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Alabama practice report: Injury updates, notes ahead of first spring scrimmage

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football took the field inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on a cold Saturday afternoon for its first spring scrimmage.

This is the eighth practice of spring. We’re only a few more away from Alabama’s A-Day spring game on April 21.

What we saw

  • There were plenty of injured players who will be held out of the scrimmage. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (knee), cornerback Trevon Diggs (ankle), running back Josh Jacobs (ankle), right tackle Matt Womack (foot), offensive lineman Kendall Randolph (foot) and defensive back Keaton Anderson (shoulder) were all riding stationary bikes and wearing black, non-contact jerseys.
  • Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis (ankle) participated in drills.
  • The first-team offensive line had Jonah Williams at left tackle, Lester Cotton at left guard, Ross Pierschbacher at center, Jedrick Wills at right guard and Alex Leatherwood at right tackle. The right side of this offensive line will have a lot power in the run game.
  • With Diggs out, Shyheim Carter and Saivion Smith were the top two cornerbacks. Deionte Thompson and Xavier McKinney were the safeties. When Alabama moved to nickel, Jared Mayden came on at corner and Carter moved to star.
  • Tua Tagovailoa threw some during the viewing period. He dropped a nice dime to tight end Irv Smith Jr.
  • Jalen Hurts showed some nice touch on some of his deep passes. It looks like Hurts and Mac Jones will get the majority of the reps with Tagovailoa still limited to a degree.

What’s next for Alabama football?

  • Alabama coach Nick Saban will speak to reporters following the scrimmage.

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Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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Report: Texas A&M continues to build impressive secondary, lands 4-star commit Demani Richardson

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Jimbo Fisher has gotten off to a strong start in his 2019 recruiting class. And it’s pretty clear he’s building Texas A&M like he built at Florida State. With elite defensive backs.

After already having commitments from 5-star safety Brian Williams and 4-star cornerback Bobby Wolfe, the Aggies landed a commitment from 4-star safety Demani Richardson, according to Brian Perroni of 247Sports. 

Richardson is the No. 6 safety in the country and hails from Waxahachie, Texas. He listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. Richardson picked the Aggies despite having offers from the likes of Texas, Ohio State and Alabama.

Texas A&M now has 7 2019 commitments, with Williams being the lone 5-star, and Richardosn and Wolfe being 2 of the 3 4-star commitments.

With the addition of Richardson, the Aggies now have the No. 4 class in the 2019 cycle and the No. 2 class in the SEC, behind only Georgia.

As for the 2018 recruiting cycle, Fisher and Texas A&M had the No. 17 class in the country, which was good for sixth among SEC teams. But it was still an impressive finish, as the Aggies were in the 30s for much of January.

Fisher will make his debut with the Aggies on Sept. 1 when Texas A&M hosts Northwestern State. The next week, the Aggies take on Clemson at home.

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Connor Riley – SEC Country

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Report: 2 more names emerge for vacancy on Alabama coaching staff

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Even though the college football season ended over a month ago, Nick Saban is still looking to fill out his Alabama coaching staff. And on Sunday, 2 names emerged as possible candidates for the opening on the defensive line. The position became open after Karl Dunbar left to become the defensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

According to a report from Matt Zenitz of Al.com, former FAU head coach Charlie Partridge has interviewed for the job. Zenitz also added that Lance Thompson, who is currently the defensive line coach at South Carolina, could fill the role.

Thompson has experience with Saban, as he’s worked with the Alabama coach on three seperate occasions, twice at Alabama and once while Saban was at LSU. Thompson has spent the last two seasons at South Carolina with Will Muschamp.

Partridge spent the past season at Pittsburgh. He does have SEC experience as he was the defensive line coach at Arkansas in 2013. He was also the defensive line coach at Wisconsin from 2008-12, where he groomed the likes of JJ Watt.

The Alabama coaching staff has seen plenty of turnover this offseason, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left to become the head coach at Tennessee. Defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley left to join the Oakland Raiders. And on the offensive side of the ball, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll left to become the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator. Mike Locksley will be the new offensive coordinator and while Tosh Lupoi will be the defensive coordinator. Both coaches were on Alabama’s staff last season.

