country.

As an example, Cart recalled the work Diatherix did for numerous drive-thru testing sites in states like Michigan, Tennessee and Florida. The process, she said, was no different than a normal physician’s office except they received 300 to 400 specimens per day from places which would normally send them five.

To handle the volume, the layout of the facility had to change. The basement was cleared, and packages were routed down there for opening and specimen transport to the labs.

Even with state-of-the-art equipment and proprietary testing processes, Cart points to a single aspect of the company which has allowed Diatherix to weather an unprecedented strain this year.

“People are our greatest asset,” she emphasized.

Since the beginning of the year, Diatherix has hired 100 new employees, placing the company’s personnel total at 250.

“It is all hands on deck,” said Cart. “First of all, our lab, our R&D team and our client services has been consistently working since developing the test and running the test. There have been no breaks. It’s a pounding intensity that has been relentless and has not stopped.”

The paperwork that accompanies such a high volume of specimens has been daunting. Employees were called to fill multiple roles to handle more than 20,000 documents received daily.

“We had people outside of their normal job, and everyone still had their normal job to do, doing that just so we could get the results out,” explained Cart. “Because we know how important it is to have the same day results at the time when many labs are doing five, six, seven, ten days waiting for the results, which becomes less useful information to the physician once it gets past the date of collection.”

A graduate of the University of Florida, Cart mentioned to one of Diatherix’s employees, who was a native Alabamian, how impressed she was with the way the team was handling the increased workload during the COVID crisis.

“She replied to me, ‘That’s what we call hard stock,’” recollected Cart.

That can-do attitude prevalent among Diatherix’s employees has made quite an impression on the company’s leader.

“It brings tears to my eyes to think about what our employees have given up to be there every day, to do what we need to do not only for the company but for the state and for the country in the pandemic,” Cart remarked. “Their kids are at home getting home-schooled by their spouse or their with grandparents. We have done everything we can to support them but ultimately they are really carrying this company and carrying us forward. It will be something that, in my career I’ve learned a lot as a leader, but the biggest impact to me is how I’ve seen these employees and the people. I can’t even describe it. It is hard stock is the best way to put it.”

The United States has seen a surge in coronavirus infections during October, and several European countries are renewing lockdowns.

A forward-looking approach has helped Diatherix prepare for whatever is next in the fight against COVID-19, according to Cart.

“We have already been making changes,” she outlined. “As part of our normal process, with viruses in particular, viruses can mutate. They call it antigenic shift. We are always blasting the viruses, not just SARS-CoV-2, but influenza A, B, anything that essentially could have viral antigenic shift, and watching for that. We are always monitoring for the need to put in a different sequence or different target for our assay to be even more robust.”

As Cart and her team move forward, they see no signs of letting up, themselves.

“The ramp up has been all-consuming but we have been able to produce same-day results as we receive our specimens,” Cart concluded. “In today’s time, with everybody targeting 48 hours, the fact that we can essentially provide the results the day we receive them is still a feather in the Diatherix cap in comparison to all the other labs.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

5 days ago

ULA’s Tory Bruno on training 21st century workforce — ‘Higher education is the most powerful force we have’

(ULA/Contributed, @ULALaunch/Twitter, YHN)

The nation needs to prioritize technical curriculum in its workforce training to meet the demands of 21st century jobs, and higher education will be at the forefront of the effort.

That was the assessment of United Launch Alliance president and CEO Tory Bruno during a virtual panel discussion last week as part of the AscendxSummit on Space Policy and Education.

The owner of a 1.6 million square foot rocket manufacturing facility in Decatur, the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere, Bruno’s company is heavily dependent on a highly-developed workforce in Alabama.

Joined on the panel by former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Bruno outlined that expanding the number of students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum is critical to the United States remaining a leader in the aerospace industry.

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“When we talk about space and our industry, we’re really talking about STEM, and the dominant element of STEM is engineering, engineering and applied science,” he explained. “If we’re not careful, we’ll produce people who are very theoretical, but have less ability to handle the applied side of that.”

Gov. Kay Ivey recently created the Alabama STEM Council to study and inform state leaders on how to advance Alabama’s efforts in the STEM strand.

Ivey explained that the Yellowhammer State “has continued to grow into an advanced manufacturing, aerospace engineering and cybertechnology center of excellence and as a result, the demand for qualified labor in these sectors has skyrocketed.”

The federal government invests more than $3 billion annually in STEM education.

RELATED: University of Alabama STEM students included in nation’s top 20 in 20s

Wilson, who currently serves as president at the University of Texas-El Paso, added her support for the notion that more students need to go on to higher education, and more of those need to be involved in technical learning.

“Currently in America, about 62% of boys who recently graduated from high school, and 69% of girls, go on to some post-high school educational experience, college, technical training, community college,” stated Wilson.”That’s nowhere near enough because 90% of the new jobs that are being created require some kind of post-high school credential. Most of them are technically-oriented. Even jobs that are not technically-oriented, finance, marketing, are having more and more technical components.”

She sees a need to bridge the gap between industry and higher education, particularly in the area of “continuous spiraling education.”

“A bachelor’s degree or a master’s or a Ph.D., and then you quit learning, is not enough for this generation,” Wilson remarked.

Bruno believes that greater collaboration between university faculty and industry can help bridge that gap. He advocated for programs that keep faculty involved in practical applications within industry, as well as bringing more experienced members of his industry into teaching settings.

“We’ve got a very good model going in the applied side of this where we have industry coming in and being involved with universities, with real world projects, and sending our employees back for more education, and even taking students out into internships,” Bruno elaborated. “What I wish I could see more of, and it’s on us to make this happen, is the same thing for faculty. I feel there’s a trend of fewer and fewer faculty who have an industry background before going to academia, and fewer and fewer faculty who, once in academia, continue to have involvement in industry.”

Asked for ideas on how to keep women and minorities involved in STEM, Wilson cited work done by the National Science Foundation.

She said that studies have shown more engaged learning is key, including focus on the “why” not just the “what.” Women disproportionally want to know why the problem matters, according to Wilson, which is why she touts more problem and community-based learning.

“The environment in engineering school needs to be supportive and not about weeding out,” she detailed. “That’s particularly important when you have a small percentage of the class that feels different anyway.”

“Diversity has such great power in problem solution,” observed Bruno, a former chairman of the Diversity Council at Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

One of the ways in which greater diversity in technical curriculums can be achieved, according to Bruno, is increased focus by universities on bringing in as many students as possible and teaching them what he termed, “good, solid STEM skills.”

“We should be measuring universities on productivity not on their reject rate, in the first place,” he asserted. “There are so many universities that are rewarded with prestige by being very exclusive. They literally measure themselves by how many students they reject, how many students they wash out. What the country needs is more graduates, not fewer.”

Universities in Alabama have already excelled in the area of STEM training.

Earlier this year, the University of Alabama College of Engineering had two of its students recognized among the nation’s top 20 STEM students. Jane Gillette and Sean Devey were recognized as part of Aviation Week’s 20 Twenties for 2020, which was sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Gillette has participated in internships at ULA and NASA.

Wilson sees no shortage of potential students but rather places the responsibility on universities and private industry to pull them into the STEM strand.

“We need to reach what I call the ‘missing millions,’ the young people in America who have not been inspired or supported to go into STEM disciplines because the 21st century will demand it,” she stated.

Despite the challenges of the current year, and technical innovation which demands an increasingly developed workforce, Bruno expressed forward-looking optimism.

“I’m not the least bit concerned that our country will not overcome the challenges that are in front of us,” he concluded. “We absolutely will. Will have resourceful, we have resilient people, we have the best education system in the world. Higher education is the most powerful force we have in our society to change someone’s economic fortunes. It makes all the difference in the world. It is a life-changer.”

RELATED: Boeing donates $50K to Decatur City Schools for STEM education

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Hometown heroes: Bama, UAB, Troy, Jax State and more

(Pixabay, YHN)

Before anyone has even seen a single snap of Big Ten football, national sports media this week returned to its pandemic panic room and pronounced the conference’s season a failure.

Sports media argued tirelessly during the summer months that it was not cheering for football to get canceled. However, following Nick Saban’s false positive coronavirus test, it did exactly that here, here and here.

At Yellowhammer, we are cheering for college football. More specifically, this week, we are mainly cheering for underdogs.

Let’s get to some picks.

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THE BASICS

Alabama (-22) at Tennessee: The largest margin of victory in this series was a 51-0 win by Alabama in 1906. Alabama’s current win streak over the Vols began a mere three years later (or at least that is what it feels like). Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt allegedly fired an assistant coach mid-game on Saturday. That is a bad start to what is, for some people, a favorite week of the year. Those people will not be disappointed.

The pick: Alabama 34, Tennessee 17

NC State at North Carolina (-14.5): North Carolina went into Tallahassee a double-digit favorite and lost. That may have had more to do with Florida State getting its first quality coaching since Jimbo Fisher’s national championship season. Mack Brown has a good team. Now it is a matter of them playing like it.

