TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- If it took calling Phil Jackson to better understand the merits of running zone versus man-to-man, he wouldn't hesitate to pick up the phone and dial. There's no room to worry about outside perception in Alabama coach Nick Saban's world. If it's going to make his football program better, he'll do it.
That's why Saban didn't hesitate to extend an invitation to former USC coach Lane Kiffin to visit Alabama. As ESPN reported and Saban confirmed, Kiffin was in Tuscaloosa on Monday, "to share ideas and exchange ideas ... [for] professional development."
And, frankly, Saban was surprised there was any reaction to Kiffin's appearance.
"Lane is a really good offensive coach, and I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for him," Saban said Tuesday. "Just to come in and brainstorm a little bit to get some professional ideas with our guys is a really positive thing."
Kiffin once was viewed as one of the pre-eminent young offensive minds in college football, but that image has been muddied in recent years. The 38-year-old coach currently is unemployed after being fired by USC in late September. He was a disappointing 28-15 in four years leading the Trojans, and that came on the heels of a one-year stint at Tennessee in which he went 7-6.
But whatever ill will exists toward Kiffin in the South and beyond, Saban was willing to overlook it. Alabama's offense, Saban surmised, could use a fresh look from Kiffin, whose pro-style scheme has many similarities with what the Tide already run under current offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
Eighteen players from the SEC made the three teams, with six making the first team. The pick that might surprise people was Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt making the first team over Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. But Prewitt had a very good season with the Rebels. He tied for first in the SEC with five interceptions in conference play, while totaling six on the season. He also defended 13 passes. Clinton-Dix, who projects as a high draft pick at the safety spot, defended six passes with two interceptions on the season.
Here are all the SEC AP All-Americans:
OT: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
OT: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
WR: Mike Evans, Texas A&M
DE: Michael Sam, Missouri
LB: C.J. Mosley, Alabama
S: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
QB: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB: Tre Mason, Auburn
OG: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
DT: Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
S: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
QB: AJ McCarron, Alabama
OT: Greg Robinson, Auburn
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn
WR: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
AP: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
CB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
QB: AJ McCarron, Alabama
RB: Jeremy Hill, LSU
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
WR: Jarvis Landry, LSU
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
OL: Justin Britt, Missouri
OL: A.J. Cann, South Carolina
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn
AP: Todd Gurley, Georgia
DL: Kony Ealy, Missouri
DL: Chris Smith, Arkansas
DL: Ego Ferguson, LSU
DL: Markus Golden, Missouri
LB: A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
LB: Avery Williamson, Kentucky
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
DB: Chris Davis, Auburn
DB: Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State
PK: Colby Delahoussaye, LSU
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
PR: Christion Jones, Alabama
KR: Christion Jones, Alabama
NEW YORK -- A tackle-machine linebacker, a tackle-busting running back and one of the most disruptive defensive tackles in the country made return appearances on The Associated Press All-America team.
The All-America teams were released Tuesday and selected by a panel of AP college football poll voters.
Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston from Florida State added All-American to his resume after a spectacular redshirt freshman season. Heisman finalists Andre Williams from Boston College and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch also made the first team. Williams joins Carey in the backfield and Lynch, the dual-threat quarterback, was chosen as an all-purpose player.
Carey, a junior, is second in the nation in rushing after leading last year, but said he thinks he's a better player now.
"I worked hard to improve my speed and strength in the offseason while keeping my speed," Carey said. "I put on 10 pounds of weight and I think that's helped my durability. I also wanted to be a better blocker away from the ball. Blocking for our quarterback and our receivers is key to our system and it's important that I do my part even when I'm not carrying the ball."
- Speaking of Texas, LSU coach Les Miles says, "Oh please, let's not kick my name around," about speculation on him leaving for Austin. His focus is on an Iowa team he's fired up to face.
- "I'm a good fit for the Tigers," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said of the Texas job talk. "That's why I signed a contract."
- What's Malzahn's first impression of Florida State? The Noles are "super fast." And that's coming from a guy who loves to put the pedal to the metal.
- Like a lot of teams around the country, Georgia isn't just facing Nebraska in the Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs must battle apathy in order to finish the season strong against the Cornhuskers.
- Grading the Gamecocks: How did South Carolina grade out on offense, defense, special teams and coaching?
- The time for rest is over for Ole Miss. "We got to get after it," Hugh Freeze says. Now it's on to the Music City Bowl against a dangerous offense in Georgia Tech.
- "Turn up! Turn up!" That's what you'll hear from Geoff Collins during practice these days. Mississippi State's defensive coordinator wants his guys to turn up the pressure.
- Oklahoma and Alabama enter bowl practice on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. How will the Tide resolve after ending the regular season on such a sour note?