Alabama went 13-1 last season and won the national championship, as the Crimson Tide defeated Georgia in the national title game, 26-23. Alabama opens the 2018 season on Sept. 1 when it takes on Louisville in Orlando, Fla.

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Connor Riley – SEC Country

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Report: Georgia QB Jacob Eason expected to transfer to Pac-12 school

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Georgia’s season came to an end on Monday night. And it appears that the Georgia career of quarterback Jacob Eason could have ended as well.

Eason is expected to transfer to Washington, barring a last-second change of heart, according to a report from Adam Jude of the Seattle Times. Eason started the first game of the season for Georgia, but he sustained a left knee injury in the first quarter of that game and was replaced by Jake Fromm.

Even when Eason was healthy enough to return, Georgia coach Kirby Smart stuck with Fromm. Fromm started the final 14 games of the season.

After Georgia’s 26-23 loss to Alabama on Monday night, Eason declined to comment on his future, per Seth Emerson of DawgNation.

Eason is from Lake Stevens, Wash., which is about 35 miles northeast of Husky Stadium. He was a 5-star quarterback in the Class of 2016. Georgia has signed another 5-star quarterback, Justin Fields, in the 2018 class. Fields already has enrolled at Georgia.

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Connor Riley – SEC Country

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Auburn releases official statement regarding ESPN report about the football program

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Auburn has released a statement responding to ESPN’s report that a former player had an Auburn staff member take a final exam for them.

Below is the full statement, which Auburn again denies the statement.

“The player for which we are conducting an investigation is not a member of the current team and was not a member of the team at the time of the allegation. He is a former player who came back to school to complete his degree. As you know from our statement he categorically denies the claim.

The allegation made in the ESPN story is false based on our review to date. The person making the accusation was a part-time employee placed on administrative leave in late August. She is making claims not supported by facts, and based on what ESPN told us this morning, before the story came out, she keeps changing her story. Neither she, her attorney, nor our investigation have produced anything to support her claims. Neither has ESPN.

It should also be noted that the accuser has signed thirty-eight bi-monthly time sheets during her part-time employment stating that she has no knowledge or has not witnessed or assisted a student-athlete in participating in academic dishonesty. She has also signed compliance forms indicating no knowledge of wrongdoing.

We have no reason to think the allegation about the former student is true.”

Auburn is also involved in controversies involving the softball and men’s basketball program.

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Connor Riley – SEC Country

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Alabama football: Practice report and injury update as FSU game week approaches

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even though the calendar said Friday, the University of Alabama football team treated practice like it was Tuesday, which is usually the toughest of the week.

The team was in full pads as some of the heat returned after players got a break from the humidity on Thursday. It was 90 degrees Friday under partly-cloudy skies, with the heat index at 96.

What we saw

  • Sophomore Trevon Diggs appeared to be splitting reps with senior Levi Wallace at left cornerback during a nickel-team drill. Senior Anthony Averett was at right corner, with junior Ronnie Harrison and senior Hootie Jones at safety, and junior Minkah Fitzpatrick at star. The linebackers were senior Rashaan Evans and senior Shaun Dion Hamilton.
  • Sophomore running back Josh Jacobs (hamstring) is still limited and the team will continue to have a cautious approach. “He’s making progress in his rehab, but you know these hamstring injuries are very sensitive, and if you push a guy too hard, you can set him back,” Saban said on Thursday evening. “We’re going to be cautious in how we progress him moving forward.”
  • Outside of the quarterbacks, no one wore a black no-contact jersey.
  • After Saban said that freshman Jedrick Wills and sophomore Matt Womack are “in competition” at right tackle, Womack worked with the first team during the two observation periods.
  • The second-team offensive line remained, from left to right, freshman Alex Leatherwood, junior Dallas Warmack, sophomore Brandon Kennedy, senior J.C. Hassenauer and Wills.
  • Alabama will hold its final practice before game week on Saturday afternoon. No. 1 Alabama opens the season against No. 3 Florida State at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 2.

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Christopher Walsh – SEC Country

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Report: Hugh Freeze made hundreds of calls to disassociated Ole Miss booster

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More of Hugh Freeze’s phone records were uncovered on Friday and they show that the former Ole Miss coach made hundreds of calls to booster Lee Harris, who is also named in the NCAA’s investigation.

Per USA Today’s Dan Wolken, Freeze and Harris called each other over 200 times, beginning in January of 2015 and running through the end of Freeze’s reign at Ole Miss. The phone calls continued through the NCAA’s investigation of Harris and his involvement with the school.

Freeze’s attorney does not believe that the Ole Miss coach and Harris spoke about the NCAA case, which would be a potential violation of bylaw 10.1 relating to unethical conduct.

Harris owns a restaurant in Oxford, Ms., and the NCAA has alleged that Harris provided free food and cash to Leo Lewis, who is now a linebacker at Mississippi State. Ole Miss has disputed Lewis’ claims but the NCAA, who gave Lewis immunity in the case, views him as credible witness.

Per Wolken, Harris turned over phone records that showed he had texted and called Lewis before National Signing Day 2015. Harris had previously told NCAA investigators he had not talked with Lewis.

The phone records show that a majority of the phone calls between Freeze and Harris took place in 2016 but the calls became less frequent as the NCAA’s investigation went on.

The Ole Miss’ Committee on Infractions meeting is set for Sept. 11 and Lewis, along with Freeze, is expected to be present.

Freeze resigned in July after it came out that he had called an escort service. He was replaced by Matt Luke. The Rebels open their 2017 season at home against South Alabama. Ole Miss will not go to a bowl game in 2017 as it self-imposed a ban.

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Connor Riley – SEC Country

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Alabama practice report: running back limited, how secondary is shaping up

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football continues to push through fall camp as it works toward the season opener against Florida State.

The Crimson Tide worked in full pads for its seventh workout of camp on a humid Thursday afternoon.

Injury update

  • Running back Najee Harris was limited during practice on Thursday. Harris stood near the running backs holding two footballs, but he did not participate in any drills.
  • Linebacker Jamey Mosley was back on the field, but he wore a black, non-contact jersey and did not participate in any drills.
  • Freshman linebacker VanDarius Cowan is still wearing a black, non-contact jersey.
  • Cornerback Anthony Averett was limited to start drills. He didn’t participate when Alabama’s cornerbacks worked on tackling and shedding blocks. Averett went through all the other drills, though, after not doing much during the viewing period on Wednesday night.

What we saw

  • We got our first look at the shell of Alabama’s nickel package. The first group had Trevon Diggs at left corner, Averett at right corner, Tony Brown at star (nickel defensive back), Ronnie Harrison and Minkah Fitzpatrick at the safety spots, and Shaun Dion Hamilton and Rashaan Evans as the two linebackers. Outside of Diggs, this is an experienced group. Diggs has continued to get reps with the first group, which means the coaching staff believes he can be a key player for the defense.
  • The second group was a little more cluttered. Jared Mayden was at left corner with Nigel Knott shadowing him. Levi Wallace was at the right corner spot. Hootie Jones worked at one safety spot with Deionte Thompson shadowing him. Freshman Xavier McKinney lined up at the other safety position with Keaton Anderson shadowing him. Shyheim Carter worked at star with Kyriq McDonald shadowing him. Josh McMillon and Dylan Moses worked together at one linebacker spot while Mack Wilson and Keith Holcombe were at the other one.
  • Former Alabama defensive back and return specialist Javier Arenas was spotted near the secondary.

Watch: Player interviews

Alabama running back Damien Harris:

Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans:

Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett:

Alabama offensive line drills

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Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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Day 6 Practice Report: Freshmen Ali, Epps continue to stand out for Kentucky football

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Friday, Day 6 of preseason camp, marked the Kentucky football team’s first practice in full pads, and so began the separation of players who look like players and those who are players. Reporters were not allowed to watch but did ask some of the Wildcats’ veterans who stood out.

“The receivers, Isaiah Epps and Josh Ali, both look amazing for two true freshmen,” senior linebacker Courtney Love said. He joined the early chorus of praise for Epps, a 6-3, 185-pound wideout from Oklahoma, and Ali, a 6-foot, 180-pound speedster from Florida.

Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran first mentioned that pair emerging after Tuesday’s practice — just their third in college. Starting cornerback Chris Westry piled onto the praise Friday.

