21 October 2009
With all of the talk this week being about white tape, jersey colors, officiating crews, and stadium music, the #1 ranked Alabama football team just keeps on working towards Saturday's showdown with the Tennessee Vols. The Tide practiced outdoors, in full pads for what will be their final practice of the week with a media viewing period.
Here's what you need to know:
The injury situation looks to be good. All of the "day-to-day" guys have continued to practice in red or white jerseys, signifying that they've been cleared for contact. In specific, Javier Arenas has been going through all of his individual drill work. There is no guarantee that any of these guys will play, of course. But they've all been working in their regular positions during the media viewing period, which is a good sign.
Jerrell Harris (#10) and Chris Rogers (#1) worked with their new jersey numbers again today, so it looks like that could be a permanent (at least for 2009) change. That tells me that we'll be seeing Harris get his first game action on the kick-off return team. He's probably anxious as hell to make an impact, so let's hope that he doesn't get too anxious and run right through his lane.
Speaking of guys being overly anxious and running throught their lanes, Rod Woodson is back and practicing solidly after missing all of last week in a black no contact jersey. Woodson appears to have a world of athletic ability, but has been the victim (several times) of over-pursuing on kick coverage, and allowing a big return.
If Woodson and Dre Kirkpatrick are both available to play, and Harris joins the kick coverage unit, it will be interesting to see what ten guys join Leigh Tiffin for Bama's kickoffs. It's my bet that we see Leigh get to kick off a number of times, so we'll likely get several opportunities to check out what could be a new-look unit.
Earlier in the week we saw Nico Johnson get a chance to take reps behind Cory Reamer is the will linebacker in the nickel package. Today it was Harris's turn. I don't think this means that Jerrell is ready to take over the nickel spot from Reamer, or that he's ahead of Johnson, even. I think the staff is still trying all available options to get the best 11 guys on the field. And I don't expect this type of experimenting to stop under this staff - not this year, not any year.
It is worth noting that during fall camp Harris was getting some reps at the money position in Bama's dime package. So there is apparently something that he is capable of doing in pass coverage that the staff likes. That could mean more playing time in the will down the road, but I'm betting that we still see Reamer this weekend. After the off week? That could be a different story.
Otherwise, it was a pretty standard practice. It's unlikely that Bama would show much of anything new during the media viewing period, anyway. But, at this point in the season, no news from practice is typically good news.
As for the other things that have been going on this week....
Rumors that the officiating crew that bungled the LSU-Georgia and Arkansas-Florida games would be officiating the game this weekend are untrue. Those rumors likely stemmed from a blog site posing the hypothitcal question "what if these guys screwed up the Alabama-Tennessee game?" and folks just ran with it. In reality, the SEC doesn't announce its assignments for officials until midweek.
And, with that in mind, the SEC has made a different announcement regarding these specific officials - that they will not work another SEC game until November 14. It appears as though the crew was set to have this weekend off anyway, but they will not be assigned to games during the weekend of October 31 or November 7 as punishment for some pretty awful officiating.
"A series of calls that have occurred during the last several weeks have not been to the standard that we expect from our officiating crews. I believe our officiating program is the best in the country, however, there are times when these actions must be taken. While only a few calls have been identified, the entire crew shoulders responsibility for each play, I have taken this action because there must be accountability in our officiating program. Our institutions expect the highest level of officiating in all of our sports and it is the duty of the conference office to uphold that expectation."
That is some pretty harsh language for crew chief Marc Curles and his crew to sit with for three weeks. The SEC also added that this crew could see their postseason bowl game assignments in jeopardy. After many, many years of bullshit "apologies" to teams that had been screwed over by poor officiating, I, for one, love the fact that Mike Slive and Rogers Reading are taking aggressive action. This sends the message to all of the officiating crews in the conference that there will be accountability for poor performance.
As for the "tape-gate" incident, in which Steve Spurrior pointed out that Alabama was placing white tape on the field to mark the spot for place-kicks:
Nick Saban responded today - "I have to be very honest about this, I was not aware of this. I have become aware of this since it was brought to my attention. We certainly don't want our players to do anything that's illegal. It's a five-yard penalty if you do anything to enhance the spot. We've done some research on it and over half of the teams do something, whether it's put a piece of grass there or piece of mud, or whatever it is so the kicker knows where it's going to be spotted. We even saw verification of something where even South Carolina's kicker did something (in 2008). This is not something that is really unusual for people to do. It is something that shouldn't be done because it's against the rules. We're actually happy it was brought to our attention because I wasn't aware of it."
I would like to think that's the last we'll hear of it, but if Leigh Tiffin has a bad game Saturday, I imagine the lack of tape will be the "reason" given by many of Bama's rival's fans. Not that I care what they think, but you get the drift...
According to an article in the Tuscaloosa News by Tommy Deas, Alabama has asked for a hearing in front of the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee. It looks like once the hearing happens, it should take about a month for the committee to make its ruling.
That's all for today. With Thursday and Friday practices closed, there won't be another practice report this week. We'll keep you updated on anything we hear, though.
Oh yeah... I still hate orange.
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