Alabama sophomore Lora Leigh Frost warming up before Friday’s meet against LSU. (Copyright photo by Brett Hudson)
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Sophomore Lora Leigh Frost took another step in her return from injury by competing as an exhibition performer in the floor exercise in Alabama’s 196.575-195.525 win Friday over LSU.
The Decatur Heritage Christian Academy graduate went through her routine for officials but it wasn’t one of the six that had the potential to score for the team total.
“Lora Leigh kind of crunched her ankle before Christmas break and she’s just now getting started, getting back,” Tide coach Sarah Patterson said. “She has some harder tumbling, but I just thought, ‘I want to get her out there, get her in the exhibition spot for some experience,’ see how she did and she did a great job.”
Patterson saw great progress out of Frost, but said she hopes to work on her energy toward the end of the routine.
Contributed by Brett Hudson
We have some video highlights from Frost’s routine as seen from press row. (Admittedly, it’s not the best seat in the house for the floor exercise.)
Ashley Priess scored a 9.85 on the balance beam. (Copyright photo by Brett Hudson)
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — The fifth-ranked LSU Tigers entered Coleman Coliseum representing a ferocious hunter, but it was No. 6 Alabama that struck at the slightest showing of weakness in an SEC gymnastics showdown Friday night.
LSU had three routines in its opening event, uneven bars, score under 9.7 to give Alabama a 1.05-point lead going into the second event. Then the Crimson Tide’s Ashley Sledge delivered a 9.9 on the uneven bars to bring about the beginning of the end for LSU. Alabama took a lead of 1.025 points midway through the meet and coasted to a 196.575-195.525 victory in front of 13,921 at Coleman Coliseum.
“I thought we came out on fire in the first two events,” Tide coach Sarah Patterson said. “I think we can look at our score, know we counted a fall and know we have an opportunity to be much better than we were tonight.”
Competing at home for the first time as back-to-back national champions gave the Crimson Tide the initial burst of energy to bury the Tigers, but also led to a late slip-up. Alabama surrendered the floor exercise, its final event, to LSU 49.125-48.750.
“I think we’re still not where we need to be in terms of overall conditioning,” Patterson said. “It’s a long night. We started at the gym here at 5 o’clock and I think that’s a little taxing, especially with all the excitement.
“I thought we were a little tentative on balance beam. My biggest concern was on our final tumbling passes, I thought we were a little slow.”
The home debut was a great opportunity for junior Kim Jacob to upgrade herself from what Patterson labeled a “diamond in the rough” to a full diamond on display. Jacob took the all-around title for the night with a score of 39.375, besting LSU’s Jessica Savona’s 38.8.
“Sometimes I look at her and I’m in total amazement,” Patterson said, complimenting her accomplishments in academics as well as athletics. “To me, when someone steps forward like that, it kind of shows you that example. That’s why our program has been so successful, because we have leaders like that.
Alabama’s next meet will be Jan. 25 in Coleman Coliseum against Kentucky in the Power of Pink Meet, bringing awareness to breast cancer.
Contributed by Brett Hudson
Video of Sarah Patterson in the post-meet news conference:
Mike Shula is now the Carolina Panthers’ offensive coordinator. (AP photo by Rob Carr)
Former Alabama head coach Mike Shula, who was fired in 2006 to make way for Nick Saban, is getting a promotion. Here’s the Associated Press story:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — After 14 years Mike Shula is getting another chance to run an NFL offense.
The Carolina Panthers named Shula as their new offensive coordinator today. Shula served as the team’s quarterbacks coach the last two seasons, working with former Auburn standout Cam Newton.
The Panthers chose to hire from within after interviewing candidates from outside the organization.
“After going through the interview process we feel that Mike’s familiarity with our offense and personnel lends itself to the offensive coordinator position,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He has the experience and knowledge to step in and provide continuity in an area that has been productive over the past two years.”
Shula takes over for Rob Chudzinski, who left to become the Cleveland Browns’ head coach.
Shula said he was anxious to get another shot at being an offensive coordinator.
The last time didn’t work out so well.
He spent four seasons (1996-99) as the offensive coordinator at Tampa Bay, but the Bucs finished 29th in total offense, 27th in points scored and last in the league in passing, according to STATS INC. They never finished better than 22nd in total offense in any of those four seasons.
However, this time around he has the versatile Newton running the offense.
“I am excited about working with our offense in a more expanded role as offensive coordinator,” said Shula, the son of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula. “There are a number of pieces in place for a good offense and our goal is to build on the momentum we had at the end of last season.”
