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Little Donkey at AvondaleBricksGallery
Enjoy tapas from Little Donkey, Wine Tasting by Athens Imports, Art Exhibition Opening. $15. Friday, November 30, 5-9 p.m.
Visit us during the Avondale/Forest Park Holiday Crafts Bazaar at Avondale Bricks Gallery, 130 41st Street South in Avondale. Must be 21 for wine tasting.
Write firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or questions. Thank you for joining the Revolution in Avondale.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show has come and gone. Cinderella has been fitted for her glass slipper. The big boys set their sights on the Final Four. And yes, the snubs are crying out “Woe is me!” in full force. And like always, everyone has a case.
Probably the biggest news in the snub department is the lack of the Crimson Tide in the field of 68. Does Alabama have a reason to be upset? Absolutely. Georgia got in over the Tide – a team they beat twice in eight days. VCU got in – I don’t even have words for that one. And the darlings of Birmingham – that’s right, our little Blazers – got into the field. Did UAB deserve it over the Tide? Maybe not, but it happens.
When asked about the controversial inclusions/exclusions, tournament chairman Gene Smith gave very nice, vague, and political “non-answers.” Smith said things like “there was no one criteria that was more important” or “they were well-coached” or “we just didn’t have enough slots.”
That brings up an interesting point with the field expanding to 68 from 65 this year. Even with the three extra teams, there were still teams that “should” have gotten in that didn’t. Maybe it is just the nature of the beast – it is a very subjective beast after all.
But at the same time, you can always argue the teams whose bubbles burst left wins on the board that could have helped their cause. Alabama could have beaten Kentucky Saturday. Win and you’re in. Don’t leave it in the Committee’s hands, they’re not very friendly sometimes. Sounds easy doesn’t it…
But now that Selection Sunday is in the past, we can look forward to the future. And the future is Madness. The new look tourney begins Tuesday with the first round of the play-in games. The best part of March Madness is filling out those brackets. Getting together with a group of your friends and seeing whose bracket is the best – well, probably the least wrong would be a better way to phrase it.
So let the picking begin!
We have a Bham Weekly bracket set up on ESPN. Join in the Madness.
Click on “Create or Join a Group”
Search: Bham Weekly Challenge
Join…and enjoy. Have you picks in by Thursday. Oh, a good rule of thumb is to pick very differently from me.
There has been a lot going on in the wide world of sports over the past week. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training, and I received two fantasy baseball invites. It must mean spring really is near. And with spring, comes good, old-fashioned Spring Fever. Its catching on early this year.
Every time you turn on SportsCenter, you are faced with the latest development in the Melo Drama where will Carmelo Anthony land? Will he be a Knick, Nugget, or Net? The Drama was heightened this weekend as NBA All-Star Weekend landed in LA. The high-flying rookie sensation Blake Griffin stole much of the show, winning the Dunk Contest, as well as dazzling in the Rookie-Sophomore game and the All-Star game proper. Kobe and LeBron had a few things to say about Griffin taking over the limelight though: Kobe dropped 37 and took home the MVP while all LeBron did was record the second triple-double in All-Star history.
March Madness is heating up. As much as I love bowl season and defended it earlier this year my favorite sporting event of the season is far and away March Madness. So many games on each day plus the excitement of Cinderellas and the real possibility of an upset at any moment make the NCAA Tournament the most exciting time in sports, start-to-finish. Just this week the top four teams in the country all lost, allowing Duke to jump from No. 5 to No. 1 in just one week.
A little closer to home, the Alabama mens basketball team is quietly having a really solid and impressive season under second year head coach Anthony Grant, running away with the SEC West. And UAB sits just as quietly on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament, currently second in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardis First Four Out. UAB is third in Conference USA with a record of 19-7 (9-4 in conference play).
Unfortunately all the madness was not positive and jocular. The poisoning of the Toomers Oaks was not fan frenzy. No, it was just good, old-fashioned Off-Your-Rocker Crazy. This is not a lighthearted prank by a couple of teenagers that takes a few days or weeks to clean up. This is not a Saved By the Bell-esque rivalry where you dress up a statue or steal a mascot. This was a calculated, malicious move executed by an adult that far exceeded any sort of sane level of school spirit or fandom. It was pathetic and signifies all that is wrong with the rivalry, rather than showcase the good. It would have almost been more reasonable to tear down Jordan-Hare Stadium than attack the trees.
