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Jumbo Package: Nick Saban offers updates on injuries, Eli Ricks, WR competition and more

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

Happy Monday, everyone. Saban spoke with media again over the weekend, and had plenty of updates for you.

Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien mentioned sophomore Ja’Corey Brooks by name when asked about the receivers. The Miami product showed the most promise late last season with a big game at Auburn followed by the postseason games.

“They’re well-coached by Coach (Holmon) Wiggins,” O’Brien said. “He does a really good job with that group. It’s a group that has – again, kind of like the offensive line – a mixture of veteran players, whether they came from other programs, and also this mixture of young guys that are in that group.”

Tyler Harrell and highly rated freshman Aaron Anderson are both dealing with injuries, Harrell limited in practice while Anderson will miss “a few weeks” with a knee issue. Early on it sounds like Jermaine Burton and Brooks are leading for primary roles with Harrell, Traeshon Holden, JoJo Earle and the younger players competing for time. Things can change quickly, of course.

Saban also spoke about Eli Ricks, said Cameron Latu will be out “for a couple of weeks” with his knee issue, and his most recent guess camp speaker.

The greatest to ever do it

Thank you, @MichaelPhelps for taking some time and talking with the team. pic.twitter.com/msjkL3davN

— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) August 7, 2022

Saban’s entire press conference is 17 minutes and embedded here for you.

Bill O’Brien was also made available to media, and he spoke well of his time at Alabama.

O’Brien on Sunday did not dismiss the possibility of becoming a head coach again.

“If that’s something that’s down the road for me — again like I said earlier, I’m very focused on trying to improve this offense each and every day and work with the coaching staff to get better — but if I’m fortunate enough to have that opportunity again — and who knows if that will come down the pipe — but if it is, this will be an amazingly invaluable experience for me,” he said. “Because you’re able to watch coach every single day work with us as a coaching staff, work with the players, work with the support staff and the process is something that he talks about a lot and you learn about the different processes within the program, and I think that’s something that has been invaluable to me and it’s something that I’ll hold dear to me for the rest of my career, this experience here.”

The Sporting News’ Bill Bender has Alabama winning the SEC, as most do.

While the offense gets the attention, Saban might have his best group of linebackers to date. Anderson could be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but Henry To’o To’o, Jaylen Moody and Dallas Turner have All-American potential. Turner might have the highest upside of the bunch, and that’s scary. We mentioned the road landmines, but the Crimson Tide have too much talent on both sides of the ball, even if Young will have to figure it out with a different group of receivers. He will, and that leads to the Crimson Tide’s eighth CFP appearance in nine years.

Alabama’s linebackers are scary indeed, but the secondary has been overlooked. Well, by everyone except NFL scouts.

“All five of Alabama’s defensive backs could go Round 1,” an NFL executive told Heavy on August 4.

Jordan Battle returns to Tuscaloosa for his senior season this fall, despite authoring the kind of resumè that could have had him chosen in the first round in 2022. Battle finished the 2021 season with 85 total tackles, intercepted 3 passes and returned a pair of them for touchdowns.

Battle also finished with an 89.7 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus, as the outlet’s fourth-highest grades safety in the nation.

“I have no earthly idea why Battle stayed in school,” the executive said.

Neither do we, but are quite happy he did.

Last, the New York Times reports that four Alabama stars from the 1960s have been retrospectively diagnosed with CTE, including longtime coach Ray Perkins.

But his symptoms became far more pronounced and frequent — so much so, his family said, that he noticed them and would grow upset. He would show flashes of fury and defiance. He struggled with speaking. He apologized to a daughter, Shelby, for his failing memory.

“I went outside, and I started crying,” his other daughter, Rachael Perkins, recalled of the minutes after the exchange. “In that moment, I thought, ‘On my wedding day, he’s not going to know who I am.’”

Ray Perkins died weeks after the apology in 2020. A later examination of his brain showed Stage 3 C.T.E., which is classified using an ascending four-stage scale. Dr. Thor Stein, a Boston University neuropathologist who conducted the review, also saw evidence of Alzheimer’s disease and a type of degeneration that is thought to be linked to aging.

“He was really a pretty typical case in the sense that he had a lot of years of play, he had the characteristic findings of C.T.E. and then he had these other comorbid pathologies,” Stein said.

Technological advancements, rule changes, and new tackling techniques are aimed at making the sport safer so that it can sustain. For so many players of yesteryear, the game provided a lifestyle beyond their wildest dreams before cruelly subjecting them to painful retirement years and shortened lifespans. Ray was one of the lucky ones, living 79 mostly full, happy years.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.

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