How many puns about leaky boats, rudderless ships and choppy seas can writers make about Vanderbilt football?
There's no sure way to tell, but a near-century of Commodore failure hasn't exhausted the supply yet.
The only downside to opening SEC play against Vanderbilt is that you really can't evaluate anything in a meaningful way. Sure, Alabama rolled up 500 total yards before the end of the third quarter. Yes, Alabama blocked exquisitely for Bryce Young, opened copious holes for its running backs, and stifled a Commodore offense that, by all rights, had actually begin to show a pulse. But what does a score of 55-3 really tell us? It tells us that Vanderbilt was exactly what we thought it was in the preseason – overmatched, undermanned, and quite frankly not up to SEC standards. But what else is new in Nashville, really?
For all the media buzz about Texas A&M signing a “generational” class on National Early Signing Day, the end result was that Alabama fell from its typical spot atop NCAA recruiting class rankings all the way to … second place.
And even that result is contingent on Alabama possibly adding WR Kendrick Law or DE Omari Abor at a later date. If Alabama gets to count CB Eli Ricks, who it got out of the transfer portal from LSU, then go ahead and flip the rankings.
At the end of the day, Texas A&M did hold a lead in the TideFans.com / NARCAS 2021-2022recruiting rankings – classes won't be officially ranked until after the traditional February signing period – with Alabama just behind. Georgia was a clear No. 3, and then as many as 15 other teams were in the mix to fill out the remainder of the top 10.
Alabama's 18th national championship is in the books, and with it, the depletion of talent across the Tide's depth chart. While Alabama certainly brings in more elite talent than most other schools, it also loses more, primarily to the NFL Draft but also to the NCAA transfer portal.
I only wish I had been able to tell Cecil this when he was still alive. It is often said that one shouldn't meet their heroes, because the heroes don't always live up to one's expectations. In Cecil's case, however, he proved to be a source of continual inspiration as well as a constant reminder to up my game whenever I could. I don't think he would have been comfortable hearing this from me; he may have considered it the fawning praise of a writer who eventually changed careers and left the daily grind of the fourth estate behind. Unfortunately, I will now never know.
I will, however, do my best to carry on the legacy he gave me, whether he ever knew it or not. I will start with making a modest edit to the phrase that used to ring out across my newsrooms: Praise when it is warranted, always. Only criticize when it is absolutely necessary. You never know who might be reading along with the words you are writing.