Shula has helped with the development of Newton, who was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 and who improved statistically in his second season. The Panthers have been ranked seventh and 12th in total offense the past two years.
Shula has 20 years of NFL coaching experience. He coached Alabama during 2003-2006, including a 10-2 season in 2005.
Andre Smith played at Alabama during 2006-08 and was a first-round draft pick by Cincinnati in 2009. (AP photo by Michael Keating)
Former Alabama All-America lineman Andre Smith ran into some legal trouble. Here’s the latest from The Associated Press:
ATLANTA (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andre Smith was free on bond today after his arrest on a charge of carrying a loaded gun at Atlanta’s airport.
Smith, 25, was arrested around 4:50 p.m. Thursday at a security checkpoint at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. A .38-caliber handgun was found in his carry-on bag, said Atlanta police Sgt. Greg Lyon.
Smith, who played at Alabama during 2006-08, was charged with carrying a weapon in an unauthorized location and was taken to the Clayton County Jail in Jonesboro — about 20 miles south of Atlanta. He posted $3,000 bond today, according to court records.
Smith made his initial court appearance Friday and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 4, according to court documents.
Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan said franchise officials will not comment on ongoing legal matters, and a call to Smith’s attorney was not immediately returned. Smith was a first-round draft pick in 2009 out of Alabama.
Jon Allen, a TSA spokesman, said Smith’s loaded gun is the third firearm recovered at the airport in 2013.
“We continue to remind passengers of the importance of looking through carry-on bags to ensure there are no prohibited items inside,” Allen said. He added that firearms may be packed into checked baggage.
With 100 guns being confiscated from passengers’ bags in 2012, the world’s busiest airport also ranked first nationally in terms of the number of weapons seized from passengers.
Alabama’s Trevor Lacey (5) maneuvers around Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52). (AP photo by Erin Nelson of The Tuscaloosa News)
Last season, Alabama struggled to shoot over a basic 2-3 zone, which cost the Crimson Tide spots in the SEC tournament semifinals and NCAA tournament second round.
The 3-pointers are starting to fall the Tide’s way now, as Alabama is a stout 5-1 when it makes seven or more 3-pointers in a game. Alabama also lays claim to the best 3-point shooter in the Southeastern Conference: guard Trevor Lacey, tied with Missouri’s Jabari Brown with 50 percent.
“It’s something this year that we took pride in as a team,” Lacey said. “We put in extra work before and after practice with shooting. We know last year teams played zone, sagged off of us and dared us to shoot. This year, we took it personally to make shots.”
Added Alabama coach Anthony Grant: “Last year, we were a young team on the perimeter. Now we have players that are comfortable. We’re fortunate that our percentage has improved, but we’re going to continue to do the same things we do to make sure we get high percentage shots and give us the best chance to win.”
Now the 3-point shooting threat is coming from the other side, as the Tide has to guard Texas A&M senior Elston Turner on Saturday, who is ranked fourth in the Southeastern Conference in 3-point shooting at 41 percent and was named SEC player of the week. He had 40 points in an 83-71 win at Kentucky.
“He’s a fifth-year guy, a redshirt senior who’s got a tremendous ability to score the basketball,” Grant said. “I think everybody saw that against Kentucky, but it’s something he’s been able to do his entire career.”
Texas A&M’s last opponent, Florida, held Turner to four points by forcing him to go to his left, seeing most of his 40 points against Kentucky coming from moves to his right.
“He had some shots against Florida that did not go in that did go in against Kentucky,” Grant said.
Alabama’s Trevor Releford, center, looks for help as he drives between Missouri’s Negus Webster-Chan, left, and Jabari Brown, right. (AP photo by L.G. Patterson)
A by-design lazy Thursday could help Alabama point guard Trevor Releford return to the floor when the Crimson Tide hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.
Releford missed Wednesday’s 75-43 win over Mississippi State after injuring his foot two days earlier.
“We got some shots up. He was able to get through that,” said Tide coach Anthony Grant, who is uncertain if Releford will be available Saturday. “Right now, it’s going to come down to his pain tolerance. He’s got some stiffness and some soreness there.
“Like we said before, the ultimate goal is to make sure that he’s healthy and make sure he doesn’t do anything to jeopardize his health.”
Grant also said Releford’s participation level in today’s practice will be a factor in his availability.
Fellow guard Trevor Lacey recognized the void left in Releford’s absence, but applauded the team’s ability to come together for a road win without the team leader in points (16.3), free throw percentage (85.3) and steals (25).
“It was a little different, but going into the game, we knew he wasn’t going to play so everyone was willing to do something extra to get the win,” Lacey said. “Guys just come together and do little things to piece things together.”