The pick: North Carolina 40, NC State 20

Texas State at BYU (-28.5): The Cougars have been a fun story this season amidst their mini-revival. They are physical along the lines of scrimmage, and quarterback Zach Wilson has worked his way up to No. 4 on ESPN’s Heisman Watch List. If this team remains undefeated in late November, we can all hope they handle the playoff talk a bit more graciously than UCF has in recent years.

The pick: BYU 30, Texas State 13

HOMETOWN HEROES

Louisiana (-2.5) at UAB: This is a game between two of the nation’s more underrated coaches, UAB’s Bill Clark and Louisiana’s Billy Napier. Do not be surprised to see both coaching in the SEC sooner rather than later. This will be an emotionally-charged game for Louisiana, as it will pay tribute to former assistant coach D.J. Looney, who passed away suddenly in August. The Ragin’ Cajuns plan to wear his name on the back of their jerseys. This could be as good a game as has been played at Legion Field in a while.

The pick: UAB 24, Louisiana 20

Georgia State at Troy (-2.5): The Trojans bring a two-game win streak into this Sun Belt matchup. Both teams have scored points freely so far this year. Georgia State is ninth in the country in rushing offense and 73rd in scoring defense.  Troy is a respectable 33rd in scoring defense and 31st in total offense. All signs point to a shootout.

The pick: Georgia State 42, Troy 35

Jacksonville State at Florida International (-10): This game was originally scheduled for September 2. Since its postponement, the Gamecocks have gone to Tallahassee where they gave Florida State a scare and won a couple of tight ball games against Mercer and North Alabama. It was good to see this one get back on the calendar because no one ever turns down a trip to Miami.

The pick: Florida International 38, Jacksonville State 30

BUYER BEWARE

Tulsa (-11.5) at South Florida: There was a time when the Thursday and Friday night college games meant something, and visiting favorites were constantly on upset alert. That has not been the case in a while. In late October, Tulsa has still only played two games, a close loss to No. 6 Oklahoma State and a win against Central Florida. South Florida is in rebuild mode under first-year head coach Jeff Scott, whose team has started to show just a glimmer of improvement the last few weeks. Anyone tuning in to watch this game should not expect to see a work of art.

The pick: South Florida 20, Tulsa 16

Last week: 4-1 straight up; 3-2 ATS
Season: 13-2 straight up; 9-6 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

Alabama ‘the leading state with the highest success’ in providing internet to low-income students

(Pixabay, YHN)

An Alabama program to provide free internet access for low-income students reached a milestone last week.

The Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students (ABC for Students) program has now provided internet access to more than 100,000 of the state’s students, according to officials at the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

The program became a priority for the state when it was apparent a large number of the state’s students were going to pursue a virtual learning option this school year.

“For Governor Ivey, when we heard all of the school schedules that were going to be going to virtual, it was important to her to create initiatives that would help children that are on free and reduced lunches simply because it would qualify under the CARES Act because it would help them to be able to do their school work at home,” explained Kenneth Boswell, director of ADECA, in a recent conversation with Yellowhammer News.

In total, Ivey has committed up to $100 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to deliver internet access to eligible students.

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Boswell, whose department has been charged with administering ABC for Students, noted that some of the challenges with identifying areas of need had already been tackled by ADECA because of the ongoing broadband expansion effort.

“We were already a little ahead of the curve,” he said.

Based on the tight timeframe needed to get a program in place and administered, ADECA chose to implement a voucher program.

Then working with the Alabama State Department of Education, eligible students were sent a letter with a special code which they could use to obtain internet access through one of 37 different internet service providers.

In cases where families live at an address not serviced by any providers, ADECA will provide an internet hotspot.

More than 102,000 students have now enrolled in ABC for Students, which puts the effort in Alabama in a class of its own.

“We are the leading state with the highest success of implementation,” remarked Boswell.

Maureen Neighbors, chief of the Energy Division at ADECA, believes Alabama’s program is the largest in the nation given the number of students and providers in the mix.

“What we’re doing is more complex than what most other folks who are trying something similar are doing,” she said.

Neighbors cited programs where there is a single provider, or in a limited geographic area, as generally having a 2% success rate.

“We feel like we’re very far ahead of that,” she outlined. “This is one of the most ambitious attempts to address the digital divide based on affordability.”

With ample funding still available, Boswell urged families to give letters they receive a little more attention to make sure it is not an opportunity to get connected.

Boswell said his department has begun working with local superintendents to conduct outreach to students and parents who have yet to utilize their vouchers.

He encouraged families who think they may be eligible to call ADECA.

“Call us,” he said. “We want to help you. We want to make sure your child is getting the appropriate resources for them to learn at home.”

Though the funding expires on December 30, Boswell indicated that ADECA has the infrastructure in place to continue the program should Congress decide to extend it.

“In the short time frame that we have had to deal with, this has been wildly successful,” remarked Boswell. “It can be even more successful when more people participate.”

According to Neighbors, the first priority has always been to provide tools for educating children. However, she also noted that there has been a significant benefit to Alabama’s economy, as well.

“This has been an economic driver,” detailed Neighbors. “We work with 37 providers, and the vast majority of those are Alabama-based providers. We have national providers that are part of the process, and they have been great partners, as well. But the majority of the providers we’re dealing with are Alabama homegrown companies that are being supported through this program.”

And those providers have helped make ABC for Students more cost-efficient, according to Boswell.

“One of the big components of this is our vendors,” he said. “We had actually projected a higher cost. Because we had asked them to help not only the families but also the state of Alabama stretch the dollars, they came in at lower cost than what we had actually projected. So kudos to them. They came to the aid of the people that needed the help at a very reasonable cost.”

Anyone seeking more information on the program can call the ABC for Students dedicated help line at ADECA, which is 888.212.4998.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

Auburn has something to prove; Can Stetson Bennett finish off the Tide defense?

(Pixabay, YHN)

Serving as an assistant for Nick Saban has proven to be a lucrative move for a lot of coaches.

Five of his former assistants now hold head coaching positions in the SEC. Their average salary this season is $5.33 million. Add in Louisiana head coach Billy Napier, who makes a little over $1 million this year, and it is easy to see why Butch Jones is content to tote Gatorade on the Tide sideline for a while.

While they have all collected big checks after working in Saban’s building, one thing none have done is beat the man. The collective apprentice versus teacher streak sits at 0-21.

Could this finally be the week?

Here are the picks:

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THE BASICS

No. 15 Auburn (-2.5) at South Carolina: The statement was made this week that “Auburn should not be ranked.” Fair point. Which is why South Carolina is a trendy mild upset pick this week. Gus Malzahn knows his offensive line needs to play better. Will Muschamp and his $4.6 million is on that list of former Saban assistants, so there is a lot of pressure on him in Columbia, too.

The pick: Auburn 33, South Carolina 27

No. 3 Georgia at No. 2 Alabama (-4.5): There was a lot of discussion this week about the Tide defense being on the ropes already. However, it might be a bit hasty to draw conclusions from the game against Ole Miss. It was Lane Kiffin’s Super Bowl; the type of game where the former Saban assistant pulled out every trick in his bag to become the first apprentice to put a win on the board. On the Georgia sideline will stand Stetson Bennett, the former fourth-string quarterback, who has become both a revelation and a sensation early in the 2020 season. Will Bennett be able to weather a game plan from the old defensive wizard the likes of which he has never seen before?

The pick: Alabama 24, Georgia 16

BUYER BEWARE

Ole Miss (-1.5) at Arkansas: Kiffin already has the Rebels clicking on all cylinders in only his first season. Quarterback Matt Corral is a dynamic playmaker who has put up some gaudy offensive stats. Ole Miss is second in the nation in total offense. Ole Miss gave Alabama everything they could handle last weekend and nearly knocked off the mighty conference favorites. It is doubtful the Lane Train is even equipped with breaks.

The pick: Arkansas 44, Ole Miss 27

No. 1 Clemson (-27) at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech is facing a big number at home against the perpetually most over-hyped team in college football. Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins, who served one season as director of player personnel for Saban at Alabama, has laid a solid foundation with playmaker Jeff Sims at quarterback.

The pick: Clemson 36, Georgia Tech 17

BONUS

Boston College at No. 23 Virginia Tech (-13): Boston College is another trendy upset pick. Lost in the fact that Virginia Tech gave up 56 points to a talented North Carolina team last week is the 45 points the Hokies put up on the road.

The pick: Virginia Tech 40, Boston College 20

Last week: 4-1 straight up; 3-2 ATS
Season: 9-1 straight up; 6-4 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

Alabama’s top investment banking firm Frazer Lanier adds to its ranks

(Wikicommons, J. Tuggle/Flickr, ALFA/Flickr, YHN)

Alabama’s largest and most active investment banking firm has added two new bankers to its team.

The Frazer Lanier Company, Incorporated announced that David Langham and Lance Hyche have joined the firm.

“David and Lance have established themselves as very effective and successful investment bankers,” noted John Mazyck, a partner at Frazer Lanier, in a release from the firm. “They bring a host of meaningful, complementary relationships to our firm.”

