19 December 2011
The University of Alabama football team began its on-field preparations Monday for the rematch against LSU in the BCS Championship Game on January 9. The practice, held inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility, saw players practice in shells. It was the Tide's first practice in three weeks.
Here's what you need to know:
Bama's health situation is good. Jonathan Atchison (bicep) and Dee Hart (knee) were in black, but participated in individual drills. Both Arie and Cyrus Kouandjio were absent as they continue to rehab their knee injuries. Otherwise, everyone appears to have used the three week layoff to rest and recover from nagging injuries.
The three guys that needed it the most were probably Darius Hanks (ankle), Barrett Jones (ankle), and Eddie Lacy (toe). All three of them, along with Josh Chapman (knee), and Mark Barron (ribs) looked to be much closer to 100% than at any point during the season.
Trent Richardson was wearing a small brace on his right wrist, though it did not appear to affect him in any way. He carried the ball in that hand and showed no signs of favoring it.
Bama worked on fundamentals, which is typically the plan for the first week of bowl practice. Though, to be quite honest, I think you will see the Tide spend more time on perfecting what Bama does than on prepping for what LSU does. Not only have the players already prepped for LSU once, the Tigers don't do anything particularly fancy on offense. They use their talent and their physicality to impose their will on the opposing defense. You could flip the team names there and say pretty much the same thing. Bama knows what LSU is going to do, the same way that LSU knows what Bama is going to do. There are no real surprises for either team, and I think you will see both teams circle the wagons and really work to perfect what they want to do.
The one exception to that would be that the Tide will almost certainly prepare for Jordan Jefferson to take all of the snaps for LSU at quarterback. Jarrett Lee was officially the starter in the first game, but he has been noticeably absent from the offense since he threw his second INT against Bama. So Nick Saban and Kirby Smart will likely spend a little more time on the option this go around.
Coach Saban revealed in his media conference that Michael Bowman and Ronald Carswell have both been serving suspensions "for some time." He poked fun at the media for not being aware of it, an indication of his overall good mood during the conference. Carswell later revealed by twitter that he is considering transferring. There have been rumors surrounding both guys for the last six weeks or so, so don't be shocked to see both guys enrolled elsewhere when the spring semester begins in January.
Duron Carter was also absent from practice, but his absence was excused. Despite what you might have heard hinted at on message boards or talk radio, Carter is no eligible to play in this game. Coach Saban said back in September that he would be required to live in Tuscaloosa for a full year before becoming eligible. That means we'll see him in Dallas for the Michigan game. During the week leading up to the last game vs. LSU he spent some time emulating Jordan Jefferson on the scout team. My guess is that he'll spend a good deal of time doing that again.
The other hot message board debate at the moment is over Dee Hart, and whether or not the talented freshman will take his first collegiate snaps against LSU. At first glance, it seems ridiculous. Why would a coach burn a player's redshirt for one game? Simple. It's the National Championship game. Dee Hart came to Alabama to help the Tide win championships. Bama might make it to another title game during Hart's career, but the title will absolutely be on the line in this game. If Coach Saban thinks that Hart can help the Tide win, he will play. Period. In 2001 Saban played freshman Travis Daniels in the SEC Championship Game, burning his redshirt.
Dee Hart is a talented kid, and he was expected to compete with Eddie Lacy for second team snaps this season. If he has recovered enough from his knee injury to be capable of playing at that level now, I don't think you'll see Nick Saban hesitate to play him. I understand that fans don't want to see a player use a redshirt year for one game. But how likely is it that Hart is at Alabama for five years? Running backs have an incredibly short shelf life in the NFL, and it is unlikely that Dee Hart would spend another four years playing college ball. The only way he does that is if he isn't an NFL back. And if he isn't an NFL back, he'll likely be third or fourth string by the time his fifth year rolled around. Ask Mark Richt is he wishes that he had played Knowshon Moreno during his redshirt year.
Simply put, I don't think that Hart's potential redshirt will factor into the decision to play him. What will factor in is whether or not he is physically and mentally ready to play. If he is, and he is capable of helping the Tide win the game, he will play. If he is not, then he will use the redshirt.
Coach Saban also mentioned in his press conference that Bama will have either 21 or 22 players participating in the game that will earn their degrees next week. The final grades are not all in, which is why there is still an "or" in there. For the record, Bama had 22 graduates playing in Pasadena two years ago. Redshirt senior Brandon Gibson will be receiving his masters degree next week. Congratulations to them all.
Jim McElwain worked with the quarterbacks during practice and will be the playcaller during the title game. Coach Saban indicated that there will be no change made because of McElwain accepting the head coaching position at Colorado State. He also indicated that he was not focused on finding a 2012 replacement for McElwain until after Jan 9. I'm sure he's made plenty of phone calls, and with the recruiting dead period starting last night, he'll make a lot more this week. But don't expect to see an announcement about a replacement until the first of February.
Bama will practice again on Tuesday, and we'll have our normal report.
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