BRADENTON, Fla. -- There were several ESPN Junior 300 members on hand at the IMG7v7 Southeast Regional Championship this weekend on the campus of IMG Academy. The event was headlined by prospects such as quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins and Jack Allison, wide receivers Sam Bruce, Trevon Diggs, Demetris Robertson, Eli Stove and Dionte Mullins, and defensive backs Jamel Cook, K.J. Sails and Tyreke Johnson.

Bruce was one of several Miami commits in attendance and has been committed to the Hurricanes since last July. The 5-foot-8, 178-pound playmaker from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) St. Thomas Aquinas said his commitment to the Canes isn’t very solid.

Jonathan Taylor dismissed by Bama

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29
2:10
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Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor has been dismissed from the team after he was arrested again on domestic violence charges in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

"This will still need to go through the legal process, but when he was given an opportunity here, it was under strict guidelines and we made it clear there was a zero-tolerance policy," coach Nick Saban said in a statement.

The 6-foot-4, 335-pound Taylor was arrested Saturday night and charged with domestic violence third-degree assault and domestic violence third-degree criminal mischief, according to the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

According to an incident report, police officers responded to a call near Alabama's campus to speak with a woman who told police she was assaulted by her boyfriend at approximately 6 p.m. Saturday.

After speaking to the woman about an altercation that took place at her residence, officers located the suspect at the residence and spoke to him about the incident. Officers found probable cause to arrest the suspect.

The 24-year-old woman had minor injuries to her neck from the assault, according to the police report. The officer also noted in the report damage to a bedroom closet door with a hole punched in it.

Taylor was held on $1,000 bond and placed on a mandatory 12-hour domestic violence hold.

"Representing this University is a privilege that none of us can take for granted," Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said in a statement. "As I noted in my comments when the decision was made to allow Jonathan Taylor to attend the University on a football scholarship, I believe in second chances. I still do.

"However, being successful in that second chance requires responsibility and accountability. In Jonathan's situation, the University and the Department of Athletics set forth very clear standards of accountability and expectations of conduct. Jonathan was afforded a chance to successfully overcome the difficulties that resulted in his departure from the University of Georgia. Unfortunately, it appears that he was unable to do so, in spite of extensive efforts to assist him."

University spokeswoman Deborah Lane said Sunday that Taylor has been referred to judicial affairs.

Saban and Battle both said Taylor warranted a second chance when he signed in January as part of the Crimson Tide's 2015 class. On signing day, Saban called it a "university decision" and said it was determined "that he was the kind of guy that deserved a second chance."

Taylor had been kicked off the Georgia Bulldogs


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Bama's risky decision backfires

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29
12:42
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When defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor enrolled at Alabama in January, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said he was the "kind of guy that deserved a second chance."

Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said: "Our coaches and I feel he is worthy of a second chance at completing his college football career."

After Taylor was arrested on domestic violence charges Saturday night, Alabama now has egg on its face.

When Taylor was admitted to Alabama, Saban, Battle and the university's administration were fully aware that he was a two-time loser at Georgia before Bulldogs coach Mark Richt kicked him off the team. Taylor was arrested twice in five months last year for allegedly double-cashing meal-reimbursement checks from the UGA athletic department, and then, worse, allegedly choking and striking his girlfriend with a closed fist during an altercation in his dorm room.

Now, Taylor is a three-time loser. He was arrested in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Saturday night on charges of domestic violence third-degree assault and domestic violence third-degree criminal mischief following an altercation with his girlfriend. According to Tuscaloosa police, Taylor's 24-year-old girlfriend had minor injuries to her neck. Police also found a bedroom closet door with a hole punched in it.


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NEW ORLEANS -- When you have some of the best defensive linemen in the nation in attendance at an event like the New Orleans Opening regional, you expect a lot of great one-on-one battles.

And nothing makes for better footage than watching a dominating defensive lineman go to work. Fortunately, high profile prospects like Alabama commitment Raekwon Davis and Edward Oliver did not disappoint at Saturday’s camp.


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[+] EnlargeJonathan Taylor
Cliff Welch/Icon SMI Jonathan Taylor was being held on $1,000 bond and was placed on a mandatory 12-hour domestic violence hold.

Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, who was dismissed from the Georgia football team last year after being arrested on a charge of felony aggravated assault and family violence, has been arrested again on domestic violence charges in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The 6-foot-4, 335-pound Taylor was arrested Saturday night and charged with domestic violence third-degree assault and domestic violence third-degree criminal mischief, according to the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

According to an incident report, police officers responded to a call near Alabama's campus to speak with a woman who told police she was assaulted by her boyfriend at approximately 6 p.m. on Saturday.

After speaking to the accuser about an altercation that took place at her residence, officers located the suspect at the the residence and spoke to him about the incident. Officers found probable cause to arrest the suspect.

The 24-year-old accuser had minor injuries to her neck from the assault, according to the police report. The officer also noted in the report damage to a bedroom closet door with a hole punched in it.


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NEW ORLEANS -- At 6-foot-7 and 314 pounds, Alabama defensive tackle commitment Raekwon Davis towered over the competition at Saturday's Opening Regional at Joe Brown Park in New Orleans. He also loomed large over his peers with his play.

Davis, who is from Meridian (Mississippi) High School and ranks as the nation's No. 243 player, earned an invitation to The Opening finals, which will be held from July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Davis took a little while to get going during drills, but by the time the one-on-ones arrived, he performed admirably, winning repetitions at defensive tackle, defensive end and even offensive tackle.


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Alabama defensive back Geno Smith was arrested and charged with driving under the influence early Saturday morning, according to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office website.

It marks the second such charge for Smith, a senior from Atlanta who was arrested in August 2013 and subsequently suspended for the opening game that season.

Smith is expected to compete for a starting spot at safety this season with both starters from last year's squad gone.

Smith started six games and finished fifth on the team in tackles (56) last season. He's started a total of eight games in his career at Alabama, dating back to his freshman year when he was in the starting lineup for Alabama's SEC Championship Game victory over Georgia.

Alabama is expected to hold its fifth practice of the spring Saturday afternoon. A-Day, the final scrimmage of spring, is set for April 18.


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On defense, the front seven needs a good secondary just like the secondary needs a good front seven. It’s a team effort. Earlier today, we broke down the SEC’s best front-seven defenders, and there were some good ones. But now it’s time to take a look at the back end.

Whether it’s pulling down interceptions, breaking up passes or wreaking havoc in the backfield, this group can do it all. One look at this list and SEC quarterbacks should be concerned heading into the 2015 season. Good luck trying to throw against some of these guys.

So without further ado, here are the league’s top defensive backs, listed in alphabetical order:

Tony Conner, S, Ole Miss, Jr.: With Cody Prewitt moving on, it might have made sense to move Conner back to a more natural safety role, but the coaches love him at the nickelback or “Husky” position, where he was named second-team All-SEC by the AP last year. Conner is more physical than most defensive backs, which makes him great in run support. He led the Rebels last year with nine tackles for loss. But he still has the ability to cover, too. Most forget that on his first college play, he came down with an interception.

[+] EnlargeVernon Hargreaves
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsVernon Hargreaves III became one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC from the moment he walked on the Florida campus.

Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida, Jr.: There’s not a better cornerback in the SEC and there might not be a better one in the country. Hargreaves has finished among the conference leaders in passes broken up the last two seasons, and that’s with most quarterbacks opting not to throw in his direction. The All-SEC first-team selection will likely get more of that same treatment this fall, but it won’t be easy with Jalen Tabor emerging at the other cornerback spot and Brian Poole (see below) manning the nickelback position.

Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn, Jr.: Auburn’s secondary took a lot of heat for its awful play late last season and rightfully so, but without Jones, it could’ve been much worse. The junior finished with 12 pass break-ups, one shy of the SEC lead, and was second in the conference with six interceptions. Given the lack of a pass rush, those numbers are remarkable. This season, it should be easier for Jones with Will Muschamp as the new defensive coordinator and top pass-rusher Carl Lawson returning from injury.

Jalen Mills, S, LSU, Sr.: It shouldn’t come as a shock that LSU has arguably the league’s best safety, but it was a mild surprise when Mills opted to return for his senior year. Sure, 2014 was a down year for Mills, who finished with just one interception and no sacks, but the talent was still there. Some have already tabbed him as a first-round pick in 2016. For now, the former cornerback-turned-safety will be asked to take on a bigger role in the LSU secondary with the departures of Jalen Collins and Ronald Martin.

Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee, Jr.: Sutton emerged on the scene as a freshman, doing a little bit of everything for the Volunteers’ defense, and he followed that up with a sensational sophomore campaign. The former three-star recruit started all 13 games, finished tied for the SEC lead with 13 pass break-ups and returned a punt for a touchdown in the victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt. If Sutton continues on the path he’s on now, it won’t be long before he’s considered one of the best defensive backs in college football.

Five more to watch

There's only one way to get over last season: reps, reps and more reps.

And thankfully for Alabama's defensive backs, there are plenty to go around this spring with top cornerback Cyrus Jones out with a hip injury and reserve corner Anthony Averett now experimenting at wide receiver. Meanwhile, both starting safeties from last year's squad, Landon Collins and Nick Perry, are off preparing for the NFL draft.

 What coach Nick Saban says he wants is competition, and that's exactly what he'll get as he prepares to restructure a secondary that allowed 16 passes of 20-plus yards against Auburn, Missouri and Ohio State to end last season, more than double its previous average of 2.45 such plays per game.

"I want guys to compete to be the best," Saban told reporters in Tuscaloosa this week. "I don’t want them to feel like ‘Oh it’s my turn to play now because I’ve been sitting behind these guys for a while' and I want to see a lot of energy and enthusiasm and intensity in the way they compete. Those are the kind of guys we want to play with."

That current cast of characters includes veterans Eddie Jackson, Bradley Sylve, Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey at cornerback. Geno Smith, Maurice Smith, Hootie Jones and Ronnie Harrison are the top candidates at safety.

Saban said, "If you're going to be a starter, you have to act like a starter and you have to play like one." But one such former starter, Jackson, has seen his share of ups and downs. The rising junior started as a freshman, tore his ACL the following spring and somehow made it back to the starting lineup by Game 2 of last season. But in that three-game stretch where Alabama allowed big play after big play, it was Jackson who was often the victim of getting beat over the top.

"Eddie's got to improve, in my opinion, as all players do," Saban said. "[We] probably gave up too many big plays last year, and that's something we've got to improve on. You've got to believe, trust in the technique that you're being taught and go out there and try and execute ... and I don't think we did that last year enough in the secondary. That's something that I think we need to make a big improvement on for next year."

Helping that cause is new assistant Mel Tucker, who went from running the Chicago Bears' defense as its coordinator last year to coaching Alabama's defensive backs this spring.

Saban, who has plenty of familiarity with Tucker having employed him as a grad assistant at Michigan State and then as DB coach at LSU, said, "Mel's a really good coach."

"He knows the system, he knows a lot of the adjustments," Saban said. "Obviously, his experience in the NFL with some of the things that he’s done since that time are things that may be good additions and adjustments for what might help us systematically. I think he’s done a really, really good job with the players, and I think the players have responded very well to him."

Best of the SEC: Front seven

March, 27, 2015
Mar 27
11:10
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OK, so we've gone over the fun and flashy offensive skill guys who put folks in the seats, and we've talked about the big uglies who protect those valuable commodities. Now, it's time to talk about the guys up front on the other side who want to make their offensive counterparts miserable.

As we continue to look at the best players in the SEC at different positions, we're checking out the SEC's best front-seven members. This league has always hung its hat on great defensive line play, and this season shouldn't be any different. And those linebackers ain't so bad either.

Here are the top players in the front seven in alphabetical order:

Defensive line

Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, So.

Tennessee had no problem playing a lot of freshmen last season, and it's a good thing the coaches decided to put Barnett on the field. The 6-foot-3, 268-pound punishing pass-rusher dominated up front for most of the 2014 season, finishing the year tied for fourth in the SEC in sacks (11) and second in tackles for loss (20.5). He set record-breaking numbers for a freshman at Tennessee, and the scary thing is he'll be older and wiser in 2015.