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Langham brings 12 years of public finance experience. He previously served as lead banker for a Mobile firm where he focused on the areas of general obligation, water and sewer revenue, gas revenue, boards of education, college and university, and public-private partnerships.

Hyche has been in the investment banking industry since 2012. Prior to that, he spent 14 years working in public education advocacy and media relations, and he has developed extensive knowledge in the areas of state and local government affairs. His area of focus will include general obligation, water and sewer revenue, and public education financings.

“David’s home base of Mobile gives us a physical presence in South Alabama, and he will be the only investment banker in Alabama to actually call Mobile home,” partner Jason Grubbs added. “Lance will join the Birmingham office and work across the State.”

RELATED: Alabama’s top investment banking firm a partner in growing the state — ‘We often feel like we’re truly helping the smaller communities’

Frazer Lanier is a Montgomery-based investment banking firm that owns the largest market share of investment banking business in the state, according to Thomson Reuters. In 2020, it has already closed 64 in-state deals equating to a 48% market share.

With Grubbs managing the company’s Birmingham office, the firm also covers North Alabama out of a Florence office and maintains a presence in West Alabama, Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Louisiana and Florida.

Founded as a public finance company in 1976 by Rod Frazer and Clifford Lanier, corporate finance now makes up a significant portion of its business, according to Mazyck.

The Frazer Lanier Company has been involved in some major economic development projects across Alabama. For example, Hunt Refining Company, the largest private employer in Tuscaloosa County, has spent well over $1 billion building out its refinery with financing obtained through The Frazer Lanier Company. The companies closed a $612 million deal just last year.

The firm has helped finance large capital projects in manufacturing, research and other sectors across Alabama counting a “who’s who” list of Alabama employers as clients.

Yet, Mazyck outlined to Yellowhammer News earlier this year that public financing, particularly in the state’s smaller communities, will remain at the core of the firm’s business.

“Those communities really need us,” concluded Mazyck. “We often feel like we’re truly helping the smaller communities. We really pride ourselves on our working with the smaller places, the infrequent issuers, because we really know we are helping them. And they make a decision based on character.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

NASA, Boeing set to conclude SLS testing – ‘The beginning of the next era of human spaceflight’

(NASA/Twitter)

NASA and Boeing are in the final days of testing on the core stage of Space Launch System (SLS), the rocket which will carry humans back to the Moon and beyond.

The entire SLS program is being managed from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

John Honeycutt, SLS program manager for NASA, confirmed the project’s progress during a conference call on Tuesday.

“Despite having to deal with the pandemic, SLS has made significant progress in 2020 on all the rockets that we need for the first three Artemis missions to send astronauts to the Moon,” detailed Honeycutt.

NASA’s Artemis program has three missions planned for lunar exploration, the first of which is set to launch late next year.

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“Artemis I is set to launch in a little over a year in November 2021,” Honeycutt stated. “All of the parts for the SLS rocket for Artemis I, except for the core stage, are at Kennedy Space Center in Florida being prepared for launch of Artemis I.”

SLS’s core stage is currently in the last phase of testing at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

“The big item within the program that we are making good progress toward is of course the 212-foot tall core stage,” said Honeycutt. “It’s the brand-new development in the program, and it is critical for Artemis I. It is ready for the last two series of an eight-test series planned for the Green Run, along with the Artemis I flight software.”

The Green Run is the name given to the complex set of tests performed over a period of months which confirm the functioning of the vehicle’s systems. The flight software is being tested in a laboratory at Marshall Space Flight Center.

One of the remaining tests in the Green Run will be performed later this month. Called the wet rehearsal, it will involve loading 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and 196,000 gallons of liquid oxygen into the fuel tanks to verify their integrity.

The final test is a hot fire of the engines for more than eight minutes, the amount of time they will fire during the first mission.

John Shannon, vice president and SLS program manager at Boeing, explained that the extensive testing is necessary based on the complex design of the core stage.

“The SLS is really the brains of the first propulsion part of the vehicle,” Shannon outlined. “So all of the avionics, the flight computers, the systems to control the vehicle are inside that core stage itself.”

Testing has gone as planned, according to Shannon.

“The design has held together extremely well,” he said. “We have not really had any surprises in the testing we did at Michoud to translating it in the vertical and putting it through all of its paces at Stennis. Our anticipation right now is that, barring any unforeseen issues, that we would load the vehicle on the barge. Right now, our schedule is that we would ship it to Kennedy on January 14.”

For the Artemis I mission, SLS will send the Orion spacecraft 280,000 miles from Earth, which is farther than any other spacecraft designed for human occupancy has ever traveled.

Generating the immense power necessary for such a trip are Aerojet Rocketdyne engines, four RS-25 engines for the core stage and the RL-10 engines used for the upper stage.

“This will be the first time that we are firing four of these [RS-25] engines together,” outlined Jim Maser, senior vice president for Space Business at Aerojet Rocketdyne.

When completed, SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built, generating 8.8 million pounds of thrust at launch. Achieving 15% greater thrust at launch than the historic Saturn V, SLS is the only rocket powerful enough to carry the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in a single launch.

Maser believes the heritage of the engines used for SLS, having powered more than two dozen previous space flights, provides the team with a confidence which allows them to focus more clearly on some of the more unique aspects of SLS.

SLS will have three times the capability of any other existing space vehicle, according to Maser, with the Green Run testing phase serving as a monumental step for America’s space program.

“This Green Run is really the beginning of the next era of human spaceflight going back beyond low Earth orbit to sustainable Moon and Mars,” Maser advised.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

, and 3 weeks ago

College football power rankings: Bama holds steady; Gators fall out

(Pixabay, YHN)

The slow-motion reveal of a college football season is well underway. It has been more than six weeks since some teams have taken the field, and we have learned a little more about those teams with the passing of each Saturday.

It has become obvious which players took their offseason development seriously (see: Mac Jones) and which teams appear to have bypassed offseason workouts (see: LSU).

This week sees the most variance among the rankings of our experts as they vote on the cumulative Yellowhammer Power Poll.

Here is where things stand:

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Zack Shaw

1. Clemson
2. Georgia
3. Alabama

4. Ohio State
5. Notre Dame
6. Penn State
7. Texas A&M
8. BYU

The lowdown: Defense appears to be in short supply early in the 2020 season. Clemson and Georgia rise to the top of the rankings because of their ability to slow down opponents in addition to putting up points themselves.

Paul Shashy

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Clemson
4. Notre Dame
5. Ohio State
6. North Carolina
7. Penn State
8. Oklahoma State

The lowdown: Hurricane Delta made yesterday’s games a little more interesting with time changes and soaked fields. Clemson looked incredibly strong in their win over a Top 25 Miami. The week’s most exciting storyline was Saban vs. Kiffin, which was an unusually close game until the fourth quarter when Alabama pulled away. Once again, quarterback Mac Jones continues an outside quest for a Heisman with over 400 yards passing.

Tim Howe

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Ohio State
4. Clemson
5. North Carolina
6. Tennessee
7. Notre Dame
8. Auburn

The lowdown: Saturday was Lane Kiffin’s Super Bowl. The Crimson Tide survived and can now focus fully on Georgia. Be careful drawing any conclusions from that game. North Carolina ran for 399 yards on the ground. That is a winning formula in any conference.

Yellowhammer’s power rankings are determined by the combined votes of our experts. Their individual votes are noted above.

3 weeks ago

Around the SEC: Mac Jones on fire; 3 SEC teams in the playoff?

(@AlabamaFTBL/Twitter, Alabama Football/Facebook, YHN)

It is hard to believe that the SEC’s grip on college football could have gotten any tighter than it has been the past 15 years. But that is exactly what has happened with two power conferences yet to even begin their seasons and lackluster football being played everywhere else.

As Week 3 in the SEC kicks off, there is no shortage of big games and storylines to watch.

Mac Jones putting up historic numbers

ESPN’s Brad Edwards said this week that Jones’ early season numbers compare favorably to those of Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, with the Bama offense with Jones under center virtually unchanged from previous years.

Jones is currently the top-ranked quarterback in all of college football in the categories of passing efficiency and yards per pass attempt.

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Looking at only downfield throws since the start of the 2019 season, Jones has had the most yards after catch, with 5.6 yards per pass attempt. For a comparison, Tua is second with 5.5 yards per pass attempt.

Jones has completed 58% of his passes on attempts of 25 yards or more. That is first in college football since the beginning of 2019. He is second to only Burrow in touchdowns downfield, with six.

Edwards called the Tide’s passing game “uncontainable.”

Ahead of Saturday’s game against Ole Miss, game analyst Todd McShay offered his own praise of Jones on “SEC Now.”

“Watching him through a couple games, he’s getting the ball out quickly, he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s not going to run but he can move inside the pocket and I love his poise,” said McShay. “I think that is what has gotten him to this point, and I think that is why Alabama has a legitimate chance to win a national championship with this guy at quarterback.”

