The mental makeup of Patriots quarterback Mac Jones

The mental makeup of Patriots quarterback Mac Jones

All Things CW: Why is Alabama Such A Hot Pick as Preseason No. 1?

New quarterback. New offensive coordinator. New playmakers. New leadership. New coaching staff. Don't expect the Crimson Tide to be just like the 2020 national champions at the start of the 2021 season.
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When it comes to 2021 season predictions and forecasts, something is amiss when it comes to projections regarding Alabama. 

Many are claiming that the reigning national champions are clearly the team to beat again, even though the Crimson Tide no longer benefits from many of the keys that contributed to last year's title run. 

Among them:

An experienced/veteran starting quarterback. Mac Jones took over the offensive for the final month of the 2019 season and the bowl game against Michigan. The 2020 season was his fourth year at Alabama. Bryce Young was his backup as a freshman, but didn't play much.  

The familiarity of a returning offensive coordinator. Exit Steve Sarkisian, enter Bill O'Brien.  

Alabama returned all but one of the assistant coaches for the 2020 season. Half of the staff has since been replaced.   

The playmakers were all established players. Jones, running back Najee Harris and wide receiver DeVonta Smith all went on to win national position awards, and were all in the running for the Heisman Trophy (won by Smith). The key player who was stepping into a starting role was Jaylen Waddle, who ended up being a top-10 draft pick.  

Team leadership. Having veterans in key spots, like Landon Dickerson at center, was big reason why Alabama didn't blink during its undefeated season. 

Nick Saban does have another team loaded with talent, and a defense that could be outstanding, but nearly everything on the offensive side in unproven. This isn't to say the Crimson Tide can't be on top of the college football world at the end of 2021, and there is something to be said about the reigning national champions getting the benefit of doubt at the start of the subsequent season. But it's foolhardy to believe it'll be playing that way at the beginning of the regular season. 

Consequently, when the majority of award watch lists come out in July you won't see as many Alabama players listed as usual. 

Even so, the early betting lines for the biggest games of the upcoming college football season are out and unless something dramatically changes Alabama will be favored by double digits across the board. 

Per BetOnline.ag, the closest Crimson Tide lines are as follows (and notice that four of the five games will be played away from Bryant-Denny Stadium):

Week 1: Alabama vs. Miami (+17.5)

Week 3: Alabama at Florida (+14.5)

Week 6: Alabama at Texas A&M (+10.5)

Weel 10: LSU at Alabama (-21)

Week 13: Alabama at Auburn (+16)

That's how much faith the betters have in Saban, and his ability to have another great team this season. 

A Primo Pick?

Sports Illustrated NBA writer Jeremy Woo projected all 60 picks after the Pistons won the draft lottery for the first-overall selection, and his updated mock draft included two Crimson Tide players.

He had guard Joshua Primo going 37th to the same Pistons, and Herbert Jones at No. 48 to the Hawks. 

With the combine under way in Chicago, it already looks like Woo had Primo too low. The 18-year-old standout is off to a good start and could be a first-round possibility.

While our own Joey Blackwell touched upon why Primo is considered a better long-term prospect than Jones or John Petty Jr. in this week's Crimson Corner: The Stakes of Alabama Basketball's NBA Draft Decisions, the Crimson Tide could still be on the verge of a landmark draft. 

Alabama hasn't had two players selected in the same draft since 1995 with Antonio McDyess (second overall) and Jason Caffey (20th). 

The last time it had three players selected was 1987 with Derrick McKey (ninth), Jim Farmer (No. 20), and Terry Coner (second round, 44th). 

With the draft going beyond two rounds back then it had a fourth player selected, shooting guard Mark Gottfried in the seventh round. 

Overall, Alabama's had multiple players selected in a draft happen just nine times (1995, 1992, 1987, 1984, 1983, 1982, 1977, 1975, 1952).

The 2021 NBA Draft will be held July 29. The combine runs through Sunday in Chicago.  

Tide-bits 

• Woo also reported from the combine that the Cavaliers are looking into trading former Crimson Tide standout Collin Sexton, who averaged 24.3 points per game last season. Sexton is extension-eligible and will probably ask for a maximum contract under the salary cap. Cleveland also has 23-year-old center Jarrett Allen, and it might be able to sign both it would come at the cost of future flexibility. 

• The word out of New England is that the Patriots were very pleased with Jones' poise and potential at minicamp, where he was really pushed by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He's also lit a fire under incumbent quarterback Cam Newton. Another Crimson Tide player to watch in the offense is running back Damien Harris, who has had a good offseason. Reportedly, one of the assistants pushing him hard has been none other than Vinnie Sunseri.

• Voting for the 2022 Class of the College Football Hall of Fame closes today (June 25). Alabama's Shaun Alexander and Sylvester Croom are on the ballot. 

• Have you seen Jalen Milroe lately? The early enrollee at quarterback is listed as 6-2, 201 pounds. After a spring in the weight room he's not that now:

• Alabama hosting the reigning national champions in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, Baylor, is a strong indication of just how far the basketball program has come under the direction of Nate Oats. It wasn't that long ago that the Crimson Tide could never be sure if it would play in the annual crossover event. This is the ninth year of the challenge and Alabama has played in six. Instead, the Crimson Tide and Bears at Coleman Coliseum and Kentucky at Kansas will be the marquee games on Jan. 29. 

• Per the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati is still paying $380 an hour to the law firm investigating fired men's basketball coach John Brannen. Bond, Schoeneck and King, has been appointed Special Counsel to conduct the investigation with a budget of $49,000 through the end of this month. Brannen was fired April 9 two weeks after athletic director John Cunningham announced the university was using "independent fact finders" to review unspecified allegations related to Brannen and the men's basketball program after six players entered the transfer portal. The former Alabama assistant is suing the school, Cunningham and the university president. He's seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and the more than $5 million buyout he says he's due. 

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Christopher Walsh's notes column All Things CW appears weekly on BamaCentral.

When it comes to 2021 season predictions and forecasts, something is amiss when it comes to projections regarding Alabama. 

Many are claiming that the reigning national champions are clearly the team to beat again, even though the Crimson Tide no longer benefits from many of the keys that contributed to last year's title run. 

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