29 October 2009
The Alabama football team held its final practice of the week on Thursday afternoon. The full pads practice was held inside the Thomas Drew Indoor Facility, and appeared to be quite spirited and intense.
Here's what you need to know:
Colin Peek continues to wear a black jersey and ride a stationary bike. His sprained mcl kept him out of all but one play in the Tennessee game, though the staff is hopeful that he could be back by next Saturday. The fact that he is able to ride a bike is a good sign, but doesn't indicate how well he'll be able to make cuts and hold blocks.
Jerrell Harris was working with the outside linebackers again, looking to take on a bigger role in Alabama's defense. He was on the Tide's kick coverage unit (wearing #10) each time Bama kicked off on Saturday, but has yet to take a snap for the defense this season. With Courtney Upshaw and Chavis Williams each playing what Coach Saban described as "decent" football games the last two weeks, there is an opportunity for Harris to step in.
It looks like that is his best chance, though, because Nico Johnson (base 3-4) and Cory Reamer (nickel) look to have the will linebacker spot locked down. Johnson has played three solid games in a row, and Reamer is in the midst of his best season in Tuscaloosa. Harris could still factor in at the will if he becomes a consistent play-maker with the dime defense, but Johnson and Reamer are going to be tough to unseat.
The mantra for this week has been - get rested. But it looked like today's practice was going to have a different feel. Things could certainly change after the media viewing period, but the first two sections of the practice today were far more intense than in the two previous practices this week.
The players will have three days off after today, so it's a good strategy to push them a little today. LSU is physical, and the Tide has to be prepared to match that physicality. Being rested is the best way to be ready, but the guys also have to stay sharp. Too much time away from the intensity needed to win tough SEC games can hurt you. This coaching staff appears to understand that, and that's why today's practice looked like it was going to be a little tougher.
You might notice that there has been very little talk of the maligned Alabama offense during this week. The reason is that I don't expect Alabama to really do anything differently the rest of the season. I expect the Tide will run to set up the pass, and that we'll see Greg McElroy throw mostly safe routes. I do think we'll see the Bama offense take a few more shots downfield than we saw in the Tennessee game, but the UT game was more the exception than the rule - Bama has thrown downfield a lot this season.
Basically, don't expect to see Alabama come out after the bye week with a different offense. You can hope for (and expect) better execution. But Mark Ingram is still going to run the ball between the tackles 15-20 times, outside the tackles 5-8 times, and Bama will mix in some play-action to try to keep the defense honest. Throw in 10-15 carries for Trent Richardson/Roy Upchurch, and you've got the Bama offense.
And if the guys are rested and ready to go, we should see a return to some of the better performances of the early season. Is 30 points possible against LSU? Yes. Is it likely? That's a different story altogether. But if the Tide offense can keep from turning the ball over, I don't see a reason why 350-400 yards is out of the question.
That's a discussion for next week, though. As for now, the Bama players will have a conditioning drill tomorrow morning before having the weekend off.
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