Tennessee vs. Georgia

Georgia is a 12.5-point favorite heading into today’s game against Tennessee. The Bulldogs carry an eight-game win streak, which is tied with Notre Dame for the longest current win streak in FBS.

Kirby Smart’s squad has won each of its last three meetings against the Vols by an average margin of 32 points per game.

Although, one college football analyst is predicting a much tighter game.

The SEC Network’s Jordan Rodgers said, “Neither Georgia nor Tennessee will score more than 20 points.”

Keys to stopping Mississippi State’s offense

Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik outlined his keys to stopping Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense during an appearance on “SEC Now” on Friday.

Chizik faced off against Leach during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. At the time, Chizik served as Texas’ defensive coordinator while Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech.

“The genius in [Leach’s offense] is that it is so simple, that he lets defensive coordinators think they have to do all these different things and they screw it up,” remarked Chizik.

He credited Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom for his winning game plan last week, saying Odom committed to doing very few things and letting his defense play.

“It’s not about guru-ing everything up,” Chizik concluded. “It’s about letting your players do what they do best. That’s how you defend this offense.”

Three SEC teams in the playoff?

If there was ever a year for the SEC to occupy 75% of the spots in the college football playoff, this would be the year.

The Big 12 and the Pac-12 have essentially eliminated themselves from contention, with the Big 12 having done so on the field and the Pac-12 having done so off the field.

In the ACC, this year’s Clemson team looks to be the least talented version of itself in several years, while Miami and Notre Dame look good, not great. It is easy to imagine each of those teams having a minimum of one loss by season’s end.

Ohio State has yet to take the field but returns talent more on par with that of its SEC counterparts. And then there is the fact that the Big Ten has revamped the conference schedule in a way which would appear to be favorable to a Buckeyes undefeated season.

So, Ohio State occupying one of the playoff spots is reasonable to assume.

That leaves the SEC.

According to ESPN analytics, the SEC has three teams with a 35% or better chance to go at least 9-1 through the regular season: Alabama (58%), Georgia (44%) and Florida (35%).

The same analytics are showing that Georgia’s chance of reaching the playoff has increased from 25% to 45% over the past two weeks.

The key will be for each of those teams to stay clean except for when they play each other. Today, Florida needs to take care of business against a desperate Texas A&M team and Georgia needs to hold off a resurgent Tennessee team.

Undoubtedly a long-shot scenario, but weirder things have happened in 2020.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 weeks ago

College football picks: Auburn rebounds; A top-5 team goes down

(Cat Wofford/Auburn Athletics, Alabama Athletics/Contributed, YHN)

It is easy to make assumptions about what we think is going to happen based on what we have seen before. This action has a name — it is called availability. The idea is that something is easily available for us to envision based on that prior experience – even if circumstances are different.

People fall into the availability trap all the time in politics and business.

Another place availability finds victims is in college football.

Many had penciled Oklahoma into the playoff before the season started. Sight unseen, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler was assumed to be going to New York City for the Heisman ceremony. Maybe that still happens. But if it does, it will be because of what he does on the field rather than on what the school’s other quarterbacks have done in the past.

The same trap could be set for another top team this week.

Let’s get to the picks.

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THE BASICS

No. 2 Alabama (-24) at Ole Miss: Mac Jones is a top three quarterback in the country so far this season. The Tide have college football’s best wide receiving unit — again. Ole Miss has been frisky on offense, but terrible on defense. How many points does Nick Saban want to score?

The pick: Alabama 42, Ole Miss 20

Arkansas at No. 13 Auburn (-13.5): Auburn comes off its loss to Georgia, which applied relentless defensive pressure on quarterback Bo Nix as well as some new math for its 20% spectator capacity at Sanford Stadium. If the Auburn offensive line can give Nix just a little bit of time, the plays will be there downfield against Arkansas.

The pick: Auburn 28, Arkansas 14

BUYER BEWARE

No. 7 Miami at No. 1 Clemson (-14): Clemson’s defense gave up 101 yards rushing last week to Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong. Miami’s significantly more dynamic quarterback, D’Eriq King, gets his shot on Saturday. This is Dabo Swinney’s least talented roster in years.

The pick: Miami 36, Clemson 30

No. 19 Virginia Tech at No. 8 North Carolina (-5): You blink and all of a sudden North Carolina is the eighth-ranked team in the country. And this was after the Heels barely escaped last week against a much less-talented Boston College team. It has been that kind of year. Mack Brown probably only has another season or two left in his second tenure in Chapel Hill.

The pick: North Carolina 33, Virginia Tech 24

BONUS

UNC Charlotte (-3) at North Texas: UNC Charlotte had a chunk of its season shut down because of a COVID outbreak. Head coach Will Healy’s star is rising among the coaching ranks.

The pick: Charlotte 37, North Texas 30

Last week: 5-0 straight up; 3-2 ATS

RELATED: Around the SEC — Has Saban kept Kiffin’s number in his phone? Plus, playing the $75 million game

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 weeks ago

Around the SEC: Has Saban kept Kiffin’s number in his phone? Plus, playing the $75 million game

(@AggiesFootball/Twitter, South Carolina Gamecocks/YouTube, @OleMissFB/Twitter, YHN)

SEC programs invest heavily in their coaches, and this Saturday, fans get to enjoy the payoff when Nick Saban takes his Crimson Tide to Oxford to take on Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels.

They are but two of the many coaches in the conference who contribute to its rich character.

There is no shortage of coaching storylines this week.

The $75 million game in College Station

It has been nearly three years since Jimbo Fisher put his Christmas tree to the curb in Tallahassee and subsequently signed a guaranteed 10-year, $75 million deal to coach the Texas A&M Aggies.

Coming off of a 52-24 drubbing in Tuscaloosa, murmurs of unrest are beginning to rumble through the SEC.

The Aggies are 18-10 under Fisher in a little more than two full seasons, with a 10-8 conference record. In its most recent meetings against SEC West foes Alabama, LSU and Auburn, Texas A&M has lost three times by a combined score of 130-51.

Not exactly the record the Aggies were hoping for with $60 million remaining on Fisher’s deal.

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A sure sign in the SEC that the heat is getting turned up is when the jokes start rolling in from observers and fans. That is exactly what happened yesterday after Fisher was asked at his weekly press conference to cite progress his program has made.

Fisher’s team hosts the No. 4 Florida Gators this weekend. A win may signal a sure sign of progress, while a loss will provide even more fodder for SEC fanbases.

The Muschamp doctrine

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp is probably just fine with Fisher being under the microscope this week. Otherwise, more attention may fall onto Muschamp’s fourth quarter offensive philosophy.

Last week versus Florida, down 24 points with 15 minutes remaining and facing a 4th and 2, Muschamp elected to kick a 46-yard field goal.

Later in the fourth quarter, down two touchdowns, South Carolina embarked on an 18-play, 74-yard drive which siphoned more than seven minutes off the clock and ended on a fourth-down incompletion with 0:48 left in the game.

The week prior, his team down seven to Tennessee with three minutes remaining, Muschamp chose to kick a field goal to make it 31-27  in favor of the Vols. The Gamecocks never got the ball back.

Unstoppable

The Lane Train is picking up speed just like the villain in Tony Scott’s action-thriller movie.

At his Monday press conference, Kiffin was asked about his former boss at Alabama no less than a half-dozen times.

While complimentary of Saban and the Alabama program, Kiffin did say that the two men are not regular texting buddies.

“That’s not really his wheelhouse,” explained Kiffin. “Not really sending out texts once in a while just checking on you.”

While the national media has taken it upon themselves to explore the relationship between Kiffin and Saban, a grand total of zero questions about Kiffin were directed to the Crimson Tide head coach at his own weekly press conference. The question of whether Saban has kept Kiffin’s number in his phone remains unanswered.

Saban did offer praise of Kiffin during his opening statement.

“I think Lane has done an outstanding job,” he remarked. “The players are playing hard.”

The Tide are currently a 24-point favorite in the game set to kick off at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

, and 4 weeks ago

College football power rankings — Tide tightens grip on top spot

(Pixabay, YHN)

Staying at an elite level in any field for 14 years is a difficult task. Human nature gets in the way. Focus drifts. Energy wanes. Complacency sets in.

Not for Nick Saban. Merely two games into his 14th season as Crimson Tide head coach, it appears Saban has assembled as good a team as any in his tenure. That is not good news for the rest of college football.

The Tide occupy the top spot in this week’s Yellowhammer College Football Power Rankings.

Yellowhammer’s power rankings are determined by the combined votes of our experts. Their individual votes are noted below.

Here is where things stand:

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Paul Shashy’s ballot

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Clemson
4. Florida
5. Notre Dame
6. Ohio State
7. Miami
8. Penn State

The lowdown: Crisp and beautiful fall weather set the tone yesterday for some great football. Auburn was thumped in Athens by a Georgia team that looked much better than they did the previous week. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones showed serious passing ability this weekend, which is why Alabama continues to claim the number one spot. Miami versus Clemson will be the marquee matchup this upcoming weekend and will most likely decide the ACC.

