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Jumbo Package: Tim Keenan’s Emergence could be Huge for Alabama

An improving defensive line with a nose tackle who can make plays? Count me in.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

TUSALOOSA, Ala. — Addressing reporters on Wednesday ahead of No. 12 Alabama football’s matchup with Mississippi State, head coach Nick Saban gave updates on two of Alabama’s injured players, linebacker Deontae Lawson and offensive lineman Terrence Ferguson II.

“Both guys were unable to practice today,” Saban said. “That would put them at a category of very questionable.”

Lawson left last week’s Ole Miss game with an ankle injury, and was considered “day-to-day” by Saban earlier in the week. Sophomore Jihaad Campbell replaced Lawson after his injury and played well, being selected as one of the staff’s players of the week after the game.

Ferguson received an upgrade in playing time Saturday against the Rebels after starting right guard Darrian Dalcourt suffered an injury in the first half, and later, Ferguson suffered an injury of his own. He exited the game before halftime and did not return.

Not great news here, as it seems Lawson and Ferguson will likely miss this week’s game against Mississippi State. Lawson has, through the first few weeks of the season, been playing like the best player on the team, so that loss is not a small one. However, Jihaad Campbell and even Kendrick Blackshire have both also looked phenomenal in his absence so far, so Alabama should be ok.

Meanwhile Ferguson has been the primary backup guard. As long as Tyler Booker and Darrian Dalcourt are good to go, it’s fine. But the depth is thin after that.

Per his written testimony, Smith stated it has become a “practice” by recruits to request $5 thousand from a school in order to secure just a visit. Once on campus, further NIL conversations are had, essentially amounting to a pay-for-play system.

The claims weren’t a bombshell. Instead, it was the latest example of a big collegiate name commenting on the madhouse that’s developed through player compensation. On Wednesday night, Alabama head coach Nick Saban — no stranger to his own revelatory NIL comments — chimed in when asked if a recruit has ever requested money to come to Tuscaloosa.

“Not that I know of,” Saban said. “I don’t know of anybody that’s asked us for that. But look, name, image and likeness is not really name, image and likeness. I think we all understand what it’s become and what we allowed it to become.”

Meanwhile... Don’t you just love the direction college football is going?

For what it’s worth, I do think that, even without an overall governing body coming down with some actual enforceable guardrails, some of this will correct itself out naturally. Sure, recruits may be asking for $5k to show up... But how many times is that going to work before boosters get fed up with paying it without their team winning any more games?

Another surging defensive lineman for the Tide is nose guard Tim Keenan III. Keenan III has the stature of a prototypical nose; relatively short and stout, and strong as an ox. However, he is also a plus-athlete, and is much quicker than he looks.

The Birmingham native got a lot of buzz in the offseason, and has now put together a pair of really good games against quality competition. He made five tackles and notched a QB pressure in Bama’s loss to Texas, and had three tackles and three pressures against Ole Miss.

It felt like Keenan III was chasing Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart around all afternoon, just narrowly missing on a couple sack opportunities. Even though he has yet to record a sack this season, his presence has certainly been felt. A couple of his pressures against Ole Miss caused incompletions even though Dart had a wide-open receiver. For the season, his four hurries rank second on the team behind only Dallas Turner and lead all Crimson Tide defensive linemen.

Going into this season, the two position groups I was the most worried about were the defensive line and the wide receivers (turns out, I should have been thinking about the OL). Well, the wide receivers have done everything possible and more with every meager target they’ve gottend this season. And the defensive line? Tim Keenan has been a revelation. After four year of DJ Dale invisibly playing nose tackle, Keenan has brought a bit of juice to the position. He’s been improving each game, and was downright dominant in the middle against Ole Miss. If he keeps that up, it’ll go a long way toward bringing back some of the interior dominance that Alabama fans became accustomed to in 2009-2017.

‘The guy is a comedian’: Nick Saban draws awesome message from Alabama football CB Terrion Arnold

“I feel what makes him different is most people don’t really understand he has a true personality. I mean, the guy is a comedian, he’s a character and he’s a great coach all in one, ” Arnold explained, per ClutchPoints (h/t Hellmann’s).

He continued, “He’s all about the development of the players and really, I would say, really striving and pushing us to be our best version of ourselves.”

Love it. At this point, I think most of the national media seems to have finally caught on about Saban’s personality... At least, they have compared to how Nick was usually framed about a decade ago.

Anyway, here’s the full Saban presser from yesterday, if you’re interested.