28 October 2009
The Alabama football team had another light workout on Wednesday afternoon. Once again in shells, the Tide spent most of the practice working on fundamentals.
Here's what you need to know:
There no change on the injury front. Colin Peek was once again in a black jersey riding a stationary bike. The staff is still hopeful that he might be able to go next Saturday. We'll know more on Monday.
There were no other unexpected players in black jerseys. Guys who had been in black recently, including freshmen receivers Michael Bowman and Kenny Bell, were in their regular jerseys and cleared for contact.
Jerrell Harris is, in fact, getting some work with the outside linebackers. This means two things:
- The staff thinks he can contend for a spot in the rabbit rusher group.
- Nico Johnson has played well enough to lock down the will linebacker spot in the base defense.
I still think that Courtney Upshaw is the Tide's best option to replace Dont'a Hightower in the rabbit rusher package, but he's had a down year - nine tackles, one sack, two quarterback hurries. If he continues to struggle to produce, the staff will not hesitate to replace him, and Harris could be the next best option.
After Upshaw got a little banged up on the opening kickoff on Saturday (he's fine now), the staff went with Chavis Williams at the spot. He had just one tackle and one quarterback hurry - not the kind of performance that instills confidence in the staff. Alex Watkins and Milton Talbert could also get a chance if none of the three guys listed above please the coaching staff.
Otherwise, things were as quiet as expected for the off week. With just one practice remaining this week, you can expect another fundamental practice for the guys. You can also bet that the staff has already turned its attention to LSU.
I was shocked when I looked at the stats to find out that LSU ranks just 50th in the nation in run defense. I was thinking that I would have to talk about how Bama will have to pass to beat the Tigers, but I'm not so certain of that now.
Yes, the LSU defense is good - 22nd in total defense and 12th in scoring defense - but this is not the LSU front of the past few years. A good rushing team can run on the Tigers. Bama ranks 11th in the nation in rushing offense, and has the SEC's leading rusher in Mark Ingram.
Throw in the fact that LSU ranks just 106th in total offense, to Bama's 4th in total defense, and you could have a matchup that favors the Tide.
Forget about stats, though, this will be the biggest game of the 2009 season to date. I'm not talking about things from a rivalry standpoint, either. It's simple...
If Bama wins next Saturday, the Tide clinches the SEC Western Division Title.
Ole Miss already has two conference losses (including one to Alabama), Auburn and Mississippi State each have three conference losses, and Arkansas has four. If Bama beats LSU, it will be the Tigers' second SEC loss. And it will guarantee the Tide an SEC record of no worse than 6-2. Bama would have the tiebreaker over both LSU and Ole Miss.
So a win punches Bama's ticket to Atlanta. And you can bet that the coaching staff is very aware of that. Winning the SEC West isn't the ultimate goal, but it is the first thing that has to be checked off of the list if the Tide wants to win a national championship.
So, join the players in relaxing a bit this weekend, but be ready to go next week.
Alabama will practice again tomorrow, and that will be the final practice of the week. The players have earned the break they'll get this weekend, and I'm guessing we'll see a rejuvinated Tide when practice resumes.
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