Zack Shaw’s ballot

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Florida
4. Ohio State
5. Georgia
6. Miami
7. Notre Dame
8. Penn State

The lowdown: The team to watch this year might be the Florida Gators. Dan Mullen’s team was a trendy pick to win the SEC East in the preseason, and they look poised to make that happen. The Gators have some of last season’s LSU in them…that is scary for everyone else. The Florida defense is not elite, but the Gator offense is going to score a ton of points on a weekly basis.

Tim Howe’s ballot

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Florida
4. Ohio State
5. Clemson
6. Miami
7. Auburn
8. North Carolina

The lowdown: Alabama and Georgia have the two best wins so far in this young season. That does not mean they are in the same class. In fact, it does not appear anyone else is in the Tide’s class in 2020. The college football world is waiting on Ohio State to begin its season on October 24 to see if it has some potential to challenge Nick Saban’s squad.

4 weeks ago

College football picks — Welcome home, Bama; A quieter, gentler Athens?

(College Football Playoff/Facebook)

Optimism and hope still reign for many teams entering the second week of the SEC season. Week two is typically when teams see their biggest leaps in improvement.

Nick Saban was predictably upset by some aspects of his team’s play in a dominant win over Missouri, a victory which some say showed the Tide is clearly the best team in college football.

The retooled Auburn offense takes the field for the second time this week when the Tigers visit the Georgia Bulldogs. Will Chad Morris’ group shift into a higher gear in its second outing? One thing it will not have to contend with is a hostile crowd. Georgia athletic officials have said they will limit capacity to between 20% and 25% in a stadium which normally holds around 93,000.

Here are some picks.

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THE BASICS

No. 13 Texas A&M at No. 2 Alabama (-18): The Tide’s speed and athleticism on defense is reminiscent of the early 2000s Miami teams and rivals that of any of Saban’s best units. Jimbo Fisher, the Aggies’ $75 million man, has a track record of holding back the first week in anticipation of the huge second-game matchup. At least that is what Aggie fans hope, otherwise they may start asking for a refund.

The pick: Alabama 31, Texas A&M 17

No. 7 Auburn at No. 4 Georgia (-7.5): Georgia still cannot solve its quarterback riddle. One thing we did solve was the mystery around how Kirby Smart was going to dip and wear a mask at the same time. His solution was to not wear a mask, at all (which drove this guy crazy). The question this time is can Georgia run the ball well enough against a revamped Auburn front to limit the number of plays Morris gets to call?

The pick: Georgia 24, Auburn 21

BUYER BEWARE

South Carolina at No. 3 Florida (-18): The Gators are such a well-coached team. On the other hand, with his team down seven last week, with three minutes remaining in the game, Will Muschamp decided to kick a field goal to make it 31-27 Tennessee. The Gamecocks never got the ball back. Overlooked in that game was the fact that South Carolina’s offense looked decent for the first time in years.

The pick: Florida 44, South Carolina 30

Virginia at No. 1 Clemson (-28.5): Another night game at only a fraction of stadium capacity. Bronco Mendenhall has an undermanned, physical team. It will be interesting to see if he can exploit a few matchups against a Clemson roster with several holes in it.

The pick: Clemson 29, Virginia 16

BONUS

Arkansas State at Coastal Carolina: This game is for the battle of Kansas. After Arkansas State’s win against Kansas State, and Coastal’s win at Kansas, the winner takes home the Governor’s Cup normally given to the victor in the Sunflower Showdown.

The pick: Coastal Carolina 39, Arkansas State 30

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Sherrie Lemier-Potts is a 2020 Woman of Impact

Sherrie Lemier-Potts freely admits that she prefers to love through acts of service. So it is no surprise that the mother of three and accomplished corporate officer has an impeccable record of service to her state, her community and those around her.

It was during her nearly two-and-a-half decades at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, as senior vice president, chief financial officer, treasurer and president of the government division, that Lemier-Potts realized serving people was what really motivates her.

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The difficult problems and tasks accompanying her position were something she enjoyed.

“I guess I always had a drive to succeed and to do what was right,” she remarked to Yellowhammer News. “Complex problems and pressure situations didn’t scare me, they motivated me. It was where I always found my drive. In my early years as an accountant you wouldn’t believe how much pleasure I would get by balancing a Statement of Changes in Financial Position.”

She wrote them out by hand with the aid of a 10-key calculator and 18-column spreadsheet.

“And it was glorious when it balanced,” she remarked.

In 1992, the company’s chief actuary, Terry Kellogg, who later went on to become CEO of the company, offered some advice that she never forgot.

“He said, ‘Sherrie, those numbers on that piece of paper are people,’” recalled Lemier-Potts.

That was when a light went off inside her head.

“No matter how many income statements and balance sheets I prepared, if I didn’t remember that the income on those statements represented individuals insurance premiums and the expenses are the claims we pay to the hospital when they get sick, I’m not doing true justice to my job and the customers we serve,” she stated. “So I had found glory in another place: people. And it really did change my perspective on everything I did.”

Lemier-Potts ascended the corporate ladder and held many different positions, but the incentive was always the same.

“During my career, I was able to serve the millions of people in Alabama on the private side of insurance, the millions of people on Medicare in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, the thousands of people we served on Medicaid in northern Alabama, the tens of thousands we served at the VA in Tennessee and the numerous other Medicare Plans,” she outlined. “I was the luckiest person in the world because I got to serve.”

Asked to offer some of the guiding principles she carried with her throughout her career, Lemier-Potts cited integrity, supporting bosses and championing employees.

Yet, one thing guided her more than any others.

“First and foremost is my faith,” she stated. “I know the Lord put me in all of the jobs I had at BCBS. Terry Kellogg and Phillip Pope just thought they were making those decisions alone. I prayed for my employees, my bosses and my company every night before I would go to bed, then in the car on the way to work. Shoot, I still pray for Tim Vines and BCBS every day. But many days those drive-in prayers just made my smile bigger. I would be lying if I said there were some days I could have gotten along without it.”

As for her emphasis on maintaining integrity, it was a character trait passed down to her.

“My dad taught me that one,” said Lemier-Potts. “He told me no one could ever take it away from me. I could only willing give it up myself. He is, at the age of 89, still the wisest man I know.”

Lemier-Potts charitable and philanthropic endeavors have long been a part of her service to the community.

It began when she became a member of the board of the Salvation Army, and it has become a part of who she is.

“I had the opportunity while at BCBS to serve on many boards,” she explained. “That’s where I became a board member of the Salvation Army over 12 years ago and serve as its Chairman today. I can only explain my attachment to that board by the organizations own motto: Doing the most good. I have never seen a more sacrificial staff as the army’s, as well as my fellow board members. And I am proud to serve with all of them. My husband, Al and I ring the bell together at Christmas and it always brings me such joy. We dress up like Santa and his elf. We have so much fun and we collect a lot of money for the army.”

She is also a director for HEAL, Inc. (Healthy Eating Active Living) which empowers children to prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and associated health problems through a physician education curriculum.

“Being able to change the trajectory of a young person’s life through good nutrition and exercise is amazing,” observed Lemier-Potts.

Once again, Lemier-Potts credits her parents for having installed in her the value of service, particulary for the underserved population.

“My parents raised me in a loving home that always just gave,” she said. “My mom taught beauty school in Hueytown for 45 years, until two months before she died at the age of 79, because she was giving of herself and her testimony to the ladies in Hueytown. My dad, the same way. One day he didn’t think I was watching but I was. I saw him give this man a car who needed it. I don’t mean to sound trite, but I come from a long line of givers. And its not just money. Many organizations need your time as well as your money.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Sherrie Lemier-Potts a 2020 Woman of Impact.

Watch the full interview here.

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through October 2. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

, and 1 month ago

College football power rankings: Bama remains No. 1; Auburn sneaking up

(Pixabay, YHN)

Even Gary Danielson sounded good yesterday. That is how badly college football fans were craving a return to the field.

The next several days will be about assessing what happened. We start with this week’s power rankings, which are determined by the combined votes of our experts. Their individual votes can be seen with an explanation of their rankings.

Here is where we are after week one of SEC play:

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Zack Shaw

1. Clemson: Clemson had a week off. After seeing all of the SEC play, it looks like only Alabama is in their neighborhood right now.

2. Alabama: The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. The final score doesn’t tell you how much better Alabama was than Missouri. The Tide has a few things to clean up before playing Texas A&M, and I expect that they will.

3. Ohio State: Arguably the most talented team in the country, the Buckeyes will be a handful once their season kicks off. We are just going to have to wait a few weeks until that happens.

4. Florida: The Gators put together a performance in Oxford that had to make Steve Spurrier smile. QB Kyle Trask threw for over 400 yards and 6 TDs en route to 51 points. Florida did give up quite a few yards and points, but still managed to win by multiple scores.

5. Miami: Through three games the Hurricanes have rolled over their opponents. Miami has a talented, disruptive defensive line and an explosive offense. D’eriq King and his teammates have a week off before a huge test versus Clemson in two weeks.