[+] EnlargeGarrett
Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsTexas A&M's Myles Garrett posted 11.5 sacks as a freshman, but only three of them came in SEC play.

Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M, So.

Another fabulous freshman, Garrett led the Aggies in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (14). He also had 53 tackles and 10 quarterback hurries. However, there is a bit of a knock on Garrett and that's the fact he only had three sacks in conference play. That's a legitimate gripe, but if you go back and watch tape, Garrett missed a handful of sacks in SEC play. It's not like he took plays off. He was still a valuable force off the edge for A&M, but he didn't always finish what he started. Expect that to change from the physical freak.

Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss, Jr.

Defensive tackle isn't a glamorous position, but it is very important for any defense to be successful. Nkemdiche didn't have flashy stats last season (he only had two sacks and four tackles for loss), but it was tough to find a more disruptive interior lineman in 2014. The ultra athletic Nkemdiche flew around opposing backfields and directed a lot of plays to others. That's what makes him so special. He might not make the play, but he'll make sure someone does by forcing the offense to change direction, and he collapses the pocket with ease.

A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama, Jr.

The future NFL defensive lineman can play both nose guard and defensive end in Alabama's 3-4 defensive scheme. He's another guy who didn't wow you with his stats last season, but he was incredibly disruptive up front. He only had 6.5 tackles for loss last season, but had 49 tackles and really started to kick things into gear during the final stretch of the season. Robinson's ability to play multiple positions up front makes him that much more valuable for Alabama.

Linebacker

Kentrell Brothers, Missouri, RSr.

Brothers led Missouri and ranked second in the SEC in total tackles (122) last season, averaging 8.7 tackles per game. He also tied for second in the league with 64 solo stops. The Will linebacker was even better in conference play, averaging 9.8 tackles per game. Brothers also had eight or more tackles in eight games last year and hit double-digit tackle numbers in six of those games. Brothers makes sure he's in or around every play, as he's totaled nearly 200 tackles in the past two seasons combined.

Carl Lawson, LB/DE, Auburn, RSo.

He might have missed all of the 2014 season with an ACL injury, but Lawson has a chance to be a very special player in Auburn's new Will Muschamp-coached defense. Especially when you think about him playing that hybrid linebacker/defensive end position that Muschamp covets. As a freshman, Lawson registered 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Lawson, who was the nation's No. 2 defensive end coming out of high school in 2013, has to be excited after watching film of Muschamp's last hybrid star Dante Fowler Jr., who had 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss at Florida last season.

Reggie Ragland, Alabama, Sr.

The All-SEC selection could have dipped out early for the NFL, but decided to come back to Tuscaloosa, which is great news for the Crimson Tide. Ragland made a ton of plays all over the field for the Tide last season, ranking second on the team with 95 tackles. Forty-five of his tackles were solo, and he also had 10.5 tackles for loss. Ragland is the kind of linebacker who really challenges the offense to direct plays away from him, and he can cover so much ground with his speed and athleticism.

More to watch

NEW ORLEANS -- Many said the absolutely loaded 2014 recruiting class in Louisiana would never be matched. Somebody forgot to tell that to the players in 2016 class. The Bayou State is again stacked, and many of those national recruits will be on display at Saturday’s Nike Opening regional at Joe Brown Park. More than 20 players ranked in the ESPN Junior 300 will be in attendance, including nine of the top 20 players in Louisiana.

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Unique perks of being a coach

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26
1:32
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[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsSouth Carolina's Steve Spurrier has seen incredible growth in college coaches' contracts since his Duke days.

Before the Head Ball Coach moniker had taken hold and before his Hall of Fame coaching career had taken flight, Steve Spurrier once left a $30,000 raise sitting on the table.

That was more than 25 years ago when he was at Duke, where Spurrier was making around $75,000 in base salary when he was hired as head coach in 1987.

At the time, Spurrier's head-coaching counterpart at North Carolina was Mack Brown, who was making substantially more money than Spurrier was. So after the Blue Devils won seven games in 1988, and Spurrier won the first of two straight ACC Coach of the Year awards, he asked then-Duke athletic director Tom Butters if a bump might be in order. Butters knew what a commodity he had in Spurrier and offered to give him another $30,000, but only if Spurrier would agree to stay at Duke for an extended period of time.

