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Jumbo Package: Da’Ron Payne’s loss leaves a mammoth hole to fill on the defensive line

How do you replace the best pure nose of the Saban era? There are some candidates.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 08 CFP National Championship


Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alabama will not only lose its best nose tackle, it will also lose his backup. This is a critical hole in the defensive line, since it is the anchor for the ends and has so many responsibilities in shutting down the interior running lanes.

Da’Shawn Hand has an idea:

“Nose guard, it’s probably going to be Johnny Dwight or maybe Raekwon (Davis),” Da’Shawn Hand said. “It just depends what type of defense we’re in. ... The two noses actually leave. Frazier, No. 69, and Da’Ron Payne are leaving, and then the other nose (tackle) was Johnny, so yeah.”

Kendall Jones, the Hulk, would have been nice to have as a gap-eater here too, but after he failed to academically qualify and dropped off the radar he has, to be kind, not been good to himself. The most obvious solution would be Raekwon permanently moving to the nose from his DT/weakside DE position...or go shopping on the transfer market, an option Nick Saban had been pursuing with Iowa’s Daviyon Nixon.

The first set of questions are out for the 2018 season. From TSN’s Bill Bender:

1. Will Alabama shake things up?

By shake things up, we mean “lose.” The season doesn’t start until Alabama loses. That has been the theme of all but one season since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa, and the Tide will start No. 1 in most preseason polls, including Sporting News’. The quarterback position will offer some intrigue between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, but Nick Saban will surely look to cure the “rat poison” in his chase for another national championship. Plus, there’s a new defensive coordinator to work with. We expect Alabama to be in the playoff chase for a fifth straight season. What else is new?

If that’s our calculus, then I don’t think Alabama is going to shake things up in 2018. Owing to the coaching changes and down teams in the SEC, and the personnel losses at Louisville, 2018 appears to be the weakest schedule the Crimson Tide has faced in a good long while — just the perfect recipe to break in an entirely new secondary, eh?

Just because Mike Locksley was named OC, and the rest of the Alabama vacancies have been filled, that doesn’t mean that Hugh Freeze is still not available for hire.


It remains possible that Alabama could hire Hugh Freeze in some capacity.

Nick Saban, though, didn’t want to say much about that during a brief meeting with the media Wednesday afternoon in Mobile.

”I don’t really have a comment on that right now,” Saban said. “I think Hugh Freeze is a really good coach, so we’ll keep evaluating and trying to make our staff as strong as we can make it.”

I don’t make many outward, vociferous criticisms of Nick Saban’s decisions. I can think of two biggies (bringing Jonathan Taylor on board and attempting a 56-yard kick in the 2013), but this would be the third notable one. I cannot stress how much I do not want this to happen: Hugh Freeze’s coaching career isn’t done, not by a long shot. I do not see where “Hugh Freeze, Alabama Analyst” benefits this program enough to compensate for all that Freeze will get in return from a familiarity with The Process and Alabama’s means and methods.

This is just greed for another elite recruiter down the road and perhaps a more vertical offense. But, the Nick Saban home for wayward coaches has to have some sort of admission policy. Steer clear of a Briles and steer clear of this NCAA disaster. DON’T DO IT, NICK!

Alabama athletics are doing alright, I guess. The school netted a chill $174.3 million, with football raking in $108.2 million of that — good for a cool profit of nearly $49 million.

Levi Wallace is out here upping his draft stock with his brainpower:

During a meeting with the Rams’ scouts, Wallace summarized Alabama’s coverage schemes. He even drew up a couple of basic plays, teaching older men a little bit about Nick Saban’s methods.

”They were kind of surprised by what we run at Alabama because of so many variations, variables and adjustments,” Wallace said. “They said if I could do this every time that every team is going to be blown away. I am definitely proud of that.”

Seriously, everything about his story is feel-good stuff. You can’t help but want him to succeed. Now, if only we can get Ronnie Clark a soft landing when he leaves the program. I’ve never wanted anyone to have a SFW happy ending quite like I want Ronnie to.

Sometimes the ones you keep are your biggest recruiting wins. See, Damien Harris:

“We’re happy to have him back,” Saban said on the sideline of Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “I think that Damien wanted to finish his education. We think he likes college, he likes school.”

Harris, who rushed for 1,000 yards this season, does love being at the University of Alabama. He said as much during an interview with ESPN’s Paul Finebaum earlier this month.

“... I just wasn’t ready to leave yet, and I wanted to come back to this team and continue to try to do something even more special than what we’ve already accomplished. I just wanted to come back.

The complete interview is at the BOL link above. Read it. I love Damien Harris so much, y’all.

That’s it for the non-student JP. If you want more, please enjoy this video mocking Kentucky. If you’re a student at the University of Alabama, please enjoy this video mocking Kentucky and then read the final entry below:

STUDENTS: Got this email from Penny’s yesterday, and it’s really good stuff for those of you entering the workforce for the first time. And I know for a fact many of you don’t know how to dress or tie a tie and can use both the fashion tips and the discount. (Know how many brown suits and clear Lucite heels I see out in the wild?). Your first work wardrobe is expensive, trust me. I still remember that pain. I wish Career Services had done something like this for us when I graduated with Methuselah.

Anyway, in its entirety:

JCPenney has partnered with the career service center at the University of Alabama for a college Suit Up event designed to help students dress for success and jump start their careers. This private event will take place at the JCPenney in University Mall after the store closes this Sunday, Jan. 28, to accommodate hundreds of students looking for advice on what to wear for job interviews. Faculty, staff and alumni from the University of Alabama, along with members of the JCPenney team, will be on-hand to offer insights into the latest career fashion trends, how a suit should fit, what size to buy, how to tie a tie and more. Students will also have a chance to receive a free mini makeover at Sephora Inside JCPenney, and receive a free salon consultation and xpress bar hair touch up at the JCPenney Salon.

JCPenney will offer a special 40 percent discount to all University of Alabama students with a valid ID during this event. Through this substantial discount, men can easily purchase a Stafford suit jacket and pants, shirts, ties, belts and shoes for under $200. Women can buy a Worthington suit jacket, skirt, shirt and shoes for under $100.


Sunday, Jan. 28

6:30 pm – 9:30 pm


JCPenney at University Mall

1701 MacFarland Blvd. E

Tuscaloosa, AL 35404


Interviews available with:

University of Alabama spokesperson

JCPenney General Manager


Contact: Carter English, JCPenney Corporate Communications & Public Relations

[email protected]

That’s all for today. Go forth to evil. And, seriously, avoid the clear Lucite heels at job interviews. And, if you’re buying just one or must only own one suit, remember that navy, black and charcoal never go out of style, and that they are never too formal or conservative when making a first impression. (I’d personally choose a dark grey— better all-purpose for dinners, funerals, weddings, interviews, etc.)