THURSDAY TIDE PRACTICE NOTES, etc.

SEC Championship Preview (B’ham News)
The Birmingham News has a special section previewing the SEC Championship Game. The special section is in today’s (Friday’s) paper. Here’s the preview image of the section.

It looks OK. I do have a few complaints from a design standpoint—all sans serif on the page. It makes the page look tiring and uninviting—print is different from online where sans serifs are more acceptable and in fact easier to read.

As for content? I haven’t gotten my copy yet…it is only 1:30 a.m.

Tide wraps Florida practice sessions
Thursday was the last practice session on-campus for the Tide and the team heads to Atlanta Friday for its final 90-minute practice. Nick Saban has a full day with events starting at noon luncheon. He’ll also attend a press conference followed by practice.

The Florida game launches what looks to be the start of a trend in the SEC—Alabama and Florida meeting to determine the conference champion, according to Stewart Mandel. The LSU Beat blog for the Times-Picayune said the Saban-Meyer battle has the look of a classic SEC battle.

The centerpiece of the battle should be how Alabama deals with Tebow.

“What you have to do is prepare for the plays that they run,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “They run a lot of direct runs with him. It’s a single-wing type offense and he is not a typical quarterback when it comes to being a runner. He is big and physical and he runs with a lot of toughness. He is a very good passer, relative to efficiency and running their offense and when you load things up on them, they have made a lot of big plays in the passing game. He is a very difficult guy to defend.

“I don’t know that you can prepare any differently than any big, physical runner that you would play against, because when he runs it, he is a running back. When he passes it, he is quarterback. He is a unique blend and he makes a lot of good decisions in their offense. He is a good one.”

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Caldwell on Rimington List, Tide puts four on All-American team
Here’s a couple of releases with details on Alabama players honored Thursday. Antoine Caldwell is a finalist for the Rimington Trophy and four players include Caldwell, Terrence Cody, Rashad Johnson and Andre Smith. Here are the releases.

Crimson Tide Garners Four AFCA First-Team All-Americans
TUSCALOOSA – The top-ranked Alabama football team had four players selected to the 2008 AFCA Coaches’ All-America Team it was announced on Thursday by the American Football Coaches Association.

Senior center Antoine Caldwell, junior nose guard Terrence Cody, senior free safety Rashad Johnson and junior left tackle Andre Smith were selected to the 25-man team. It marks just the fourth time in school history that four Tide players have earned first-team All-America honors in the same season (1964, 1966 and 1974).

“It is a special honor and I think I can speak for all four of us,” Johnson said. “We are excited and it is truly a blessing. I want to thank all of our teammates because without their efforts we might have gone unnoticed. We just have to continue to work hard because we still have some goals left in front of us.”

Alabama’s heralded offensive line placed two players on the team – Caldwell and Smith – after they helped pave the way for the SEC’s No. 2 rushing offense at 201.5 rushing yards per game and a 127.8 passing efficiency that ranked fourth in the SEC. Smith (Birmingham, Ala.) is a finalist for the Outland Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award while Caldwell (Montgomery, Ala.) is a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top center.

Johnson, a former walk-on from Sulligent, Ala., heads a Crimson Tide defense that ranks third nationally in total defense and fifth in pass efficiency defense. He leads the team with five interceptions – including two he returned for touchdowns – and is second in tackles with 73. His 16 passes defended (11 breakups) lead the SEC while his five interceptions are fourth.

Cody, a junior college transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast and a native of Fort Myers, Fla., has made a huge impact in the middle of the Crimson Tide’s defensive front. He has required double and triple teams from opposing offensive lines all season while accounting for 20 tackles and four tackles for loss. The Tide defensive ranks second nationally in rush defense (73.6 yards per game).

The AFCA has selected an All-America team since 1945 and currently selects teams in all five of its divisions. What makes these teams special is that they are the only ones chosen exclusively by the men who know the players the best – the coaches themselves.

The AFCA’s Football Bowl Subdivision All-America Selection Committee is made up of three head coaches from each of the AFCA’s nine FBS districts, one of whom serves as a district chairman, along with another head coach who serves as the chairman of the selection committee. The coaches in each district are responsible for ranking the top players in their respective districts, that information, along with ballots submitted by FBS head coaches, are used to select the AFCA FBS Coaches’ All-America Team.

Antoine Caldwell Named Finalist for Rimington Trophy
TUSCALOOSA – Alabama center Antoine Caldwell was selected as one of six finalists for the 2008 Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s top center, Thursday by the Boomer Esiason Foundation.

“It’s huge to be a finalist for the Rimington (Trophy),” Caldwell said. “This is one of the reasons you put in all of the hard work in the offseason. It means a lot that I can leave here and still know that I have left behind a little bit of a legacy, and know that I accomplished something special. I also want to thank my teammates for their efforts because none of the individual awards can be accomplished without everyone working as a team.”

Caldwell has been a centerpiece in one of the best offensive lines in college football this season. The senior from Montgomery, Ala., is a first-team All-American by the America Football Coaches Association and has helped Alabama average 201.5 yards rushing per game, which ranks 22nd nationally. He has also provided time for quarterback John Parker Wilson to rank fourth in the SEC in passing efficiency.

Caldwell has been honored by the Alabama coaching staff as an offensive player of the week five times this season and was the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week following the Tide’s 36-0 shutout of Auburn. A four-year starter for the Crimson Tide, Caldwell has started 46 career games.

Joining Caldwell as finalists are: Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas; Alex Mack, California; A.Q. Shipley, Penn State; Max Unger, Oregon; Eric Wood, Louisville

The winner of the Rimington Trophy will be announced at The Home Depot/ESPNU College Football Awards show, broadcast live from Orlando, Fla., on ESPN Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008. The winner will be recognized at the Rimington Trophy Presentation at the Rococo Theatre in Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009.

The winner of the Rimington Trophy is selected by determining the consensus All-American center pick from four existing All-America teams. While more than a dozen All-America teams are selected annually, the Rimington Trophy committee uses these four prestigious teams to determine a winner: American Football Coaches Association (AFCA); Walter Camp Foundation (WCF); Sporting News (SN); Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

Because the selectors of these four All-America teams can place centers in a “mix” of offensive linemen that includes guards and tackles, their 11-man first teams can often have two centers. The Rimington Trophy committee’s policy is to count all players that play primarily the center position for their respective teams as centers, even though they may be listed as guards or tackles on the four All-America teams.

The center with the most first team votes will be determined the winner. If there is a tie with first team votes, then the center with the most second team votes will win. If there is still a tie, the winner will be determined by a majority vote from the Rimington Trophy committee.

About the Rimington Trophy
The nine-year old trophy is presented by the Boomer Esiason Foundation. Esiason created his foundation in 1993 to support research and treatment of cystic fibrosis. Esiason and Dave Rimington were teammates on the Cincinnati Bengals from 1984-87. Rimington, the award’s namesake, was a consensus first team All-America center at Nebraska in 1981 and 1982 during which he became the John Outland Trophy’s only double winner as the nation’s premiere college interior lineman.