6. Georgia: It was a brutal start for the Bulldogs in Fayetteville. Most things that could go wrong did go wrong in the first half for Georgia. A quarterback change for the Bulldogs, and an awakening by the defense, eventually led to a very comfortable victory over Arkansas.

7. Auburn: It was a tale of two halves. In the first 30 minutes Kentucky dominated play even though they trailed by one point after throwing an interception on the Auburn one yard line. In the second half, AU held Kentucky to only about 120 yards and managed to outscore the Wildcats 21-6 in order to pull away in the fourth quarter.

8. Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish did not have a game this week, but they did look impressive in their first two victories of 2020. Notre Dame will have plenty of opportunities to move up in the rankings over the course of the season.

Paul Shashy

1. Alabama: Alabama performed well against a horrible Missouri team. Najee, Waddle and company had a great game, and Mac Jones’ arm looked good as he delivered a solid performance. I’m keeping Alabama at no. 1.

2. Clemson: Even though they had an off week, it‘s clear that Clemon’s offense will be a force to be reckoned with. Their quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) and running back (Travis Etienne) will lead the nation in yards passing and rushing.

3. Ohio State: Bumping them down a spot because they do not play until October. I believe they’ll still have a place in the playoff.

4. Georgia: They struggled at first but QB Stetson Bennett saved the day. They rocketed up my rankings to the number 4 spot. Florida vs. Georgia will decide the East winner.

5. Texas A&M: Barely beating cupcake Vandy gives me pause for concern. Therefore, they get bumped down. I still believe this is the year Jimbo Fisher gets his shot. They go to Auburn and Alabama, which is rough, but I think they’ll win one of the two.

6. Notre Dame: Notre Dame is one of the more experienced teams in college football this year; that’s why they hold the sixth spot. As usual, they have a much easier schedule than most other teams in my top 8. Notre Dame vs. Clemson in November will be one of the great games of the year.

7. Auburn: Honestly, Auburn looked pretty good against a stingy Kentucky team. Bo Nix threw for over 280 yards on an above-average SEC defense. He’ll be a key to Auburn’s success.

8. Florida: The Gators handled themselves well versus Lane Kiffin’s high-powered offense. But, their defense is going to need improvement.

Tim Howe

1. Alabama: Most talented roster. No weaknesses. The only things standing between Bama and another SEC championship are two-and-a-half months worth of COVID tests.

2. Ohio State: After this glorious Saturday in college football, can you imagine if the Big Ten was still sitting out the season?

3. Clemson: Dabo’s Tigers get back in action this week against Virginia.

4. Florida: Such a well-coached team. They are going to be fun to watch this year.

5. Georgia: Kirby’s Dawgs have been a top-5 team without an explosive offense before – or pretty much ever – so they settle in here, for now.

6. Auburn: Chad Morris has already proven to be the welcome addition everyone thought he would be. The feel of next week’s game against Georgia will be so much different than usual, with both teams still trying to make early season improvements.

7. Texas A&M: The Aggies get a bit of a pass this week because it is likely they have been spending the last three weeks doing Bama prep. Look for a more tuned-up version of Jimbo Fisher’s team this week against the Tide.

8. Texas: If Texas can play a little defense, the Big 12 is there for the taking.

1 month ago

Bama vs. Missouri — 3 takeaways

(Alabama football/Twitter)

The Alabama Crimson Tide beat Missouri in its 2020 opening game, coasting to a 38-19 win. The Tide’s trip to Columbia mainly wielded dominance even though head coach Nick Saban will undoubtedly find a few things about which to be unhappy.

Here are a three of our takeaways:

Alabama is without peer in 2020. Saban’s squad looked sharp, deep and like the most talented roster in the country. ESPN game reporter and NFL draft expert Todd McShay said he has twelve Bama players with “draftable grades.” There is no phase of the Tide’s game that does not look elite. Meanwhile, the defending champion LSU Tigers have reverted back to their pre-2019 existence. Clemson is trying to get by as a two-man football team. Oklahoma lost to a Kansas State team which had lost to Arkansas State. And then there is Kirby Smart who cannot seem to solve Georgia’s quarterback riddle.

ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer said on Saturday, “The Big 12 and the SEC are a lot more open than we think.” We are not sure what he means. The only things between Alabama and an SEC championship are two months of COVID-19 tests.

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Mac Jones belongs in the top tier of quarterbacks in college football. Everyone will talk about Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello’s day throwing for 623 yards worth of crossing routes and bubble screens. (Side note: We saw the Coach O-coached teams we all knew and loved on Saturday.) That was not the most impressive quarterback performance of the day. We went on record early as Mac Jones fans, outlining before the season that the Tide could win the national championship with him under center. It feels like that was an embarrassing understatement. There was one sequence late in the second quarter which showed where Jones is living as a quarterback. Brian Robinson dropped an easy, well-thrown touchdown pass. On the very next play, Jones dropped in a perfect pass over Jaylen Waddle’s shoulder for a touchdown. Throwing for 239 yards in the first half, Jones was accurate, on time and in-rhythm before an early exit with the game well in-hand. He is dialed in and as good as any quarterback in college football.

Bama’s defensive speed and athleticism is as good as it has ever been. Daniel Wright, Josh Jobe, Patrick Surtain, Christian Harris, Will Anderson and a healthy Dylan Moses. There has not been a group this athletic, maybe ever. Tide fans, appreciate what your team is fielding on defense this year.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

College football picks — SEC week 1 and more

(College Football Playoff/Facebook)

The Season of Sankey officially gets underway today. The SEC takes the field for the first time this fall as a result of conference commissioner Greg Sankey’s well-planned approach to playing football amid COVID-19 conditions.

During the last two weeks, a parade of conferences have backtracked on plans to cancel their seasons and put in place schedules set to kick off beginning next month. If only they had followed one simple rule: be more like Sankey.

No doubt the season will be unusual. Expect the unexpected. And, as always, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Here are a few picks.

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THE BASICS

No. 2 Alabama (-29) at Missouri: The Crimson Tide have the fewest non-COVID questions of any team in the country. They also have the most talented roster. Missouri will have a tough time scoring while Nick Saban gets to pick his team’s score.

The pick: Alabama 41, Missouri 9

No. 4 Georgia (-28) at Arkansas: Not a lot of intrigue here, either. The D’Wan Mathis era begins. Georgia wins. Maybe the only real question is: how will Kirby Smart handle dipping and wearing a mask at the same time?

The pick: Georgia 34, Arkansas 7

No. 5 Florida (-14) at Ole Miss: Everyone loves Lane. We get it. But there is a difference in these rosters. Through rain, sleet or snow — or direct deposit — Kiffin will recruit better talent to Oxford in the coming years. Right now, Florida is a markedly better team top-to-bottom.

The pick: Florida 52, Ole Miss 20

No. 8 Auburn (-6.5) at Kentucky: Everyone and their momma is taking Kentucky and the points in this game, not to mention the number of people picking the outright upset. Is it bowl game fatigue? Is it Auburn’s losses on the defensive line? We don’t know. What we do know is that Chad Morris may be the best offensive coordinator in the country if Gus Malzahn lets him cook.

The pick: Auburn 35, Kentucky 24

BUYER BEWARE

No. 16 Tennessee (-3.5) at South Carolina: This is a “the barely proven head coach got a raise the week before playing the first game” pick. Plus, South Carolina finally has some actual structure on offense with the addition of Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator and a serviceable starter at quarterback in Collin Hill.

The pick: South Carolina 20, Tennessee 16

West Virginia at No. 15 Oklahoma State (-6.5): This pick breaks two important rules: 1) don’t make a pick because of a coach, and 2) be very wary of the heavily public side. Neal Brown is a rising star. Mike Gundy is something other than that. Neither team has played a game that matters yet, but they looked very different in their respective first weeks. Let’s join the crowd.

The pick: West Virginia 30, Oklahoma State 21

BONUS

Mississippi State at No. 6 LSU (-16.5): How can we not make a pick in the first-ever SEC game coached by two non-English speakers? All offseason we have heard people ponder about whether Mike Leach’s system will work in the SEC. Any system will work if you have good enough players. The Bulldogs currently do not. On the other hand, one can only imagine the carnage in Baton Rouge post-national championship. At least Coach O gave us this gem.

The pick: LSU 33, Mississippi State 16

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Out-of-state environmentalists come to Alabama with hidden money, clear agendas

(Sierra Club, Fire Drill Fridays/Facebook, @IdleNoMoreSFBay/Twitter, YHN)

Fear drove them to Montgomery.

They feared Alabama would make its own decisions on energy policy.

So in marched an army of lawyers and so-called experts representing a slew of environmental groups. They came from California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

They saw hearings at the Public Service Commission (PSC) in March as the perfect chance to explain to the people of Alabama everything they were doing wrong. Their goal was to kill natural gas and kill Alabama’s economy in the process.

There was a long list of organizations represented that week. Among them was an environmentalist organization called the Energy & Policy Institute (EPI). EPI is fairly typical of most environmentalist groups — it relies on bullying and hoodwinking of policy-makers to get what it wants. Their goal is to teach states like Alabama where it is wrong.

