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Everyone who lives here in the Tuscaloosa area knows the feeling: The Game Day buzz. This week, the Ole Miss Rebels are in T-Town, and that, of course, means plenty of awesome events are happening to keep everyone in the family entertained. Here are some specifics:

Alabama vs. Ole Miss

Kickoff time: 8 p.m. Bryant-Denny Stadium

The public gates open at 6 p.m. Student gates open at 5:30 p.m. The Walk of Champions is at 6 p.m. and the Elephant Stomp at the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library begins at 7 p.m.

If you’re tailgating on the Quad, the Friday drop off is from 6-8 p.m. and Saturday drop off is from 7-10 a.m. Do not forget that power is cut off on the Quad three hours after the ballgame ends (so that’s like what? Midnight?!?! Mercy!)

Parking on Game Day in Tuscaloosa is always a priority. The public parking lots open at 7 a.m. Crimson Ride shuttles start at 7 a.m. and run until 3:30 p.m. Remember, there is FREE PUBLIC PARKING DOWNTOWN. This is a great bargain. Head to the Downtown Intermodal Facility Parking Deck behind City Hall, then take the $1 per trip shuttle to campus.

ESPN Gameday is here, so expect some roadblocks in/around the area. Gameday airs live from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Walk of Champions. Country singer Eric Church is the celebrity picker this week.

For more information on all the Game Day activities, especially the parking maps (lots of road construction around these parts right now), visit uagameday.com. It’s an excellent resource, and one you’ll no doubt refer to in the weeks and months to come.

Above all else? Have fun and ROLL TIDE!

The two-time defending Southeastern Conference Champion Alabama gymnastics team released its home schedule this week, a slate that includes archrival Georgia as well as the 2016 NCAA Regional Championships. Friday night UA home gymnastics meets are always great fun for young and old in Tuscaloosa. If you’re planning to attend some meets, be sure to bookmark this, and take note: One of the home meets is on a Sunday!

 “We have another amazing season lined up,” UA head coach Dana Duckworth said. “It’s a great schedule for our ladies and our amazing fans, so I hope everyone will get their tickets now. There is nothing like an Alabama gymnastics meet in our arena in front of the best fans in the world. They are our biggest and baddest competitive advantage.”

Tickets for the Crimson Tide’s regular season as well as the NCAA Regional Championships are on sale now through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum and online at RollTide.com. The rest of Alabama’s schedule, along with start times for all its meets home and away, will be released once the SEC Network schedule is finalized in the coming weeks.

“We have six newcomers on this team and I can’t wait for them to get out there in front of the Alabama faithful,” Duckworth said. “With the incredible support we get from our fans, I think it’s a definite advantage to have the regional championships at home, especially with so many rookies on our roster.”

The Crimson Tide opens its home slate with the Missouri Tigers on Friday, Jan. 15 and will face Arkansas a week later on Jan. 22. Alabama’s annual Power of Pink meet will be Friday, Feb. 5 against Kentucky, during which fans are encouraged to “think pink and wear pink” to help raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer.

Fans will be able to spend part of their Valentine’s Day with the gymnastics team as Alabama hosts West Virginia in a rare Sunday meet in Coleman Coliseum on Feb. 14. Duckworth promises there will be a few surprises when it comes to the Valentine’s Day meet that fans won’t want to miss.

The Tide closes out its regular season home schedule against the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday, Feb. 26. It will be senior night for All-Americans Lauren Beers and Carley Sims as well as gymnastics alumni night.

Alabama will host the regional championships, arguably the most pressure packed meet of the season in terms of advancing to the NCAA Championships final site, for the 14th time on Saturday, April 2.

Photo: Jeff Perrigin

By Stan J. Griffin

As the 2015 college football season inches ever closer, many pundits and observers are projecting big things once again for Nick Saban's University of Alabama team.

In fact, many of those scribes and soothsayers are predicting the Crimson Tide to once again be back in the College Football Playoff, with the opportunity to battle for the program's 16th national title.

While it is certainly acknowledged that this edition of the Tide enters the 2015 season with a few question marks, including at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield, the good work of Saban and his coaching staff, combined with the abundance of talent and potential available at the Capstone, should be more than enough to compensate for whatever flaws this team might have.

There is no question that most of the uncertainty regarding this year’s team starts with an offense that must replace a host of proven contributors, including quarterback Blake Sims, running back T.J. Yeldon and receivers Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White.

Although there are currently five quarterbacks battling for the right to take the first snap against Wisconsin in the season opener Sept. 5, senior Jake Coker is considered the favorite due to the fact that he is the only candidate with any meaningful experience.

Despite the fact that only two starters are returning on the UA offensive line, senior center Ryan Kelly and sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson, veterans such as sophomore Bradley Bozeman, senior Dominick Jackson and junior Brandon Greene should help to at least make the line a formidable one.

Junior Derrick Henry is back to lead the Alabama running back corps, and the Tide is also counting on a return to full health and good form by senior tailback Kenyan Drake, a back who can be used in a number of ways as he showed by catching an 87-yard touchdown pass against Florida last season. Due to lack of depth at this position, freshman back Damien Harris of Berea, Kentucky, may be counted on for meaningful snaps in his first season.

It will be impossible, of course, to replace the phenomenal and prolific production of Cooper, who is now gearing up for his rookie season with the Oakland Raiders, but Alabama still has talent and potential at that position, and athletes such as Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart showed during the spring that they may be capable of putting forth some big numbers of their own come the fall.

While the Tide is stacked with talent and experience along the defensive line (with juniors A’Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen leading the way) and at the linebacker position (with stellar returnees including senior Reggie Ragland and junior Ryan Anderson), the secondary is still somewhat of a mystery, especially after an uneven and unimpressive performance by the unit a year ago.

Expect greater competition for playing time in that department in 2015, with young returnees such as freshmen Marlon Humphrey and Ronnie Harrison and sophomore Tony Brown battling it out for significant snaps alongside proven returnees such as senior Cyrus Jones.

The kicking game returns both key members in junior placekicker Adam Griffith and sophomore punter JK Scott, who was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award last season.

 

 

It’s finally here: Happy Game Week, everyone, and Roll Tide! Thousands of Alabama Crimson Tide fans will soon be packing up to head to Dallas, Texas, where Alabama will take on Wisconsin in the season opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Sept. 5.

For those of you heading to Texas, here are a few things that might be of interest.

Tide in Texas Alumni Kick-Off Classic Party

The Tide in Texas alumni group is throwing a huge party, a benefit for the Lee Roy Jordan Scholarship fund, at the famed Gilleys Music Hall in Dallas on Friday, Sept. 4. The Tide in Texas Alumni Kick-Off features live music from the Ray Johnson Band, mechanical bull riding, Texas BBQ and Tex-Mex, along with beer, wine and cocktails. In addition, a live and silent auction will be held.

Interested? Tickets are $75 (21 and up) and $40 (under 21) in advance. At the door, they go up to $90 and $50, respectively. To purchase ahead, visit tideintexas.eventbrite.com.

Tailgating Pre-Game Bash

 Several Tuscaloosa bars have banded together to once again set up a great tailgate for Alabama fans who’ll be attending the game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Annual Kick-Off Bash party starts at noon on Saturday, Sept. 5, at 1003 N. Collins – walking distance to the stadium.

Tickets include live entertainment and a buffet while it lasts. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. To purchase, visit 1010social.com.

Know the Stadium Bag Policy

If you haven’t attended an NFL game in recent years, you should know that the policy for bags and purses on game day is pretty strict. The AT&T Stadium’s bag policy will be enforced for the Bama/Badgers game. The big thing to know? Keep it small.

Prohibited bags include, but are not limited to, the following: all purses, bags or containers larger than a small clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, luggage of any kind, computer bags, camera bags, binocular cases (binoculars may be worn around the neck), diaper bags and seat cushions. 

Stadium approved bags/purses must be clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and cannot exceed 12 inches x 6 inches x 12 inches in size. Small, one-compartment clutch bags that do not exceed 8½" by 5½" with or without a handle or strap are also permitted. All bags are subject to inspection upon entry and are subject to addition inspections within the stadium. Exceptions will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection within the stadium. 

Whatever you do, if you’re heading to the game, stay safe, have fun and above all else: ROLL with the TIDE!

Two of college football’s last three national champions will meet in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game to open the 2017 season in epic fashion.

 

The 10th installment of the nation’s longest-running kickoff game will feature the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida State Seminoles in what will be the first regular-season college game to be played in the Falcon’s state-of-the-art New Atlanta stadium.

 

The game is set for Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. Exact kick time and television network are yet to be announced.

 

“With two teams of this caliber, it really is going to be a bowl-game type atmosphere and an epic celebration of college football,” said Percy Vaughn, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl chairman.

 

“These teams represent the best in our sport,” said Gary Stokan, Peach Bowl, Inc. president and CEO.

 “The best players, the best coaches, the best fans. It’s going to be a memorable start to the season and there is no better place to host this than in Atlanta, the capital of college football.

 

The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game averages more than 66,000 fans for each game – higher than 30 bowl games from last year – and its team payout averages $4.3 million, which is higher than 21 bowl games last season. Television viewership is also traditionally strong with more than 40 million viewers tuning in to the series since 2008.

 

Alabama and Florida State have met four times with the Crimson Tide holding a 2-1-1 advantage over the Seminoles. FSU, however, won the most recent game in 2007. The series originally dates back to 1965. This will be Alabama’s fifth appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, where the Tide hold a 4-0 record. It will be the first time Florida State has opened the season in Atlanta.

 

“This game with Florida State fits our scheduling philosophy of playing outstanding opponents in great venues in games that create great exposure for our program,” said Bill Battle, Alabama director of athletics. “Of course, it also continues our tremendous relationship with the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game which goes back to the 2008 season opener. This game with the Seminoles will be an excellent start to the 2017 season and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.”

“This is a great opportunity to open the 2017 season against an outstanding Florida State program,” Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said. “Jimbo has done an excellent job there and this will provide a great challenge for our team. Having this game first on the schedule will give our players plenty to look forward to and prepare for in the offseason.” 

“It’s really an honor and a privilege to be a part of this first-class event hosted by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which has really grown into one of the great traditions in college football. The last four times we've participated in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, it has been a big bowl game atmosphere and I know that will again be the case with these two programs,” said Saban.

“The game with Alabama will be one of the highlights of the college football season,” said Florida State Director of Athletics Stan Wilcox.  “Both schools have significant alumni bases in Atlanta, and we would expect the media coverage of the game to be on par with some of the biggest non-conference games in recent history. The exposure for our University and our athletics program will be invaluable. We look forward to the game and playing in a fantastic venue.”

 

“We are very excited to be opening the 2017 season against Alabama at the new Falcons stadium in Atlanta,” Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Scheduling top non-conference opponents is critical in today’s day and age. These are two great football programs and there will be a tremendous atmosphere. It’s a great matchup for our fans and for college football. We are looking forward to the opportunity.” 

 

The majority of the tickets will be divided between the two teams, creating a true neutral-site environment. All tickets will be sold through the university ticket offices.

 

The teams will battle for The Old Leather Helmet Trophy, one of college football’s iconic rivalry-game trophies. Traditionally, winners of The Old Leather Helmet don the helmet on the field after the game, starting with the head coach and then rotating from player to player as the team celebrates its victory.

For more information, visit Chick-fil-AKickoffGame.com.

By Stan J. Griffin

Anyone who even casually follows University of Alabama softball knows that the Crimson Tide hosting the regional round of the NCAA tournament is simply an annual rite of spring.

For the 11th consecutive season, the University of Alabama softball program will begin the NCAA tournament hosting the regional round in the friendly confines of Rhoads Stadium.

Patrick Murphy's team has earned a bid to its 17th straight NCAA Tournament, slotting in as the No. 6 seed. The Tide will welcome Washington, USC Upstate and Fairfield to Tuscaloosa for three days of games beginning on Friday, May 15.

“We never take this for granted and it never gets old,” said Murphy. “To see Alabama up on the TV make all the hard work worth it. I’m really happy with the senior class, now they’ve made the tournament all four years. This has been a really easy team to coach and I’m really excited for the postseason.”

It is the 13th time overall the Tide has hosted a regional, first doing so in 2001. Alabama has made the NCAA Tournament every year since 1999, Patrick Murphy’s first year as head coach of the program.

Play in Tuscaloosa will begin on Friday, May 15. Washington will play USC Upstate at 12:30 p.m. CT live on ESPNU and Alabama will play Fairfield at 3 p.m. live on the SEC Network.

Tickets are on sale now for this weekend's play and can be purchased at the Coleman Coliseum ticket office or online at www.rolltide.com.

By Stan J. Griffin

Although he is no longer with us physically, the presence of former University of Alabama football player and coach and athletic director Mal Moore can still be felt throughout the UA athletic family and Tuscaloosa in general.

If there was anyone who represented a true love for all things Crimson Tide, it was Moore, a native of Dozier, who passed away on March 30, 2013.

That love is evident in the dramatically improved athletic facilities that can be seen all over campus and with the overall strength of the school's athletic department. And of course, much of his legacy is defined by his hiring of Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban, and the victories that Saban continues to accumulate at UA.

Moore's spirit and his impact on people in general is also a prevailing theme of an annual golf tournament that benefits the Boys and Girls Clubs of West Alabama, Inc., also a United Way Agency.

The 2015 edition of the Mal Moore Memorial Golf Tournament is scheduled for May 7-8 at the NorthRiver Golf Club.

By Christopher Chase Edmunds

Now that the dust from Alabama’s A-Day game has settled, it’s time to evaluate the Crimson Tide. Coach Nick Saban referred to the spring scrimmage as a “midterm” for the team, a way for the coaching staff to see what needs improvement before Fall 2015 rolls around. In the spirit of midterms and evaluations, let’s grade the 2015 Alabama Crimson Tide position by position and see where the team is either sharp and ready, or a little rough around the edges. Pencils ready…Begin.

Offensive Line – B-

The members of the first-team offensive line are pretty much settled at this point, and overall the unit did well, but the group is a long way from the dominating presence of Barrett Jones and company. In the A-Day game, the first and second offensive lines gave up a total of eight sacks, and the running backs struggled to find clear holes to break big plays. The good news is that Ryan Kelly has proven himself as a leader in the trenches, and Cam Robinson is still a force to be reckoned with. The line should improve when four-star recruits Brandon Kennedy and Lester Cotton arrive on campus for fall practice and start competing for starting spots. Even if they don’t contribute immediately, the depth will help in the case of another national championship run.

Running Backs – B-

Alabama fans are accustomed to having a stable of Heisman-quality running backs, but in 2015, that won’t be the case. The Crimson Tide is thin at the running back position to say the least, with only two names coming to mind. Derrick Henry is the man for this year. The 6-foot-3-inch, 242-pound bruiser will get plenty of carries as the workhorse, as long as he stays healthy. Kenyan Drake is the wildcard of the offense. He played in a black, non-contact jersey because he’s still recovering from a broken leg that ended last season early for Drake. He has good hands and blistering speed, so he can break big plays as a running back or as a receiver when he’s 100 percent again. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin should have a field day with Drake in his high-powered offense.  

Receivers – A+

Alabama’s receiving corps had the best showing at A-Day. Even though the Tide lost Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White, the team is in good hands. ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster combined for 243 yards and two touchdowns at A-Day, even when quarterbacks were constantly being rotated. Both receivers showed they could make big catches down the field, which bodes well for whichever quarterback settles in to the starting role. Not to mention Calvin Ridley, the No. 1 receiver prospect in the country, will enter the mix this fall. As long as the starting QB can sling the ball, Alabama will have plenty of highlights from the receivers this year.

Quarterbacks – C+

Jake Coker looks like the guy, but none of the quarterbacks looked great at A-Day. The five quarterbacks threw five interceptions, and seemed to all be on different pages with the receivers. This is the position everyone is talking about because Jake Coker might have finally stepped up and shown he can be the starter. Before you assume anything, however, remember that Blake Sims did not look like a starter last year at A-Day, and he ended up leading the team to an SEC Championship and the College Football Playoffs.

Defensive Line – A

All around, Alabama’s defense looks solid. Anchoring the defense is a defensive line that should be able to pressure opposing quarterbacks well this year. At A-Day, both defensive lines combined for eight sacks, and pressured the quarterbacks regularly. The line will feature a mix of experienced playmakers like A’Shawn Robinson and young talent like Da’Ron Payne. Hopefully the veterans will be able to set an example for the new recruits and make opponents think twice about running up the middle.

