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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

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Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

What Crimson Tide players will be team leaders in 2023?

“Ja’Corey Brooks has played really well for us,” Saban said. “The guy’s a dog. He plays great on special teams. He’ll block. He’s physical, plays hard all the time, makes contested catches. He’s one of the guys on our team that I think is a great competitor who has really played consistently all year long for us.”

Asked about the “dog” reference in speaking to reporters prior to practice Tuesday, Brooks said, “It means a lot coming from him. I mean, I couldn’t say I’ve got a little dog in me. But what he established in me, I can say that, from listening to him and the hard work that we put in from around the team.”

Earlier Brooks had been listed among players Saban called unsung heroes.

Brooks said that means “I’m willing to do whatever it is I need to do for the team. Whether that’s playing on special teams, you’re gonna have to do that to get on offense, so I feel like I have to dominate on special teams. Special teams is one of the biggest parts of the game, probably nobody thinks so, but it is.”

It was big when Brooks blocked a punt which Alabama returned for a touchdown against Texas A&M last year. He’s also been a part of the kickoff return tandem the past two seasons.

There’s been a lot of talk this year about this Alabama team lacking “dogs” or “killer instinct” or “angry competitors.” For what it’s worth, Saban views WR Ja’Corey Brooks as someone who does fit the bill.

Brooks has been a constant contributor on special teams and as a blocker the last two years. He made the game-tying clutch catch against Auburn, and even last week he showed he could elude a tackle and make a big play on a screen pass (I think the only receiver to do that this season). He still has to clean up the drops, as he’s had a couple of bad ones in bad moments. But while other receivers from his class (ahem, Hall) had mental come-aparts when they didn’t get playing time, Brooks went and made an impact on special teams and is now the only consistent receiving threat this year.

The third edition of the College Football Playoff top 25 rankings was released Tuesday, and following its 30-24 road win over the then-No. 11 Ole Miss Rebels, Alabama climbed one spot to No. 8 in the poll that will eventually set the postseason scene in less than a month’s time.

The top-four teams remained the same as last week’s rankings No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 TCU. The Tennessee Vols also stayed at No. 5, but after its loss to Washington, then-No. 6 Oregon dropped to No. 12, leading to the Crimson Tide’s rise to No. 8 behind No. 6 LSU and No. 7 USC. Clemson and Utah rounded out the top-10 teams.

#8. Cool. That’s about as good as Tide fans could have hoped. Alabama has navigated one of the most difficult schedule in the nation, and their only two losses were last second/overtime to two top-6 teams.

It hasn’t turned out how we all hoped, but they’re exactly two plays away from being an undisputed #1. So keep that in perspective when you worry the sky is falling.

For players that will remain undergraduates in 2023, the NCAA adopted rules earlier this year that will restrict those players to entering the transfer portal only during designated windows. This year, that window will open a week later on Dec. 5 and run through Jan. 18, with another window between April 15-30.

In either case, Alabama’s offseason roster movement will essentially begin within the next three weeks. That is also when Alabama can begin evaluating players from other schools that enter the transfer portal, which will become another piece to the roster-building puzzle that will unfold over the next two months.

Also factoring into the mix is the NFL draft. Players who have eligibility to enter the draft early have until Jan. 17 to make their decisions, but those players will need to decide long before that whether they will participate in Alabama’s bowl game. Opt-outs for bowl games outside of the College Football Playoff have become common in recent seasons as those games have become watered down and the focus in some cases has shifted to evaluating younger players on the roster.

This is a great breakdown of Alabama’s roster as we near the portal window. I definitely expect some movement in the wide receiver room. Brooks will likely return as the lead guy, but after that? I’m not sure I expect Jermaine Burton to come back.

There’s also significant loss of seniors on defense, particularly along the defensive line. Will Jaheim Oatis take a step in year two? Or Maybe Damon Payne? In any case, there’s going to be some open spots.

And the Tide will be replacing two middle linebackers. Deontae Lawson is likely one of them, but who will be the other? Someone like Kendrick Blackshire might add the “thumper” back into the Tide’s run defense.

Alabama men’s basketball forward Brandon Miller is one of 50 candidates named to the 2023 John R. Wooden Award Watch List presented by Wendy’s.

Chosen by a preseason poll of national college basketball experts, the list is comprised of 50 student-athletes who are the early front-runners for the most prestigious honors in college basketball, the Wooden Award All-American Team and Most Outstanding Player Award.

If Miller keeps up the trajectory we’ve seen in the first few games of the season, he’s going to be one amazing freshman. Here’s to hoping he can sustain it going forward.

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