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Similar to other groups, EPI is based out of San Francisco, California. The interesting fact about EPI is that it does not disclose its donors.

RELATED: Sierra Club endorses Joe Biden, calls him ‘champion for climate justice’

Its donors are likely the usual suspects: the Obamas, the Clintons and Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, among many.

The Clintons have never met a fuel-burning private jet they did not like. The four engines which power DiCaprio’s super yacht burn 724 gallons of diesel fuel per hour.

The Obamas are an interesting case. They purchased a $15 million seaside mansion on Martha’s Vineyard last year. This investment would seem to run counter to their belief that global warming is going to cause a massive destruction of coastal areas.

Either way, it is easy to see why EPI would want to hide donations by hypocrite elitists like DiCaprio, the Obamas and the Clintons.

Leaders in Alabama seem to think EPI and other out-of-state groups just do not understand that we want to make our own decisions on how we run our small businesses or heat our homes during a cold winter.

“The fact that they won’t disclose their donors is the least surprising thing to me,” PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh told Yellowhammer News. “The people of Alabama are too smart to buy what these liberal California groups are selling. What they are selling is rolling blackouts and higher bills. They want to keep their donors in the dark and then keep Alabama families in the dark when the grid crashes. That’s exactly what happened when the environmentalists got their way in California.”

RELATED: Alabama leaders cite poor energy decisions as cause of California’s rolling blackouts

It does take a special kind of arrogance to leave a Manhattan high-rise and come to Alabama to lecture the citizens of this state on how they should be taking care of the earth which God created and sustains. Of all people, Alabamians know how important conservation is to their own well-being.

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation forms a $3.5 billion industry in Alabama. Alabamians grow up on land and spend far more time outdoors and have a much greater appreciation for its beauty than environmentalist groups like EPI and its mysterious donors or Hollywood elites like Jane Fonda.

Secretary of State John Merrill has undertaken an effort to solve the mystery and hold EPI accountable.

He has asserted that these environmental activists are promoting their “political agenda by threatening the economic livelihood of Alabama businesses.” Merrill has requested the group provide a clarification of its legal status, as well as disclosure of its donors.

Cavanaugh is confident EPI, Sierra Club and others will be unable to enact Green New Deal policies here.

“Alabamians are too smart to fall for that,” she concluded. “We’ll fight it every step of the way.”

They still bear watching, though. Fear is a great motivator, and they are scared senseless that Alabama might actually decide energy policy for itself.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Lisa Thomas-McMillan is a 2020 Woman of Impact

For Lisa Thomas-McMillan, it is the newness of each day that motivates her from the minute she opens her eyes.

Thomas-McMillan, founder of Drexell & Honeybee’s in Brewton, told Yellowhammer News in a recent interview that the excitement of discovering what each day holds propels her out of bed and to her restaurant as soon as she awakens before dawn.

“I don’t know what my day is going to bring,” she offered. “I don’t know what that day is going to bring to me. You don’t ever know who you are going to help and how you are going to help them.”

Helping people is something she has made her mission for a large part of her life. A donation-only restaurant, Drexell & Honeybees is a frequent deliverer of the unknowns in which Thomas-McMillan so often revels.

She recalls one day finding a note in the donation box with a message saying that Thomas-McMillan had provided meals for a family of four who had no means to do so themselves. Being unable to recall who might have fit that description in her restaurant the previous day was exactly the way she wanted it. According to her, the “beauty” of the unknown is that names and faces are less important than the simple act of service.

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Stories like that shed light on why Thomas-McMillan took up the cause of hunger and has built a model recognized across the nation as an innovative charitable solution to feeding those in need.

“People suffer from hunger in silence,” she remarked.

So she decided to do something about it.

“People know a lot more about hunger now than 20 years ago,” Thomas-McMillan explained. “It was kind of something that people didn’t talk about. Getting around town and speaking to the elderly people in my hometown I realized a lot of them were choosing between medicine and food. So I started a non-profit food bank called Carlisa, Inc. By doing that I got a chance to go out in the rural areas delivering food, but I was also learning a lot about how people were living, some of the things they were kind of missing out on in life. Over the years, I said in my mind, wouldn’t it be nice to have a place where people could just go and eat and not have to worry about paying for anything.”

It was reading about a restaurant called “Soul Food,” and started by musician Jon Bon Jovi, that got her wheels turning.

“It fascinated me that he was doing this pay it forward thing,” she remembered.

Inspired by the story, she decided she wanted to open a similar restaurant.

After presenting the concept to her husband, Freddie, the couple set in motion plans which resulted in the opening of Drexell & Honeybees.

“We wanted it to be a place where everyone could fit in and feel comfortable and know they were in a good place with good food,” Thomas-McMillan said. “We wanted also to set it up where nobody would know who paid or if they paid or how much.”

And, so, they devised a private box for donations, a key feature of the restaurant’s function.

“One thing I learned over the years in delivering food is that people might not have money but they have pride,” she said. “I knew a lot of people would not come in if their pride would be questioned. So we set it up where they keep every inch of their pride, come in and enjoy a meal and walk out just like anybody else.”

Another part of the payoff for Thomas-McMillan is seeing what happens when people and food happen at the same time.

“I love to see people enjoy food,” she said. “Food is a great, warm thing that brings people together, makes them fellowship. When you see a group of people sitting around and enjoying food, they’re fellowshipping and enjoying each other. And that’s what the restaurant is all about, bringing different people in and saying, ‘I don’t even know you, maybe, but I’m sitting around this table sitting around this table having a good meal, enjoying the food, and I’m fellowshipping with a stranger.’ It is the best feeling in the world.”

It took quite a leap by Thomas-McMillan to arrive at this point, and along the way, it was her faith which played “the biggest role,” according to her.

Facing doubts from the outside that she and Freddie could make Drexell & Honeybees work, they were undeterred. As far as they were concerned, God gave them a mission, and they were going to fulfill it.

“The good feeling, the joy deep down in your stomach that you get from doing something like this,” she pointed out. “Money can’t buy the faith or the joy or the peace of mind. Those are priceless benefits that we get from this.”

People travel from all over asking if she thinks they would be able to replicate her mission. To which she replies, they can, and all it takes is faith and a sincere desire to serve others.

“Being in service to others is the best thing you can do,” said Thomas-McMillan. “After all, we were put on earth to help each other. Serving others is the highest compliment you can pay God for Him giving you your health and strength and keeping you sustained through everything. No matter what happens, God is going to take care of you.”

This does not mean her faith has not been put to the test during her years fighting hunger.

“I didn’t think people were taking [hunger] serious enough,” explained Thomas-McMillan.

So she prayed for guidance and felt a call to walk to Montgomery — from Brewton. Her goal was to hand-deliver a letter outlining her concerns for the hungry to then-Governor Bob Riley. After walking the approximately 115 miles, that is what she did.

Still feeling unsettled, Thomas-McMillan then felt called to walk all the way to Washington, D.C. to draw attention to her cause.

She laughs now looking back at hearing people say the walk was staged.

Thomas-McMillan remembers saying, “’Are you crazy? Do you know what it would have taken to fake a 53-day walk to Washington? It would not have been worth my time [to fake it].’”

Not only did the walk to Washington gain notice, but it also allowed her to explore the depth of her own conviction to help feed the hungry.

Before she had even left the state of Alabama, someone near Tuskegee asked her how much she was getting paid to complete the walk. She thought about it for a minute, and the answer became clear.

“’You know, they couldn’t pay me to walk to Washington,'” she recalled saying. “And that’s when I realized how great this was because you could not pay me to walk to Washington. But the fact that I’m trying to help people with hunger, I would do it for nothing. Just that one question made me realize, ‘Oh, Lord, Lisa, this is pretty awesome because you couldn’t pay me to do this.’”

Her mission statement is: “Feed the Need.” And this is a calling which she believes can be applied to anything and any situation.

Serving the food line one extremely cold day in January, Thomas-McMillan overheard a couple talking about how they did not have enough money to buy an electric heater. She took it upon herself to offer them the needed funds, with the request that they bring the receipt back to her.

They brought back the receipt, and some change, but it was what happened next which had the greatest impact on Thomas-McMillan.

“The man said to the woman, ‘Boy, those youngins gonna sure be glad to see this heater when they get home,’” she recalled. “That tore me up because I didn’t know anything about the children, and I could only imagine that they were so cold that night before, and I could only see them sitting around that little heater. That’s what I mean by ‘Feed the Need.’ People have to realize that I have learned over the last few years, and I’ve known this all my life, I think I have, the more money you give away, the less money has control over your life.”

While the mystery brought by each new day inspires Thomas-McMillan, it also never disappoints.

“Every day you can go home with this special moment from being here,” she said. “You leave with a special moment from things unfolding.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Lisa Thomas-McMillan a 2020 Woman of Impact.

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through September 30. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

, and 1 month ago

College football power rankings: Bama stands ready at No. 1; Ohio State welcomed back

(Pixabay, YHN)

The big kids come back to play on Saturday. Until that happens, there is one more week of the Yellowhammer college football power rankings without the SEC having been on the field.