Before you call me a fanatic, all I mean is that Jordan-Hare can be rebuilt. While it is the home of Auburn football, Auburn football can be played elsewhere. Would it be impractical? Sure, it would be absurdly expensive. Would it be an attack on Auburn tradition? Of course. But the difference is, it would not take 130 years to rebuild. No matter how hard the people at Auburn try, or how much money the trustees can muster, it will be decades before the trees can be replaced. That is to not even mention the emotional impact.
Rolling the trees at Toomers Corner after a victory has been a tradition at Auburn for about 50 years. The Trees themselves have become a symbol of the Auburn spirit and countless memories for the fans, alumni, and students. It one of those things that makes collegiate sports great. It is traditions such as this that make the college game so special and stand out from professional sports the pageantry, the traditions, the pride.
Being a fan of college sports is supposed to be about pride in ones school, ones team, and ones self. It is supposed to be about more than just wins and losses. If you asked most Alabama fans what makes Alabama so great, wins and championships would certainly be there. But it would be more than that. You would get answers like the tradition, Denny Chimes, pride, we do things the right way, class, passion, etc. How do we lose sight of that? How does this intentionally malicious act exemplify that?
It is precisely that pride and tradition and passion that makes college football, the SEC, and Alabama and Auburn specifically, so great. There exists a personal connection and pride you can take from pulling for a team since you were old enough to know it (and usually before) and pulling for the school that you attended.
How do we let it get to this point where killing trees is the only answer for losing a game? I understand that this is a small, isolated incident by one man, who is likely less-than-stable, but it is a product of the fanaticism that precludes the rivalry. It is born out of this attitude that all that matters is winning. Look, Im the first to admit that I have a really terrible day when my team loses, but this is another extreme all together. I think it is crucial to remember that, ultimately, college football is just a game. It is a game played by 18-22 year old kids. And interestingly enough, it is never any of them that end up on the new for doing this like this. If the kids that actually play the game can understand that it is just a game, not the end of the world, and tomorrow is another day, why cant we?
My plea and hope is that Auburn fans will not try to retaliate, but rather will focus their attentions on saving the trees, as slight as the hope is, and how to move forward. Even though it does not seem like it now, this could be an opportunity for a new tradition. Either way, Auburn will continue on. Football will be played every fall. And the spirit of the Auburn family will persevere.
Top national recruit Jadaveon Clowney announced this morning on ESPN’s SportsCenter that he would be taking his talents to the University of South Carolina. Clowney is perhaps the most heralded prep star since King James himself. But while LeBron jumped straight to the Pros, Clowney had to decide which college would be lucky enough to land his talents (Sorry Miami, but South Beach was not in the cards for this “Decision”).
On Valentine’s Day – and his 18th birthday – Clowney decided to go with his heart and a mother’s love and stay close to home, stating, “My mom can come see me all the time.” Clowney also cited friends, both close to home and South Carolina signees, as another reason, singling out teammate Gerald Dixon.
Clowney chose South Carolina over finalists Alabama and Clemson. The other two teams made strong cases, particularly Clemson with a strong eleventh hour push. Clemson’s late surge is one of the reasons Clowney decided not to sign on Feb 2, National Signing Day. But ultimately, the familiarity and comfort South Carolina offered was too much. Friends and family were important, but so were the connections Clowney made with the South Carolina coaching staff.
Clowney cited two coaches in particular: “I have a real good relationship with [defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson]. But an even better one with coach [Lorenzo] Ward," Clowney said. "We got real close.”
With Clowney’s commitment, South Carolina jumps up into the top 15 on ESPNU’s class rankings. The SEC now has 7 of the Top 15, asserting its dominance and place at the head of the table in college football. Alabama missed out on Clowney but still hold down the No. 2 spot, with the signing of Cyrus Kouandjio, who verbally committed to Auburn on Signing Day, but never signed. Auburn sits one spot behind them, with a strong follow up to last year’s top 10 recruiting class and the 2011 BCS National Championship. It looks like Auburn and Alabama will continue their winning ways for years to come. We can only hope so.
