Random thoughts and observations on a Thursday morning:
McCarron will be a part of a strong senior class of SEC quarterbacks.
*Those who thought the SEC was home to solid quarterback depth in 2012, will really like what the league has to offer at the position in 2013.
Even with Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and Tennessee's Tyler Bray moving on to the NFL, quarterback will be an area of strength for the conference next season as Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Alabama's AJ McCarron will headline a group that is also expected to include Florida's Jeff Driskel, South Carolina's Connor Shaw, Mississippi State's Tyler Russell, Ole Miss' Bo Wallace, Missouri's James Franklin and LSU's Zach Mettenberger.
Of the nine quarterbacks listed, six will be seniors in 2013, with Manziel, Driskel and Wallace serving as the underclassmen of the group.
*With so many running back/H-back/linebacker, offensive line/defensive line and defensive back/wide receiver types in the Alabama program, it will be interesting to see who practices where when spring practice rolls around in March.
*It bears repeating: The last time a non-SEC team won a national championship there wasn't even a designated BCS National Championship Game. Texas beat USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl to win the 2005 BCS crown.
*I don't think Notre Dame's defensive front seven will be the most talented group the Alabama offense will have seen this season but it will probably be the most sound from an assignment standpoint. The Irish D is reminiscent of recent Alabama defenses in that their linemen and linebackers don't miss many run fits
*With Barrett Jones winding down an Alabama career long enough to qualify for the state pension plan, a lot of the focus during spring drills will be on the center position. That said, the bigger challenge could come in trying to identify a replacement for Chance Warmack at left guard. As far as center goes, the UA coaching staff knows what it has in Ryan Kelly. They will learn a lot more about a guy like Alphonse Taylor in the offseason.
*Of all the Alabama freshmen who spent the 2012 season redshirting, defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson intrigues me the most. At 6-foot-2 and 266 pounds, he doesn't really fit the mold of a 3-4 end, but he showed enough during his first fall on campus to make his coach give consideration to playing a guy who is less than nine months removed from an ACL injury. Perhaps Tomlinson will be able to give the defensive front the boast in play making ability it needs.
*As for a redshirt freshman on offense, lineman Brandon Greene will be worth tracking in the spring. While Greene has tackle athleticism, he's also versatile enough to factor at guard.
*Am I the only one who isn't sleeping on Austin Shepherd as a potential replacement for DJ Fluker at right tackle, assuming Fluker leaves for the NFL? I get that UA recruited a junior college offensive tackle for a reason, but I don't think the addition of Leon Brown, who projects more as a left tackle, speaks to Shepherd's ability (or inability) to step in if needed.
*With Alabama back on the practice field following a three-day break for Christmas, there are two updates Crimson Tide fans need to concern themselves with and they involve the health statuses of Barrett Jones (foot) and outside linebacker Denzel Devall (knee). At this point, I'd consider Kenny Bell (leg) to be gravy.
*'Tis the season for bowl game suspensions. Not that anyone really cares, because only one of the 35 bowl games means anything. Seriously, do you think anyone outside the Alabama fan base remembers Andre Smith sitting out the 2009 Sugar bowl? Of course not. When an Alabama or Notre Dame player is ruled out for Jan. 7, then we'll have a suspension worthy of headlines.
*Arkansas running back Knile Davis announced he'll forgo his final season of eligibility to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Offensive guard Alvin Bailey, another Razorback underclassman who declared for the draft, is probably a bigger loss, though. A fourth-year junior, Bailey started every game of his Arkansas career.
*Apparently, Southeastern Conference baseball is all about the money, too. Why else would the league expand the conference tournament from 10 teams to 12?
*Despite new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's background with the 3-4, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher recently announced that the Seminoles would be sticking with the 4-3. So much for the angle of Pruitt getting out from under Nick Saban's large shadow and calling the shots, eh?
*The trip to south Florida will feel like old home week for a couple of members of the UA sports information department. Before making his way to Tuscaloosa in 2007, Jeff Purinton, UA's associate athletics director for media relations for football, handled all press operations for the Orange Bowl Committee in 2006-2007. Meanwhile, UA sports information director Doug Walker worked at Notre Dame for three years before taking over as Alabama's athletics media relations chief in 2006.
*The New Orleans Bowl attracted a crowd of 48,828 for a matchup between Louisiana-Lafayette and East Carolina. With UF struggling to sell half of its allotment of 17,500 tickets, I'm starting to think the Sugar Bowl might have a hard time exceeding that number. As for Louisville, a donation from Papa John's pizza that pushed upper level ticket prices down from $135 to $65 might be enough to help UL sell its allotment.
*Of the SEC's nine bowl teams, only three have sold out their respective ticket allotments. Alabama (BCS Championship) is the obvious choice. The other two: Ole Miss (BBVA Compass) and Vanderbilt (Music City).
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