Yellowhammer’s rankings are determined by the combined votes of our experts. Their individual votes can be seen with an explanation of their rankings.

Here is where we are after week 3.

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Zack Shaw

1. Clemson: Clemson has badly beaten two overmatched opponents in the first two weeks. That is exactly what you expect great teams to do.

2. Alabama: Nick Saban and company deserve the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

3. Ohio State: Welcome to the party! Simply by announcing their intention to play this season, Ryan Day, Justin Fields and the Buckeyes deserve heavy consideration.

4. Oklahoma: The explosive Sooner offense and consistent success, recently, give Oklahoma the nod over the remaining teams at this point.

5. Texas: The Longhorns have one win under their belt already and are poised to add many more in 2020 led by QB Sam Ehlinger and coach Tom Herman.

6. Georgia: Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs will get their opportunity to move up on this list as the SEC kicks off this week.

7. Miami: The Hurricanes have the best resume in the country, so far. Led by explosive playmaker D’Eriq King, and a talented offense, Miami could move up this list even further if the defense improves.

8. Auburn: Gus Malzahn’s Tigers get their first chance to prove they belong in this list against Kentucky in week 1. Auburn has enough good players, will the Tigers have enough consistency?

Tim Howe

1. Alabama: Without even playing, it has become more obvious that the Alabama Crimson Tide is the best team in the country.

2. Ohio State: Complaining, threats and chest thumping was Ohio State’s reaction to ____. (Possible answers: 1) last year’s playoff loss, 2) the Big Ten cancelling its season, or 3) pretty much anything.)

3. Georgia: The D’Wan Mathis hype train picked up considerable speed this week. We are buying stock in that version of the Georgia offense.

4. Clemson: Dabo Swinney’s second team never scored against The Citadel, a team playing a four-game schedule this season.

5. Florida: Kyle Trask’s journey to become a starting quarterback on a top-5 team is not highlighted enough.

6. Texas A&M: The Aggies lost another key player to an opt-out this week. We want to believe this is the year for the Jimbo Fisher-Kellen Mond combo to break through, but we’re getting awfully anxious.

7. Texas: Same scenario in Austin as with their in-state rival…”we want to believe this is the year.” The Longhorns enjoyed a solid win against a bad team last week. Not too much else was learned.

8. Auburn: Gus Malzahn’s Tigers occupy the spot previously held by a North Carolina team which will not face an opponent between September 12 and October 3. We cannot wait to see what Chad Morris does to the Auburn offense.

Paul Shashy

1. Alabama: Game week is here! RTR. Last year was unusual because the playoff did not include Alabama. This year will be different. Alabama is reloaded and ready to roll. Linebacker Dylan Moses returning is huge, and Alabama’s defense will be back to their standard. Mac Jones, Najee Harris, Brian Robinson, and Jalen Waddle will lead the offense.

2. Clemson: Clemson will have college football’s most explosive duo in running back Travis Etienne and quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Clemson has the two best players in the ACC and one of the country’s easiest schedules; they’ll be in the playoff.

3. Ohio State: The BIG 10s sudden return has jolted projections and rankings. Look for Ohio State to be playoff contenders, especially with Justin Fields at QB.

4. Texas A&M: Texas A&M brings back nearly everyone from last year. I believe this is the year Jimbo Fisher gets his shot. They go to Auburn and Alabama, which is rough, but I think they’ll win one of the two.

5. Notre Dame: 2-0 is a good start, but they didn’t look all that strong vs. Duke. Notre Dame is one of the more experienced teams in college football this year; that’s why they hold the five spot. As usual, they have a much easier schedule than most other teams in my top 8. Notre Dame vs. Clemson in November will be one of the great games of the year.

6. Texas: They looked fine in their first game against UTEP. Texas brings back much of their talent, and I think it’s time for Tom Herman to finally get Texas back to what they once were as a powerhouse in CFB.

7. Auburn: Bo Nix is returning and should be much improved, especially considering the depth and speed at wide receiver. They should be a popular dark horse choice for the college football playoff.

8. Oklahoma: Easy cupcake game to start out, but they looked strong. Since they were stomped in the playoff last year, Oklahoma’s defense is returning eight starters. Because of this, they’ll be much improved. Oklahoma vs. Texas in October will be one of the biggest games of the year.

2 months ago

Lynne Chronister is a 2020 Woman of Impact

So many things in the world are worthy of intensive research. Yet, there are only so many resources available to make that research a reality.

That is where Lynne Chronister steps in.

A self-described “change agent,” Chronister is vice president for research and economic development at the University of South Alabama.

It is that ability to bring about change and push the boundaries of what is possible that has sustained her throughout her remarkable career.

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“I am not doing my job if I look around campus and all I see is ‘status quo,’” Chronister explained in a recent interview with Yellowhammer News. “Research, by its nature, changes our healthcare, our knowledge, how we understand and perceived cultures and creates new technology. If none of this is happening, then leadership and the necessary support are lacking. I get to see change and progress every day. And I get to share, mostly vicariously, in the successes of so many people. I am excited every time one of our researchers and scholars here at South Alabama receive a grant that will enable a new discovery or support the development of a new technology.”

For more than two and a half decades, Chronister has crafted strategic plans to execute and fund countless research projects at the University of South Alabama and beyond.

The thought of extending people beyond their knowledge base has been present throughout her journey.

“I have a picture on the wall of my office that I have carried with me every place I have been,” she noted. “It is part of the Story People series created by Brian Andreas, and it says, ‘Most people don’t know that there are angels whose only job is to make sure you don’t get too comfortable and fall asleep and miss your life.’ How can you not love a profession that always keeps you uncomfortable and awake?”

The journey which brought Chronister to such a vital position at the University of South Alabama has been a lengthy one.

She likes to say that she got into research administration “accidentally” or “sideways.”

A graduate of the University of Vermont, with an undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology, she obtained a position with the Vermont Department of Corrections in the Research and Program Evaluation Division.

“Actually, for most of my time there, I was the division,” she jokingly offered. “So they put me to work writing grant proposals and then managing the awards. It turns out, I really enjoyed the challenges and the processes involved in writing and seeking grant funding.”

There was a move to Florida, where she entered graduate school, followed by another move to Mobile where she took a position at the newly-formed Office of Sponsored Programs at the University of South Alabama. After eight years at the University of South Alabama, there were stops at Mississippi State, University of Utah, University of California-Davis, University of Washington and finally back “home,” as she termed it, to her present position in Mobile.

“I never really intended to become a research administrator and didn’t even know the profession existed,” Chronister remarked. “My plans were to be a psychiatrist, instead I went sideways into a career that has been a joy and incredibly fulfilling.”

Listed in International Who’s Who and the Who’s Who in Executives and Business, Chronister has served on national and international task forces and review boards. She has also co-edited a research administration book, “Research Administration and Management,” which is the only book of its kind available for researchers and research administrators.

She says the rewards attached to her career have been plentiful.

“There are not many professions where you have the opportunity to work with the most brilliant, driven people who make incredible discoveries and share them with the world,” Chronister stated. “I absolutely love working with researchers and scholars who are possibly doing work that will change the world or increase our quality of life through new drug development or unearthing ancient civilizations. It is so rewarding to know that sometimes you have a role in a young researchers’ success in obtaining grant funding. And to know that grant may impact our lives in the not too distant future.”

Chronister cites transparency, communication and an awareness of leadership capacity as attributes contributing to her success. In addition, persistence is an essential part of her profession.

“Research and research administration are areas that you don’t usually succeed the first time you try for funding or try finding a cure for COVID or cancer, or really any other research accomplishment,” she explained. “It is all trial and error and then eureka! So sticking with people and projects is critical.”

Chronister recalls the advice she received from two of her mentors as she ascended her profession. The advice to continue looking forward is something she took to heart and has passed on to others.

“One said to me on the first day of my first job in a leadership, management role, ‘Remember, this is the day you begin to prepare for your next position,’” said Chronister. “I remember taking slight offense, thinking that I just got this position, why would I start planning to leave? But after the initial negative reaction, I realized that what they were saying was ‘If you look forward to the next step on your career path, you will be sure to do the best job possible in your current position.’”

For women, specifically, entering the profession, she offers some wisdom previously passed on to her from one of those mentors.

“Another mentor said to me a number of times, ‘We should get over our Midwestern modesty,’” she recalled. “What she was telling me was to step up, don’t step back and wait for someone else take the lead. I have shared this advice with many women, and hopefully it has helped guide them as well as it has me.”

The road ahead for Chronister and her colleagues will continue to bring them in contact with an endless stream of problems and opportunities requiring their expertise. And that is something from which she draws significant motivation.

“Every day, interacting with our faculty and staff, I learn something new,” she said. Research administration is one of those professions that renews itself constantly so there are always new challenges and new reasons to be excited about coming to work every morning.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Lynne Chronister a 2020 Woman of Impact.

WATCH:

See the full interview here

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through September 30. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia