10 November 2009
Despite the fact that the state media appears as though they would prefer to continue talking about the "interception" in the LSU game, the Alabama football team has moved on to the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Practice #2 of the week was held today, and
Here's what you need to know:
A pretty miserable day weather-wise in Tuscaloosa forced the team inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility for its full pads practice. With the SEC West clinched, the team does not appear to have let up. The practice was high energy, and intense. Exactly what you want to see from a championship team heading into its 10th game of the season.
The injury report continues to get better. Guys with nagging injuries get a big test when they have to go on back to back days, and all three of the Tide's recently injured players were cleared for contact again today. Colin Peek (knee), Terry Grant (undisclosed muscle), and Dre Kirkpatrick (undisclosed muscle) all missed time last week, and both Grant and Kirkpatrick missed the game. All three look probable for Saturday in Starkville.
One part of the Alabama team that hasn't been talked about in recent weeks is the kick-off coverage team. After being the hot topic for those looking to find the negative earlier in the season, the kick coverage unit has seen steady improvement, despite not being 100% healthy. With Kirkpatrick back in the mix this week, he'll go with Rod Woodson (who missed a couple of games), Roy Upchurch (who was limited for several weeks), and Jerrell Harris (who was suspended for six games) to form what is becoming a solid unit.
After giving up touchdowns in the first two games, and long returns in the next two, the kick coverage unit has slowly battled their average allowed return down to 24.7 yards. After allowing returns of 98 yards, 96 yards, 67 yards (called back), and 52 yards in the first four weeks of the season, the longest return in the last five games has been 39 yards. While that's still too long, the average has been steadily decreasing.
LSU's longest return was just 29 yards. The unit still has room for improvement, but I no longer fear a return for a touchdown every time that Bama kicks off. Part of the solution has been better coverage. Part of the solution has also been better kicking by Leigh Tiffin.
One thing that this staff likes to do in practice is have a player "shadow" another player to learn his assignments. Typically you'll see Nico Johnson shadow Rolando McClain, or Mark Barron shadow Justin Woodall. Today it was a little different, though, with Ali Sharrief shadowing Cory Reamer. That's a safety shadowing a linebacker.
One possible reason for this could be that the Tide is expecting several future opponents (MSU, Auburn, and Florida) to spread Bama into the nickel and dime packages, and then attempt to run the ball. While Sharrief is technically behind Robby Green on the depth chart at the star position (the sixth defensive back in the dime), it is likely that he's getting this work to try and be a possible situational guy in Bama's upcoming games. I'm guessing that Robby Green has actually done this same thing during drills that the media was not allowed to watch.
This coaching staff is smart.
Terrence Cody made the finalist list for the Lombardi Trophy. The award will almost certainly go to Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh, who is very deserving. Though I've got to be honest and tell you that I completely gave up on this award back in 1988 when Auburn's Tracy Rocker (a fine player) won the award over Derrick Thomas - who set an NCAA record by totalling an astounding 27 sacks in that one season.
For reference, Texas A&M's Von Miller lead's the nation with 15.5 this year. Arizona State's Dexter Davis is the NCAA's current active leader in career sacks with 29. It's taken him 47 games to get two more than Derrick had in just 11 games in that one season. So, really, I've got nothing for the award. The fact that Rolando McClain - who is the undisputed leader of the Bama defense - was left off of the finalist list is really just par for the course for the Rotary Club of Houston that gives the award.
The fact that Derrick wasn't inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this past season is a freaking joke, as well. He's eligible. How in the hell is a guy with 52 career sacks not a shoe in? The quarterback hurry stat was invented because of Derrick, and he added 44 of those to his 27 sacks that season. Yeah... that's 71 times getting to the quarterback in ONE SEASON. But let's not give him the most prestigious award for a front-seven defensive player... or put him into the hall of fame.
At least the NFL folks got that one right this year.
Okay... off of the soap box now. What was I talking about?
Mississippi State. Don't let the Bulldogs 4-5 record fool you into thinking this is a bad team. After a bad early season loss to Auburn, their losses have come to:
#8 LSU 30-26
#7 Georgia Tech 42-31
#15 Houston 31-24
#1 Florida 29-19
They lost those four games to teams ranked in the top 15 in the BCS by an average of eight points.
Don't get me wrong, Bama is clearly the more talented team, and should win this game comfortably. But if you're looking for a reason for the intensity in practice, well... there it is. The Bulldogs play tough, especially in Starkville.
Bama will practice in full pads again on Wednesday, hopefully outside in better weather. We'll have our normal report.
|< Prev||Next >|