No. 3-ranked Alabama's season isn't over yet. Practices and a bowl date with No. 11 Oklahoma in New Orleans remain.
For Nick Saban, who after weeks of speculation and a new contract gets to focus solely on his Crimson Tide again, the next few weeks will be valuable. Not only does finishing the season well matter, but gathering momentum into next year is important as well.
With that in mind, here are five key areas Alabama must improve upon between now and the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.
Find motivation: The Iron Bowl loss has to linger. McCarron can say all he wants that he'll root for Auburn now, but in his heart of hearts he has to be jealous. He and his teammates have to be mad. This Alabama team that was supposed to be preparing for a trip to the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena, Calif. Instead, it's forced to muster the energy to travel to New Orleans for a BCS bowl no one in Tuscaloosa wanted. Finishing the season off right should be motivation enough, but that's not always been the case. Alabama fans will remember the last Sugar Bowl. It didn't end so well, with Utah upsetting the heavily favored Tide. In their last non-championship bowl, however, Alabama throttled Michigan State at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., 49-7, on Jan, 1, 2011.
Replace Anthony Steen: Who will it be? The options to replace Steen as the right guard are numerous. Alphonse Taylor is listed as his backup, but Kellen Williams wound up starting in Steen's absence earlier in the season. Then there's Chad Lindsay, who has started three games at center and could slide over to guard. But if Alabama is truly looking ahead, it might turn to Grant Hill, who has played tackle primarily in his freshman season but came to Tuscaloosa as the top-rated offensive guard out of high school. Right tackle Austin Shepherd will return next season and there's a chance top-ranked offensive tackle Cam Robinson could step in at left tackle immediately, should Cyrus Kouandjio enter the draft. If the staff is serious about Hill playing as a sophomore, he might be better off beginning the process at guard now.
Stop the running game: It wasn't as if Alabama wasn't ready for Auburn's running game. Gus Malzahn's Tigers made no secret of their desire to move the ball on the ground against the Tide. And still, Saban and Co. couldn't stop it. Tre Mason and Nick Marshall helped Auburn to 296 yards rushing, the most allowed by Alabama since it faced Georgia Southern in 2011. In fact, Marshall's 99 rushing yards were the most by a quarterback in the Saban era at Alabama. Now, Oklahoma is not the same type of dynamic running team as Auburn, but it's not as far off as you might expect. The Sooners have demonstrated an ability to run the ball this season, averaging 235.8 yards on the ground per game, good enough for 18th in the country. For the sake of the bowl game and for the many Iron Bowls that lie ahead, Alabama has to figure out how to stop the run.
Find a quarterback: It would be unreasonable to assume that Alabama hasn't already begun looking for McCarron's replacement at quarterback. But the process that began long ago should begin in earnest during bowl practice. McCarron will continue taking reps, but at this point in his career, he doesn't need every snap to be prepared. Why not stick another quarterback in with the first team and see what they can do? Whether it's Blake Sims, Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, Parker McLeod or Luke Del Rio -- and, yes, the list of candidates is that long -- someone needs to emerge before the start of spring practice. By getting a jump start now, Alabama can go into the offseason with a plan in place.
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The Class of 2013 is in the stretch run. With just 50 days until national signing day, there are plenty of developments and questions in the lead-up to Feb. 5. From top uncommitted players to class rankings predictions, this is everything you'll need to know.
Questions to ponder
50. Who is next at Texas, and when? The choice as new Longhorns coach will be key for future classes, but the timing of the hire is also important as there are quite a few commitments targeted by other teams that are now hanging by a thread with each passing day -- dead period or not.
49. Will Maryland close with a bang? This one is simple: keep No. 15 Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) and No. 26 Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) home and it's a big bang.
We've all experienced at least one crazy, tempestuous relationship, right? It was toxic yet also sometimes thrilling beyond measure. The highs were extraordinary, and the lows miserable. There were raving arguments full of frenzied recriminations, but somehow you stayed together for a surprisingly long time. Alas, eventually, sanity prevailed and you went your separate ways.
On Jan. 6 at midnight, college football will break up with the BCS after a tumultuous 16 seasons. The sport will move on to a new relationship in 2014 with the four-team College Football Playoff. This one promises to be more stable and mature.
So as we move toward this inevitable split, how do we feel? We know this is for the best, but certainly there will be some bittersweetness to the parting.
The BCS, after all, stopped us from ending seasons the way we ended 1997, when twin unbeatens Michigan and Nebraska eyeballed each other from across the country because the old bowl system didn't allow them to settle things on the field. Simply, the BCS tried to find the best way to put the Nos. 1 and 2 teams together for a winner-take-all game, which, at the time of its creation, seemed like a great idea. While it was unquestionably an imperfect system, it gave us Texas' 41-38 win over USC in 2006, which might well be the greatest college football game ever played. It also gave us Ohio State's shocking double-overtime win over a seemingly invincible Miami squad in 2003, which has a spot on the same list.