There is another change in the schedule for Auburn as well; the Tigers’ bye week has been moved from the week before the Iron Bowl to the week before the Georgia game. This means Auburn will only play nine games consecutively rather than the eleven they were due to play.
The 2011 Schedule for the Tigers shapes up like this:
Sept. 3 Utah State
Sept. 10 Mississippi State
Sept. 17 at Clemson
Sept. 24 Florida Atlantic
Oct. 1 at South Carolina
Oct. 8 at Arkansas
Oct. 15 Florida
Oct. 22 at LSU
Oct. 29 Ole Miss
Nov. 12 at Georgia
Nov. 19 Samford (HC)
Nov. 26 Alabama
The Road to Repeat will not be a smooth ride for the Tigers. Breaking in a new quarterback is never easy in the SEC. The Tigers will have to do it with a target painted on their back and running the Gauntlet that is the SEC West these days. Add to that the Champs are dropping Kentucky only to pick up Florida, and 2011 promises to be an interesting year for the Tigers.
Mr. (Aaron) Rodgers can now proudly throw on his green and yellow cardigan and walk around the neighborhood of elite NFL quarterbacks. Rodgers can hold his head high and look even the most revered quarterbacks of the past. Rodgers joined the fraternity of Super Bowl winners last night. While every position and player in the NFL longs for the coveted Lombardi Trophy, no other position faces the scrutiny, nor is judged more critically based upon the presence of said trophy on his mantelpiece than the quarterback position. You can be an average quarterback statistically but be considered an elite, legendary player (a la Terry Bradshaw) if you’ve won a Super Bowl, and especially if you’ve managed to win multiple rings. On the flip side, you can be considered a really good quarterback, but fail to achieve elite status without winning the ring (a la Randall Cunnigham). Even greats like Dan Marino will always carry a stigma with them – he’ll always be the “greatest quarterback to never win a Super Bowl.” Marino would be a virtual unanimous selection for greatest quarterback ever had he won the Big One.
Nor could you ask for more from Rodgers Sunday night. Rodgers was surgical with the football, fitting the ball into windows that did not seem to exist. Though he lost leading receiver Donald Driver and CBs Charles Woodson and Sam Shields to injury, though the Steelers were able to rally and pull within one field goal of the Packers who had a 21-3 lead in the first half, though his receivers dropped six perfectly thrown balls (two of which were almost certainly touchdowns), Rodgers kept his composure and kept his team together. When it was all said and done, Rodgers had thrown for 304 yards and three touchdowns (no interceptions), and a Super Bowl MVP award – something Brett Favre never achieved. In fact, only Steve Young, Joe Montana, and Jake Delhomme (yes, that Jake Delhomme) join Rodgers in throwing for 300+ yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in a Super Bowl. But the most important stat of the night? Packers 31-Steelers 25.
Ben Roethlisberger, touted as a big game quarterback, looked decidedly ‘unclutch’ yesterday. Big Ben threw two picks, one of which was returned for a touchdown. With the game on the line, Roethlisberger was unable to rally the troops for the final charge, throwing away the ball on fourth-and-five from the Steelers own 33-yard line. Without the Steelers dominating D limiting the other team’s explosiveness, and even scoring on their own, Big Ben just got two far down to mount a comeback. He got close, but was ultimately outplayed by his counterpart.
Rodgers looked calm and cool, like he had been winning Super Bowls his whole life. He was dynamic. He was accurate. He was aggressive. He was efficient. He looked like he had the whole game mapped out ahead of time.
The same cannot be said for the Cowboys Stadium staff. 400 game ticket holders were turned away at the door by the fire marshal, claiming that they exceeded the $1 billion stadium’s capacity. But don’t feel too bad for them, they were refunded triple their money and guaranteed tickets for next year’s game.