Linebackers – A+

Alabama’s linebackers are straight-up nasty this year. Fans should look forward to a season full of Reuben Foster’s trademark bone-crunching tackles and Reggie Ragland’s explosive playmaking abilities. This is one position where the Crimson Tide has plenty of depth and competition for starting spots. This group is Alabama’s best chance at re-establishing itself as a team that opponents hate to play against.

Defensive Backs – B+

Big pass plays have been the Achilles’ heel for Alabama in recent years, but this year’s group is laying the foundation to change that. At A-Day several long completions were given up, but defenders were never too far behind. For the first time in two seasons, the Tide has a new assistant coach — Mel Tucker from the Chicago Bears — to focus just on the defensive backs, which should help bring the group up to snuff. Last year, Bama’s high-powered offense made up for mistakes in the secondary, but with the quarterback situation in question, it’s up to the defensive backs to step up and keep the game in front of them.

Special Teams – B-

JK Scott is rock solid, but anybody who saw him punt last year could have told you that. He has a heck of a leg, and he has consistency. Adam Griffith, however, is still lacking the consistency and swagger that Scott has. Griffith missed two of his four attempts at A-Day, including an easy 37-yarder. While Scott has proven to be a special teams weapon, Griffith seems destined to be an average kicker. Bama fans are tired of squirming in their seats and holding their breath during field goal attempts, so let’s hope he proves himself this year.

Photos: UA Athletics


By Stan J. Griffin

Although it is basically a glorified scrimmage in many respects, the University of Alabama's annual spring football game serves a couple of very significant purposes.

First of all, the A-Day contest allows Nick Saban and his staff an opportunity to take a look at many of the Crimson Tide players, especially the younger and less-experienced ones, in a live situation that is as close to an actual game as possible.

Secondly, it allows football-starved Alabama fans a first opportunity to get a first glance at the team that will take the field later in the fall. It offers them a little taste of pigskin action to watch, cheer on and, later, dissect until Saban's team kicks off the season for real on Sept. 5 against Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas.

The 2015 A-Day Game is set for April 18, with the game scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m.

The A-Day game is the culmination of a full day of activities on campus, including 2014 permanent captains Amari Cooper, Blake Sims, Landon Collins and Jalston Fowler putting their hands and cleats in cement outside of Denny Chimes prior to kickoff.

Admission is once again free for the contest, and another large crowd is expected. Last year, an announced crowd of 73,506 attended the game.

As usual, there are several interesting storylines heading into the contest, and several individual players that those attending will be keeping a sharp eye on.

The Crimson Tide enters the season with questions at several spots, including at quarterback, at receiver, and in the secondary.

As usual, the quarterback competition will likely be the most scrutinized position for the 2015 Crimson Tide, and several of those candidates for the position will likely get extended playing time during the spring game, including senior Jake Coker, sophomore David Cornwell, junior Cooper Bateman, senior Alec Morris and perhaps even highly-touted freshman Blake Barnett.

Barnett, from Corona, California, is one of eight freshman (now seven after Jonathan Taylor's dismissal) early enrollees, along with running back DeSherrius Flowers, safety Ronnie Harrison, offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy, running back Bo Scarbrough, safety Deionte Thompson and offensive lineman Dallas Warmack.

Several of those early enrollees may figure prominently into the Tide’s plans for the A-Day game, and also for the 2015 season, including Barnett, and possibly athletes such as Harrison and Thompson in the Tide secondary, as Alabama looks for much improvement in that area.

Although Alabama lost talented offensive contributors such as Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon, the Tide will be bringing in talented newcomers at those positions, but A-Day will also allow some weapons still on the roster, such as Chris Black, Cam Sims, Ardarius Stewart and Robert Foster a chance to shine and show their abilities.

It will also be interesting to see how much all-purpose threat Kenyan Drake will be allowed to participate in the game, as he continues to get back to speed after suffering a devastating leg injury against Ole Miss last season. Saban has said that Drake continues to recuperate well from the injury, but is still a bit behind in his overall conditioning.

Photo: UA Athletics

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Lake Tuscaloosa Living (LTL) is the premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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