“Them guys got some burners, man,” Westry said. “And that’s real good for us, for some guys to be able to come in Year 1 and make a difference.”

Kentucky is loaded with tall, powerful receivers built to win jump balls and break tackles, but if Epps and Ali can be home-run threats, that could ease the sting of losing Jeff Badet, who transferred to Oklahoma after ranking second in the SEC last season with 7 catches of 40-plus yards.

OTHER WEEK 1 CAMP STANDOUTS

Star running back Benny Snell rattled off a list of players who’ve impressed him so far.

“Definitely on defense, [linebacker] Jordan Jones. He’s doing an amazing job pass rushing and especially on the blitz,” Snell said, adding that right guard Nick Haynes and center Bunchy Stallings “are doing a great job on the line, calling out the blitzes fast so I can recognize them, helping me and Stephen [Johnson] out. And Stephen’s doing a great job, too.”

Johnson, Kentucky’s starting quarterback who is trying to deny former starter Drew Barker’s bid to win back his job, had one clear objective after last season: protect the football. He ranked second nationally in both fumbles (10) and fumbles lost (6).

“He’s making a lot of smart decisions. When there’s rushes around him, he’s starting to tuck the ball a lot more,” Snell said. “We’re definitely going to reduce the fumbles, for sure. And he’s putting the ball on the money. I’m not a quarterback, but he’s great.”

On the other side of the ball, Love said the entire first-team defense “looks great,” as does one second-stringer: Jones’ backup at weakside linebacker, Eli Brown.

“Looks phenomenal,” Love said. “He’s coming downhill, just striking guys.”

Love also offered encouraging words for both the offensive and defensive lines. The O-line, widely considered one of the best in the SEC, is “as good as everybody says they are,” Love said, and the D-line — Kentucky’s biggest question mark — could get a boost from 6-foot-4, 320-pound freshman Quinton Bohanna. “Big Q, he looks really good. He looks great.”

DOUBTS FUELING THE WILDCATS

Kentucky returns 17 starters from a team that finished tied for second in the SEC East last season. In 2016, the Wildcats beat divisional opponents Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt before upsetting one of the ACC’s best teams, rival Louisville, and Heisman winner Lamar Jackson to end the regular season. But the Wildcats were picked by the media to finish fifth in the East in 2017?

“Watch us,” offensive tackle Kyle Meadows said. “Everybody’s expecting us just to fall, just to be terrible, they doubt us so bad. Go ahead. I agree with them. It’ll motivate us even more. You guys will see for yourself. Wait until the end of camp. No predictions — we’ll take it game by game — but people are going to be shocked.”

HAYNES COMPENSATES FOR WEIGHT LOSS

SEC Country’s Joe Mussatto reported Sunday that Haynes, a starting guard who drew preseason All-SEC consideration, is in a serious battle to keep his weight up while dealing with Type 1 diabetes. Then Haynes disclosed after practice Tuesday that he’s down to about 260 pounds — far from ideal for a player at his position in the mighty SEC — although he’s hopeful he will pack on some weight before the season.

In the meantime, how is Haynes handling the trenches at a significant disadvantage?

“He has a better football IQ, his technique is better, because of his small weight,” Meadows said. “If you have better technique, you can win any block. So if he wants to be out there, be out there; he can do it if he wants.”

Added Love, who faces Haynes every day: “It kind of hurts a little bit, but he’s such a player, he can play any position — he can play tight end, I think. And let him tell it, he could play linebacker with me. Nick’s really athletic, so I don’t think it’s going to really hurt him. He just needs to get a little bit of weight back and he’s going to be the same Nick Haynes that he was, if not better.”

BOWDEN IN THE BUILDING

Kentucky’s top recruit in the 2017 class, 4-star athlete Lynn Bowden — an electric playmaker who could take some direct snaps and line up in the slot for the Wildcats — was seen walking into the football training center during Friday’s practice. Good news?

Hopefully we’ll find out soon, as a UK spokesperson said there was no immediate update on his status. Coach Mark Stoops said Sunday that Bowden was still working his way through the NCAA Clearinghouse but was expected to join the team this week.

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Kyle Tucker – SEC Country