"I never signed it and ended up going to Florida the next year," recalled Spurrier, whose 1989 Duke team won the ACC championship. "That was a lot of money in those days, too."

Fast-forward to the present, and Spurrier could pocket an extra $100,000 as South Carolina's coach for simply making the Capital One Bowl or even the Outback Bowl. A 10-win season would mean $100,000, and that total goes up to $200,000 for an 11-win season and $300,000 for a 12-win season.


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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It’s a terrible cliche, but we’re going to have to let this thing play out.

Alabama’s quarterback competition, despite our incessant need for more information and more insight, is, for the most part, unknowable. That is, unless your name is Nick Saban or Lane Kiffin. And even then, their patience far exceeds the general public’s.

[+] EnlargeJake Coker
Brynn Anderson/AP PhotoJake Coker is more confident in his second spring at Alabama, but don't expect the Crimson Tide QB job to be decided any time soon.

Former Florida State transfer Jake Coker seems to be more confident, Saban has said.

Stud freshman Blake Barnett seems to have great leadership qualities, Saban said as well.

But are they frontrunners to replace Blake Sims, who threw for the most yards in a single season in school history last year? If not, where do they rank in relation to the other candidates at the position: Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Alec Morris?

Maybe we’ll get a clearer picture come A-Day when the final scrimmage of spring will be open to everyone, but for now it’s hard to tell.

The only thing we do know is that the staff has changed the way it looks at the position this year.

“We’ve tried to make it a little easier with what we’re doing at that position so that they don’t have the burden as some of the guys in the past have had so that the inexperienced players can develop a little more quickly,” Saban said.

While it’s unclear whether that means a trimmed-down playbook or fewer calls made at the line of scrimmage, it does add an extra layer of intrigue to the competition, seemingly opening the door for youngsters like Barnett and Cornwell, a redshirt freshman.

But at the same time it might be a relief to someone like Coker, too, considering his struggles a year ago learning a new offense. He was the more prototypical fit with a stronger arm and more ideal size than Sims, but Sims ultimately showed more comfort running the offense and won the job early on in the season.

When Coker spoke to the media prior to the Allstate Sugar Bowl in January, he said he had made strides in practice and during spot duty late in games.

“I’ve gotten better I feel like in all areas of playing quarterback, but especially as far as learning this offense and getting more fluid and on time,” Coker said.

Center Ryan Kelly, who spoke at the start of spring practice, said he’s seen a difference in Coker, too.

“He’s obviously more mature, obviously, being a fifth-year guy,” Kelly said. “You’ve seen the in and outs of college football, and I think he’s done a great job stepping into a bigger leadership role. Last year, being his first year, it’s just hard to step into a role like that when you don’t really know a lot of guys. Now that he’s had a little bit of time to meet everybody and kind of hang out and build people’s trust up, I think he’s going to have a good year.”

Of course, that’s only one player’s opinion, and we likely won’t hear from Coker or any of the other quarterbacks at all this spring. They’ll fight to win the job first, and then they’ll live to tell us about it.

For now, though, we’re left to read the tea leaves. Pretty soon we’ll have scrimmages, which may or may not include passing statistics.

If you’re looking for a starter to be named this spring, don’t hold your breath. It’s a competition, but another cliche you hear often in sports -- a sense of urgency -- isn’t part of the equation.

You'll find very few people who will doubt Kenyan Drake's natural athleticism. He's fast, agile and elusive. He's everything you'd want in a playmaker on the field, and Alabama now has him working all over this spring. Drake continues to take snaps at receiver during practice, which is nothing new, but it is a cause for concern for defenses around the SEC.

Remember what he did to Florida last year on one play? Yeah, he went 87 yards for a touchdown by torching a defensive back on a go route. The kid can fly, and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin appears to be trying to find every advantage Drake has in his offense.

You can read more about Alabama's Wednesday practice and watch Nick Saban's news conference at AL.com.

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Alabama Dismisses Jonathan Taylor
Alex Scarborough discusses the Crimson Tide's decision to dismiss defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor after he was arrested on domestic violence charges in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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