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Jumbo Package: With teams scared of the Cheetahs, Branch is a dangerous addition to the pass rush

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Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 has made a lot of Sunday Money this year; here’s how he can earn even more.

Mike Leach remains the most interesting man in college football:

After Mississippi State’s 30-6 loss to Alabama, Leach let loose on one of his more bizarre diatribes when it came to his receivers.

“Well, I think we need to use our hands better,” Leach said Saturday. “We don’t move our hands very good. You know, when I was a kid and I was in grade school, there was this nice big dinosaur guy. I can’t remember the gas station, but they would give you a free dinosaur if you filled up there. That’s back when they had commercials on TV and then they would give something to the kids like me. And then the idea was that you should raise hell with your parents every time you’re in the station wagon. We had one, a good classic like one off the Wonder Years, one of those fake woody ones, you know, fake painted-on wood. But then the best is it would always without exception the finish and the varnish on it would peel. So then it looked more bogus than ever.”

I really like this bit of adjustment here from Pete Golding.

Yesterday in our Defense Midterm Grades, we wrote about the ways teams are trying to negate Alabama’s pass rush from the linebacking corps. So, how about disguise your pressure, and come at them from a different direction?

Safety Brian Branch, who plays the Star and Money positions in the Crimson Tide’s secondary, has been sent on several blitzes of late, including most recently against Mississippi State when he recorded his second sack of the season. It was the first sack for Branch since Week 3, and the third-year defender revealed he has been practicing his pass-rush skills ever since.

“I’ve been working on disguising them because a lot of times the quarterbacks will kind of point me out and it’ll be like they already know I’m coming, so they’ll kind of shift the line to come block me,” Branch told local reporters during Alabama’s bye week. “But I love blitzing. I need to work a little bit more on my disguises when I blitz so the quarterback won’t know.”

Brian Branch an additional free man would really be a pick-your-poison choice for opposing QBs. That kind of scheme becomes an imminently more reasonable proposition if Eli Ricks really is finally healthy and has emerged to be the player most thought he could be.

We’ve reported on this the last few weeks, but after Mac Jones looked terrible against the Bears, tried to kick a player, and then Bailey Zappe led scoring drives and looked decent in relief (once again), the Pats’ official line on Jones’ starting job is “we’ll see.”

I think we know what that means. When you were at the store being a little monster and asking your mom for a candy bar, “we’ll see” was a way to shut you up, while all-but-certainly telling you “no.”

Yet, all rumors out of camp is that Mac is still “expected” to be the starter this week vs. the Jets.

There are a lot of mixed messages coming out of Foxborough, but I’d guess Mac’s tenure in New England is approaching its terminus. He rocks the boat, he advocates a bit forcefully and opines frequently on playcalling, and he’s had a rocky relationship with some of Bill’s retreads. Worse, he’s just a different player this season. He doesn’t even particularly look like he’s dialed in. It may be all the other stuff that fuels his exit from New England, but it’s definitely his play that put him on the bench.

I think, though, Jones had one foot out the door the second Josh McDaniels left and Joe Judge / Matt Patricia came in. It was such an item of concern that even the Patriots official page noted some worry about Mac in a post-Daniels world.

The Coach’s basketball poll dropped yesterday, and Alabama is sitting at No. 19 going into the season. I think I like that position. Enough to foster expectations, but not quite the huge target on the Tide’s back.

As a note of curiosity? Alabama plays the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 teams in the country…as well as ends its year on the road vs. an Aggies team many are pegging as a sleeper this season.

There are no off-nights for Coach Oats.

Speaking of men’s hoops, Brandon Miller hasn’t played a single minute of official collegiate basketball yet, and then this comes down the pipe:

Alabama men’s basketball guard Brandon Miller is one of 20 candidates named to the 2023 Julius Erving Award Watch List, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday morning. The award recognizes the top small forward in Division I men’s college basketball.

We’re telling you now: get in on Miller early; this bandwagon will fill up fast. And enjoy his three dozen games in Crimson too. Brandon is all-but a lock to be a one-and-done.

The Barn is burning:

With Zykevious Walker and Landen King both announcing their intention to transfer from Auburn, a source tells Auburn Daily that Auburn football Head Coach Bryan Harsin is telling players that have asked for redshirts that their only options are to quit the football program or enter the transfer portal.

So, yesterday, two more took Harsin up on his offer — including its most talented starting wide receiver. In total, Harsin has now lost 11 of the 18 players he signed just 20 months ago, as well as 5 of Auburn’s total 10 players in the Top 200.

Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing to see.

I’m including this, re: UGA starting safety Dan Jackson, not because of the Cocktail Party, but a potential meeting in Atlanta, as well as the knock-on effect when UGA finally has to face a decent passing game. It is expected to be season-ending:

Georgia safety Dan Jackson is facing foot surgery that could end his season.

Coach Kirby Smart said that Jackson, tied for sixth on the team in tackles, won’t be available for No. 1 Georgia in Saturday’s game against Florida in Jacksonville.

Jackson, a junior, has 16 tackles with one interception and a forced fumble.

Alabama is off this week, but they are still practicing — undoubtedly finalizing a stretch run rotation, and the like. Yesterday Coach Saban held his weekly presser, but even he sounded a bit flat.

Self-improvement is the name of the game this week though.

On the improvement he saw from Tennessee to Mississippi State…

“I liked the way we competed in the game against Mississippi State. They’re two different teams with two different styles of play. We talked about the things that we wanna try to do better. We didn’t run the ball great in the game, so that’s certainly a focus of improvement for us this week. We played a little bit better on defense, and hopefully, we can build on that.”

Welp. That’s all I have for you so far today. Just like the players, we wear down at this point every year too. Time to tape up the ole’ metacarpals, get some smelling salts, and hit the sauna.

Have a good day, Roll Tide.

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