22 September 2010
The Alabama football team practiced in full pads Wednesday. In what has become a mid-week routine in the early season, the Tide practiced inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility to get a bit of a break from the heat.
Here's what you need to know:
No changes on the injury front. Courtney Upshaw is still limited, but he did work with the first group in the nickel and dime packages. With Arkansas running the offense that they run, I expect Bama will spend the majority of the game on Saturday in nickel and dime, but I doubt we'll see Courtney play that much. It's likely he'll be a part of the rabbit rusher group, which means we'll get him on third and long situations.
Luther Davis is also limited, and might not see action. The first two units at defensive end were Marcell Dareus and Damion Square, followed by Undra Billingsley and Kerry Murphy. That means that Nick Gentry is set to back up Josh Chapman, which has been a very pleasant surprise in the early season.
After having early season scares with both William Vlachos and James Carpenter, the first unit offensive line appears to be healthy and ready for a big test. Arkansas limited Alabama's rushing attack as well as anyone in 2009, so I would guess that the guys up front will play with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Expect the same from Mark Ingram.
It looks like Nico Johnson isn't a guarantee to start at the will linebacker spot after all. While he did work with the first unit during the media viewing period, Coach Saban indicated that Jerrell Harris has also worked with the first group at both the sam and the will htis week. He also indicated that the staff would likely make a decision on the starter during Thursday's practice. My guess is that we'll see a lot more of Johnson, based solely on the level of intensity he showed during the Duke game. The light might have come on for Nico.
According to Coach Saban in his post practice media conference, Jalston Fowler is likely to stay at running back for the rest of the 2010 season, though he could move back to linebacker in 2011. After Mark Ingram departs for the NFL, I'm betting that Fowler stays with the offense. Coach Saban mentioned that Demetrius Goode has dealt with some nagging injuries throughout the season so far, and that made the decision to move Fowler necessary. He didn't say it, but Mike Marrow's departure appeared to have been the tipping point.
Practices this week have been very business-like. That's exactly how Coach Saban likes it, and it has been an indication that the team has not started listening to the hype. Instead, the guys are continuing to prepare with a high level of intensity, apparently grasping the fact that they will have to bring it every week if they want to play for championships again. Coach Saban has mentioned on several occassions that winning the SEC is the primary goal for each year's team, and that mission starts this weekend.
The Tide will practice again in full pads on Thursday, before having a walk-through in Tuscaloosa on Friday morning and an early afternoon flight to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. Those practices will not have a media viewing period, but we'll let you know if we hear anything.
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