10 November 2008
The 2008 SEC Western Division Champion Crimson Tide hit the practice field today in preparation for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Sylvester Croom's bunch isn't technically in last place in the SEC West, but only because they have played one less conference game than Arkansas. We've had them at the bottom of our SEC Power Poll for a while now, and most consider them to be the worst team in the conference.
So, with Bama coming off of a big emotional win, and next Saturday bringing an off weekend, this game screams of being a "trap" game... right? This Bama team spent the entire off season looking at two posters in their locker room, images of the final scoreboard for the Louisiana-Monroe and Mississippi State games. Nick Saban wasn't making a comparision between those two schools. Instead, he deemed those to be the two games that it appeared as though Bama "quit", and he wanted to send the players a daily reminder of what happens when you don't FINISH!
Earl Alexander was once again in a black no contact jersey for a Monday practice in shells. The difference this week is that Earl was held out of contact because of a shoulder injury suffered during the LSU game, rather than the ankle injury that has held him out of the last several Monday practices. He's listed as day-to-day right now, and what color he is wearing tomorrow could give us a hint as to his status for Saturday.
Roy Upchurch wasn't wearing a black no contact jersey because he wasn't wearing a jersey at all. Well, he could have been, but not at the Alabama football practice. If he was there, no one in the media saw him, anyway. He missed Saturday's game with a muscle spasm in his neck that was suffered in pregame warm ups. One would assume that his absence at today's practice was both connected and excused, but we won't know for certain until Coach Saban's Wednesday press conference.
Tyler Love (stress fracture in leg) and Barrett Jones (shoulder) continue to work in black jerseys. It looks almost certain at this point that both of these guys are heading towards a medical redshirt. Redshirts for lineman typically end up being a very good thing in the long run, though it is a shame that both guys have to deal with their respective injuries.
Julio Jones did not appear to be having any problems with what looks to be a shoulder injury. He has missed snaps during each of the Tide's last two games, though no official statement has been made about his injury. It hasn't shown on the field, either, with Julio seeming to really come into his own over the course of the last several games - not that his play at the beginning of the year was poor. After his big performance on Saturday he now has 40 receptions for 634 yards and four touchdowns. All of those are tops for Bama in the 2008 season, but ridiculously enough, his 634 yards make him the active career leader in yards. Nick Walker is second with 613 yards - in 37 more games. Wow.
Terry Grant was getting more reps in the absence of Roy Upchurch. Bama played all of the LSU game with just two backs, with Glen Coffee carrying most of the load. Coffee topped the 1,000 yard mark on the season in Baton Rouge, while Grant is just six yards short of hitting the 1,000 yard mark for his career. In between Grant and playing time is also Mark Ingram, whose next carry will be his 100th of the season. Ingram also needs just one touchdown to tie Grant's school freshman record of nine.
The fact that Mississippi State is 106th in the nation in total offense and 114th in scoring offense does not mean that the Tide defense gets the weekend off. Alabama spent a good deal of time today working on the base 3-4 defense. A rejuvinated Terrence Cody led the way at the nose guard, with Josh Chapman and Marcel Dareus getting the reps behind him. Working in the base set meant that Cory Reamer, Chavis Williams, and Jerrell Harris got much needed reps. The fact that Bama has spent so much time this season in the nickel and dime packages have limited Williams and Harris to a combined two tackles, with Reamer getting the vast majority of the snaps at the sam linebacker position.
The nickel and dime packages were not completely ignored, though they typically get more work on Tuesday and Wednesday than they do on Monday. Bulldogs QB Tyson Lee is coming off of a career high 42 pass attempts in State's 14-13 loss to Kentucky. With both Marquis Johnson and Ali Sharrief coming off of solid games at LSU, expect both to be heavily involved again this weekend.
Bama will practice again tomorrow, this time in full pads. We'll be on the look out for Roy Upchurch, and we will also give you any other injury updates. The fact that Bama made it through what is typically one of the most physical games of the year without more injuries is a good sign - it's also a great indication of the conditioning and toughness of this team.