But it would be a shame to think they traveled all the way just to miss out on Rodgers’ and the Packers’ splendid performance. Though they were decimated by injury, the team rallied together and put together a remarkable performance on the biggest single stage in sports. The Pack was able to overcome the losses of leading receiver Donald Driver, standout rookie CB Sam Shields, and Defensive Captain, and 2009 AP Defensive Player of the Year, Charles Woodson. But this is nothing new for the 2010 Packers. It seemed like every game saw another key component of their team go down for the season. The Packers managed to overcome the loss of fifteen players to Injured Reserve, including starting RB Ryan Grant and TE Jermichael Finley.
Many of the Packers, including Rodgers, cited the team’s constant perseverance through injury as a reason for their success. They dealt with it all season, so they knew what to expect. Linebacker Desmond Bishop told reporters, “That's who we are. And it's who we've been all season. If you're the next man up, you're expected to find your helmet and find a way.” That they did.
Though the losses were felt severely, the team didn’t give up and was able to persevere through to the end. The Packers now look to an offseason dedicated to get players healthy. With a great young core of talent and veterans who continue to play with youthful energy, the Packers look poised to compete and contend for Super Bowls in the years to come.
Earlier today, the nation’s number 1 rated Offensive Tackle, and number 2 overall player, Cyrus Kouandjio picked the Auburn Tigers in a bit of a surprise over favorite Alabama. Cyrus’s brother currently plays for the Crimson Tide and it was expected by most that he would end up following his footsteps.
But it didn’t appear to be so. Live on ESPN U, Cyrus announced his intentions to head a little bit further south and play against his brother, saying that he felt his heart was telling him to go to Auburn.
But the hours have continued to drag and coach Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers still have not received Kouandjio’s letter of intent yet. I’m sure there has been someone watching intently at the fax machine’s “in” tray, but no letter from the 5-star OT from Maryland has been magically transported across state lines yet.
I’m sure there will be much to say about this if it turns out Cyrus decides to go to Alabama. Many Auburn fans will be upset and angry, and maybe even accuse Alabama of tampering or paying Kouandjio for his services. There is no love lost between the two schools and much, much less between their fans. I’m sure the accusations will come flying the minute Kouandjio makes his final, official decision.
And you know what? Those accusations may very well be true. You can certainly point out numerous occasions in college football where such a thing was happened…and it is widely held that it happens almost every year. But that is not what I want to focus on. It may or may not be true. What I feel is most lost during this whole process is the fact that these kids are just that – kids. They are 17 or 18 years old. They have probably been told there whole life that they are the best and most wonderful human being on the planet; but they have almost been told that, at the very least, the rest of their life depends upon this decision. But in many cases, I’m sure they have been told that the future and well-being of their entire family rests upon their choice of college and ability to go to the NFL.
That is a lot of pressure and scrutiny. I don’t know if I can blame a kid for second-guessing and wavering. I know that my decision to go to college wasn’t made until the last minute, and I did not have to announce my decision on national television and have it picked apart by thousands, if not millions of people. So before we are so quick to jump to conclusions and point fingers, let us remember that these are kids. They will change their minds about anything on a whim. So let’s not be quite so surprised when a kid changes his mind about college. It happens to the best of us. Yes, even me.
And probably you.
There is a myriad of factors that will probably decide these decisions. From girlfriends, mothers, fathers, and high school coaches to facilities, cafeteria quality, and whether or not there is a Chik-Fil-A, there is no telling what really goes through the minds of these kids. So I’m asking for everyone to take a step back, take a deep breath and relax. We really do not know how good a class is until they get on the field anyway. So let’s be happy with the great players our team didsign and pull for them next season, and in the seasons to come.
On a day when we find ourselves sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for Punxsutawney (Sp. -5) Phil to announce his decision as to whether or not there is a 39% chance he is right about the coming of Spring (it’s coming early this year) many of the good folks in Alabama rest their hopes for the next four years upon the words of 17 and 18 year-old boys. That’s right, it’s National Signing Day.
While Punxsutawney Phil might not be the most reliable source (see: the aforementioned 39% prediction rate), it is the pageantry and suspense and build-up that make Groundhog Day so great. Much the same could be said for National Signing Day. There is something exciting and enthralling about watching these highly touted recruits pull out the hat of the school they will be attending for the next three or four years. The build-up. The suspense. The heartbreak. The elation. It is a great feeling, probably only shy of winning the National Championship and your Conference Championship, the rush of pride you get when you see your team’s name on top of the list of Best Recruiting Classes. It can really be the icing on the cake for teams coming off of great seasons – national championship seasons for Auburn and Alabama, the past two years – or it can really help a program bounce back from a disappointing year – FSU last year and Clemson this year.
Alabama continues its recruiting success under coach Nick Saban with another Top 5 class (currently at No. 3 on ESPN’s Top 25). The biggest surprise of the day for the Tide was when they were able to steal in-state talent Brent Calloway back from Auburn in the Eleventh Hour. Calloway had decommitted from the Tide about a month ago in favor of the in-state foe Tigers. But the Crimson Tide has a solid class top to bottom led by S Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, DE Xzavier Dickson, and WR Bradley Sylve. No. 1 Overall player JaDaveon Clowney, the talented DE out of South Carolina, still has Alabama on his list of potential collegiate destinations, though home team South Carolina appears to be the favorite. Overall, Alabama signed 24 players, including 10 from ESPN U’s Top 150.
Auburn currently sits at 2nd overall with a couple of signing day splashes, including the No. 1 OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Sp. -10), who picked the defending champs in a bit of a surprise over favorite Alabama, where his brother plays. The Tigers also landed in-state star S Erique Florence, picking close-by Auburn for the sunny coasts of LA and the USC Trojans. Maybe the most entertaining signee of the day was Gabe Wright, 4-star DT out of Carver High School in Columbus, GA, just 30 minutes down the road. When announcing his decision to go to Auburn, Wright put on a hat that had “Nick Who?” stitched into it. Wright stated that this was a reference to his desire and drive to replace Lombardi-winning DT Nick Fairley down on the Plains, rather than a poke at Alabama coach Nick Saban. Auburn targeted some serious needs, mostly notably the offensive line and defensive backfield. The Tigers landed the No. 1 and No. 2 Offensive Tackles, the No. 1 Center, and the No. 8 and 10 Offensive Guards to address the mass exodus of talent and experience on the offensive line. Then they went after some playmakers for the defensive backfield, easily the champs’ most glaring weakness from a year ago.
The SEC as a whole continues to dominate not only the polls and championships, but on the recruiting trail as well. There are currently 9 SEC schools in ESPN’s list of Top 25 classes, with Mississippi State and Kentucky on the cusp of breaking in. If they are able to do so, that would everyone in the conference except Vanderbilt was in the Top 25. Not too shabby.
It promises to be another great few years for the SEC and the state of Alabama if things hold. But only time will tell.
Auburn is on the short list for many of the top recruits yet to sign, including No. 1 ILB Tony Steward, No. 2 DE Ray Drew, No. 1 RB Isaiah Crowell, and No. 1 OT Cyrus Kouandjio. Crowell and Kouandjio are also considering Alabama, who unsurprisingly has another strong class under Coach Nick Saban.
The Tide currently ranks 3rd on ESPN.com Recruiting Insider’s list, behind only Florida State and Texas. Alabama has a very strong list of commits and is in serious contention to land No. 1 overall recruit DE JaDaveon Clowney from South Pointe High School in South Carolina. Clowney appears to be head and shoulders above the rest of the class.
It looks like the State of Alabama is going to continue its success into the future based upon a couple years of on the field success – the whole consecutive seasons with a Heisman and National Championship thing – plus some great incoming recruiting classes to replenish some holes left by great players leaving for the NFL Draft.
Auburn’s going to learn the hard way, just like Alabama this year, it’s not so easy to repeat. You’re going to get everyone’s best shot, week in and week out. On top of that, you’re going to have to replace some seriously key players. But only time will tell how well Auburn can weather the storm.
The ongoing recruiting season should still have lots to say about Alabama and Auburn’s futures. There should be plenty of noise made from the state in the upcoming week with National Signing Day only one week away, on February 2nd.