Hey Ed...What do you make of the exodus of players from Florida?
Edward Aschoff (12:09 PM)
i know it seems like a lot (seven in only a couple of days is), but when I talked to people over there, it sounds like no one is panicking. Losing two quarterbacks stings from a depth standpoint, but Jeff Driskel should be back this spring and Will Grier will be on campus. I wouldn't be shocked if UF went after another QB. As for the linemen, only Silberman was making any sort of impact. I don't think Florida coaches are too concerned with these guys leaving, but they have to make up for it in recruiting.
Scratches (B'more, MD)
How surprised were you that AJ McCarron got 2nd in the Heisman?
Edward Aschoff (12:11 PM)
Very, actually. Hats off to him. He has had a great career at Alabama. I didn't have him on my list, but I can see why people were very high on him this year. He was one of the most efficient passers in the SEC, broke the career passing mark at Alabama and threw 26 touchdowns to five interceptions. He's a winner and I'd take him any day to lead a game-winning drive.
Rick M. (Gainesville, FL.)
Ed, with the departure of Tyler Murphy, and 6 other offensive players from the University of Florida, what is going on at UF? It seems to be more than just the normal attrition. #1 TE Kent Taylor is among the departures, and Murphy is the only real viable back up to Driskel. Just wondering what your take is.
Edward Aschoff (12:14 PM)
Taylor caught two passes in two years and couldn't get off the practice squad this year. People around there make it sound like he just wasn't invested. Murphy, that's an odd one, but it sounds like he was ready to prove that he could be a legit D-1 QB. It hurts the Gators with depth, but Grier comes in this spring, which will help and Mornhingweg is still there. I think you are getting the impression that Florida is changing the offense up. Expect more tempo and more quarterback runs.
raygordon reid ( memphis tn 38103)
question to ED ASHCHOFF AT 12.30 pm how many sec teams win bowl games
Edward Aschoff (12:16 PM)
I'm pretty sure the SEC hasn't had a losing record or been tied in bowl play since 2010 and before that it was 2005. With 10 teams in bowls I'm leaning to six or seven. I don't want to tip my hand because I'm sure Chris is reading ...
With Bama, UGA, USC, LSU, most likely A&M and Mizzo all losing their starting QB's, who is in a better spot to step up right away and reload and not have to rebuild?
Edward Aschoff (12:17 PM)
That's a good question. We all know that putting expectations on new quarterbacks doesn't always work out ... I do think that Georgia has the upper hand because a lot of talent comes back on both sides and Hutson Mason has taken some quality reps this year with Aaron Murray hurt. I think the Bulldogs have the best chance of bouncing back with a new QB.
Alabama and Texas A&M finished tied for the most selections among SEC schools with two apiece.
Senior linebacker C.J. Mosley and junior safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix represented the Tide. Mosley became the first player in the Nick Saban era at Alabama to register 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons, and Clinton-Dix, despite missing a few games while being cleared by the NCAA, racked up two interceptions and six passes defensed.
Offensive tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mike Evans were chosen from Texas A&M. Evans, at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, was nearly unstoppable. He led the SEC with 12 touchdown receptions and averaged a whopping 20.3 yards per catch. Matthews, who paved the way for the Aggies run game and protected Johnny Manziel's blind side, developed into an Outland Trophy finalist and the No. 3 NFL prospect on Scouts Inc.'s draft board.
Missouri defensive end Michael Sam also made the cut. He may have begun the season under the radar, but he didn't end that way. He finished the regular season with the most sacks in the SEC (10.5) and the most tackles for loss (18).
For the entire 2013 All-America team, click here.
Five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) is the top-ranked inside linebacker in the country and was a key target for all four of his final schools -- Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Ohio State. The Buckeyes were able to secure a commitment from the No. 12-ranked player in the country on Monday, leaving the other three schools searching for a viable replacement.
Here’s a closer look at where each school stands and where it will go next:
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Kiffin is a guest of Alabama coach Nick Saban, the source said, and will be in Tuscaloosa "to share ideas and exchange ideas and [for] professional development," the source said.
Kiffin was fired by USC athletic director Pat Haden on Sept. 29 at the team's private airport terminal in Los Angeles after returning from a 62-41 loss to Arizona State. His overall record in four years with the Trojans was 28-15.
He went 7-6 in one season at Tennessee before leaving the SEC school for USC.
Saban: Kiffin Visit For An Idea Session
2:00 PM ET Washington State Colorado State 3:30 PM ET 20 Fresno State 25 USC 5:30 PM ET Buffalo San Diego State 9:00 PM ET Tulane Louisiana-Lafayette
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State