Good morning. The Rammer Jammer is a daily rundown of everything you need to know about Alabama athletics, published every weekday morning.
Our long college football winter begins to break this weekend with the first bowl games of the year. While the slate doesn’t have the most name recognition of the year, it’s college football all the same. And if you had the initiative to start or join the office bowl pick pool, it could be the start of your karmic revenge on that jerk who won’t stop taking your stapler.
If the early bowl games aren’t your interest, perhaps it’s time to start handicapping the 2017 Fourth Annual University of Alabama Quarterback Battle sponsored by Mercedes.
— Tua Tagovailoa (@Tuaamann_) December 16, 2016
Despite the best efforts of LSU and Oregon to flip the 4-star dual-threat quarterback from Hawaii, Tua Tagovailoa officially ended his recruitment Thursday. He’ll enroll at Alabama and start classes on Jan. 11, just after the CFP National Championship Game, much like Hurts did. He’ll compete for the starting job in the fall, though beating out Hurts after the season he’s had would be a much greater feat than Alabama’s current starter beating out Cooper Bateman.
Last season, Hurts elected to forego the U.S. Army All-American game to help Alabama prepare for Clemson in the championship game. At the moment, it appears Tagovailoa will be doing the opposite, but since Alabama will be playing a dual threat one way or the other, should it beat Washington, there’s time for that to change.
- Gucci Mane is an Alabama fan and proud, and if I could get away with writing 2000 words about this I would.
- With Tagovailoa’s clearance, a list of Alabama early enrollees is growing.
- Louisville coaches received secret plays from Wake Forest’s radio commentator in a scandal now dubbed ‘WakeyLeaks.’ If that happened in Alabama, it’d be a felony.
- After two years of off-field issues, Tony Brown is ready to prove he can play, from AL.com’s Matt Zenitz.
- BamaOnline’s Travis Reier breaks down the impact of Alabama’s two new JUCO signees.
- Trevon Diggs has been all over the field for Alabama, and has been working hard at all of it, from BamaOnline’s Charlie Potter.
- Our countdown of Alabama’s top 10 players from the season is continuing. In Thursday’s installment: No. 7 Tim Williams. Check back Friday for another linebacker.
- Yang Yang the Zoo Atlanta panda picked the Peach Bowl winner.
- REPORT: Alabama studying Washington-related film.
- Roll Bama Roll’s tribute to the 2016 senior class continues with Jonathan Allen.
Alabama basketball downed USC Upstate in Coleman Coliseum on Thursday night, riding Donta Hall’s 15 points to a 78-61 win. Encouragingly for Alabama, the Crimson Tide dominated the paint, winning the rebound battle 44-33 against a decent rebounding team. The shots Alabama took were almost all high-percentage, with Hall particularly excelling, shooting 6 for 7, almost all under the basket. The Crimson Tide shot 30 percent from three, enough to space out the court and keep Upstate’s defense from collapsing every play.
The biggest warning sign from the game is USC Upstate’s 33 attempted threes, which Avery Johnson addressed postgame. A number that high indicates that Alabama’s guards and perimeter defenders aren’t recovering from the paint to run shooters off their spots. They’re so occupied with keeping Upstate’s talented front court off the boards that they’re slow to defend open shots. Against Upstate, it didn’t hurt. Against Kentucky, South Carolina, Auburn and Tennessee, it could.
Alabama now travels to Birmingham to host Clemson on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET. Clemson is planning to integrate transfer forward Elijah Thomas into its lineup soon, possibly this Sunday. Thomas is a talented player, a former ESPN top 50 recruit who averaged 26 points and 14 rebounds in high school. Alabama fans will hope that the Tigers suffer from growing pains with the new addition since Clemson enters the game 7-2, with an average point spread of plus 15.
Built by Bama
- Mark Barron finished with 7 tackles, including one for a loss, as the Rams lost to Seattle, 24-3.
- Dont’a Hightower is limited in Patriots’ practice with a knee injury.
- Ivan Maisel of ESPN touches on the history of the Hall of Fame dinner, including Alabama’s storied legacy.
What to watch
- Noon ET — There was a time when the SWAC and MEAC were replete with some of the best talent in football. In the last 40 years or so, the profile of HBCU football has fallen dramatically. The Celebration Bowl, effectively the HBCU national championship, is hoping to change that. This year, it’s Grambling vs. North Carolina Central on ABC. It’s worth a watch, with two talented quarterbacks leading each team.
- 3:30 p.m. ET — The Las Vegas Bowl on ABC, featuring Houston and San Diego State. Houston is entering the Major Applewhite era, but Greg Ward is a phenomenal quarterback to watch, with more than 3,000 yards on the season.
- 5:30 p.m. ET — The Camellia Bowl live from sunny Montgomery, Alabama! Appalachian State and Toledo are evenly matched and fast-paced. There’s a strong chance this is played in a storm, so it could get weird on ESPN.
- 9 p.m. ET — The New Orleans Bowl on ESPN, featuring Southern Miss against Louisiana-Lafayette. It should be a split crowd in New Orleans, with two closely matched teams. Southern Miss is led by two underrated offensive stars: quarterback Nick Mullins, who is nearing the 3,000-yard mark, and running back Ito Smith, who averages 5.5 yards per carry.
Around the Capstone
- Women’s basketball cruised to a win over Georgia State on Thursday, improving to 8-1. It will host Georgia Tech on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
- Alabama softball is set for 12 ESPN/SEC Network games this season.
A tribute to Craig Sager
Broadcasting legend Craig Sager passed away after a two-year battle with leukemia on Thursday. Sager was a titan of sports broadcasting and the NBA, and clearly made an impact with his joyful life and passion on everyone who crossed his path, including Alabama basketball coach and former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson.
— Jolly Ol' St. Nic (@Nic_Gulas) December 16, 2016
When news of Sager’s passing came, tributes to his spirit, both before and during his battle with cancer, poured out from around the nation. Johnson and Auburn basketball alumnus Charles Barkley both had the same thing to say about Sager: “My life is better for having known him.” I can think of no better legacy.