Okay, so there were four quarterbacks playing this weekend on Championship Sunday, but there are two that really stood out for me. While I think Aaron Rodgers is clearly the most talented quarterback of the four, and Mark Sanchez played hard and made a couple of big plays; it was “Big” Ben Roethlisberger and Jay Cutler that grabbed my attention this weekend. That is to say the attention that they grabbed is what grabbed mine. Roethlisberger played a fairly ugly, even arguably subpar game, yet gets all the credit for being a clutch quarterback who came up with the game-winning play. Cutler, on the other hand, was vilified and caught all of the blame for the loss against Rodgers and the Packers; but the surprising part was why he was singled out and by whom.
Ben Roethlisberger has garnered a reputation as a big game quarterback. He is a guy who has won 2 Super Bowls, 1 more than Peyton Manning and only 1 less than Tom Brady – pretty nice company. He led the game winning drive and threw a great pass to Santonio Holmes to win Super Bowl XLV. He has a knack for moving around in the pocket, extending plays, and making throws on the run. I’ll give you all that. Roethlisberger is a uniquely talented quarterback. He can sometimes make the ugly look beautiful. But here’s something that I think gets lost in the shuffle: Big Ben plays on a really good team and has an incredible defense behind him.
This takes a lot of the pressure off of him. If Peyton Manning, and even Tom Brady to some extent, makes a mistake, his team pretty much loses. All of the pressure and responsibility is put squarely on Peyton’s (who is basically his own offensive coordinator) and Tom’s (who is arguably the most clutch quarterback besides Joe Montana) shoulders. Here’s a fun stat for you…Big Ben’s three worst quarterback ratings in his playoff career? 2004 AFC Div. vs. the Jets – 57.8. Team Result? Win. 2010 AFC Champ. vs. the Jets – 35.5. Team Result? Win. Super XL vs. the Seahawks – 22.6. Team Result? You guessed it…Win. The Steelers win behind their defense and their running. I’m certainly not saying that Roethlisberger isn’t a good quarterback. I’m just saying let’s not put him too high up on the pedestal. I shudder to think of the incredible things that could be accomplished if Peyton Manning had the Steelers defense behind him. Let’s just say the ’72 Dolphins might just have to keep their bubbly on the shelves.
And then there’s Jay Cutler. Cutler is about as up and down as it gets. He is oft praised and even more oft maligned for his all or nothing type of play. Cutler is renowned for his great arm and ability to make throws that almost no one else on the planet could make; however, he is just as infamous for making throws that almost no one else on the planet would make…right into the arms of the other team. But Cutler didn’t actually make the headlines this weekend for his on the field performance. It was actually his conspicuous absence that drew the criticism.
Cutler attempted one series in the second half of the NFC Championship game Sunday vs. intradivision rival Green Bay. The media had plenty to say about Cutler’s demeanor on the sideline – historically boorish and whiney. Many questioned Cutler’s toughness and heart. I didn’t think any of this was very fair. Of course he’s not in a good mood. He’s sitting on the sidelines during the NFC Championship game when he could be out there helping his team. Another thing that gets lost in the shuffle is that Cutler has been on some terrible teams. He played at Vanderbilt and never missed a start, even though he was beaten up by the bullies of the SEC week in and week out. He was on the rebuilding Broncos. And he was on a Bears team behind an offensive line that led the league in sacks during the regular season (7th last season). Through all of that punishment, Cutler has missed one game. He missed it this season, after doctors did not clear him to play after suffering a concussion.
Cutler has a personality and a play style that are divisive. There are many things to love about Cutler’s game, but there is a lot to criticize too. That is not uncommon for the media. Controversy sells. So I was not surprise to see sports writers and TV analysts criticize Cutler and question his toughness. I disagreed with them, but was not surprised. What did surprise me was how many players jumped onto Twitter to criticize Cutler. In the age of instant and accessible media, it is easy to make your opinion heard; however, it is also easy to speak without knowing the full situation. It turns out Cutler had an MCL sprain, basically the same injury that kept Maurice Jones-Drew out of the final two games of the regular season, who Tweeted some critical words about Cutler (though MJD later said he was joking, and not even at Cutler’s expense). I’m not questioning Jones-Drew’s toughness, just this incessant need to offer instantaneous commentary on everything that happens.
I’m not sure if Cutler ‘could’ or ‘should’ have played. All I know is that he was hurt, his coach says it was the team’s and the doctor’s decision to keep him out, and his teammates back him. Look, criticize Cutler all you want for his propensity to throw a pick, but let’s not pick on a guy who was injured. I understand that football is a “man’s” game and that players play through pain. But a knee is pretty important. Ronnie Lott cut off a finger to keep playing (awesome…crazy, but awesome), but I doubt he would have been quite as effective if he cut off his leg.
So before we dwell on Cutler’s heart and inability to “tough it out,” let us not forget Big Ben’s shortcomings. I think I’d rather have a guy on my team who only missed one start and had the talent of Cutler than a guy like Big Ben that I feel I have to baby sit every second he’s away from the field (see: motorcycle accident and multiple sexual assault charges). But what do I know? I’m just some guy that writes about football, never played it.
On the heels of an unprecedented era of success for one state, and a conference as a whole, this year’s draft class if full of talent from the state of Alabama and the SEC. Some are calling this the most talent-laden group to leave the SEC in history, and I’m certainly not going to argue with them. 1st round draft picks, transfers, players leaving early. You name it, this year’s class has it. And they all seem to be big time talents.
Alabama and Auburn are right up front with 5 projected first round picks collectively. And in a sign of the times, all of them are leaving school a year early. Heisman winner Cam Newton, Heisman winner Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Nick Fairley, and Marcell Dareus are all project first-rounders by ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay.
According to Kiper’s mock draft, the Auburn and Alabama will produce 2 of the top players drafted, with Auburn DT Nick Fairley going to the Carolina Panthers with the first overall pick and Alabama DE Marcell Dareus projected as the 3rd overall pick, landing in chilly Buffalo.
Kiper actually projects the SEC to swipe the first 3 picks, with LSU’s dynamic cornerback Patrick Patterson going to Denver with the 2nd pick. Georgia’s A.J. Green is slated for the 6th pick, owned by the Cleveland Browns. Cam Newton finishes up the top 10 at 10th to the Redskins.
Julio Jones sits at 14th to the Rams and Mark Ingram follows right behind him at 15th to the Dolphins.
That’s 5 picks in the top 15 just from Alabama and Auburn, as project by Mel. Overall the Kiper gives the SEC 10 first-rounders. Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett, Florida OL Mike Pouncey, and Georgia DE Justin Houston finish out the list for the SEC’s stellar 1st round group.
ESPN, Scouts Inc.’s Todd McShay sees things a little differently…but not too much. McShay has Clemson DE edging out Fairley for the top spot. Fairley drops to 2 and the Broncos. A.J. Green slides up to the Bengals’ pick at 4. Patterson lands at 5 (Cardinals). Dareus moves out west with the 49ers with the 7th pick. Cam stays put at 10 to the Redskins. So same players, same number of players, just different spots in the top 10.
Julio is good at 14 to the Rams, while Mike Pouncey replaces Ingram at the Dolphins’ pick at 15. Ingram slides all the way to the Patriots at pick 28 – there are worse places to end up Mark. Justin Houston goes to the Falcons one spot ahead of Ingram at 27 to the Falcons. Mallett drops out of the first round, but LSU DT Drake Nevis jumps in at 30 to the Bears.
Either way one thing is certain, the SEC is seeing some serious talent leave for the pastures of the NFL (some debate as to whether or not those pastures are greener). This is easily the most talented combined class between Auburn and Alabama, a signifier of the state’s unparalleled success over the last 2 seasons.
Hopefully the teams can continue their success and keep the state of football strong in Alabama. Both teams hope their top-ranked recruiting classes can fill in any gaps and all players can maturate and step-up. While it might be easy to argue Auburn will fill the sting a little bit more, it is never easy to replace three players like Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, and Marcell Dareus (see: 2010 Alabama defense).
Only time will tell. I don’t know about you, but I’m already excited and ready for the 2011 season.