20 October 2008
It's Tennessee week! I don't care if it's actually being played on the fourth Saturday in October, folks are still going to call it by its rightful name "The Third Saturday in October." Why exactly, SEC, is the game no longer played on that date? I digress... Bama took to the field today to begin preparations for the Tennessee Volunteers, and there was one word on everyone's mind:
We've heard it from Coach Saban since the first day of fall practice. We've heard it pretty much every day since, but today it's being shouted even louder than before. With three straight games of lackluster second half performances under their belts, the members of the Alabama team and coaching staff are beginning a week that will focus on playing four quarters of football. Ignore Tennessee's record; if Bama quits at half time this Saturday a loss is likely.
The injury news is much better than anticipated. As we told you earlier in the day Terrence Cody
will be out this weekend, but could be back by the LSU game. That's not ideal, but it is certainly better than the "will have surgery, out for the year" news that it could have been. He was at practice today being supported by what must be the world's sturdiest pair of crutches.
Earl Alexander was also in a black no contact jersey. There has been no specific mention of why, but he has been dealing with nagging ankle injury that could be an issue. He has just five receptions for 88 yards, but given the way that Bama struggled to get the ball to receivers in the second half Saturday, any loss will be felt. We'll let you know more here when we know more.
With Terrence out things have to be shored up in the middle of the Bama defense. There's no need to panic, though, as there are players available. The first option will be Josh Chapman, who makes up for his comparative lack of size (he's still over 300 pounds) with technique. He's also one of the strongest guys on the team, and there has not been as noticeable of a drop-off when Josh has played as most folks would have you believe. Behind is where choices have to be made.
Alabama has Nick Gentry and Damion Square listed as nose guards on the depth chart, though neither guy is ideal. Gentry weighs in at around 265 lbs., making him more of a 3rd and long type of nose guard. Square has the bulk (290 lbs.), but is on track for a redshirt. If Cody were going to be out for the remainder of the season, you yank the redshirt off and go to work. But if it is just for a couple of weeks, I think you make do.
That brings us to Lorenzo Washington. He played nose guard for all of last season, starting in most of those games. He's been playing well at the end position, so you hate to move him back, but he has already stated that he is perfectly willing to move again. Bama has actually had Lorenzo lined up in the nose guard position this season... on most 3rd and long plays you will typically see Bama have three defensive ends in the game, and they'll shift the guys around to confuse blockers. Look for Lorenzo to be the primary backup here, which could cause some shifting at the defensive end position.
At that spot, don't be surprised to see Courtney Upshaw get some reps, especially on obvious passing downs. I know that he's technically listed as a jack linebacker, but he has taken some snaps at the rush end spot, and if Bama has forced the Vols into a pass-only attack, Upshaw could see some time. Other options behind starters Bobby Greenwood and Brandon Deaderick include Luther Davis and Eryk Anders - another guy who is listed as a jack, but has taken snaps at the rush end.
Offensively the Tide is preparing for another week of seven and eight defenders in the box. What complicates matters this week is that Tennessee features one of the nation's best safeties in Eric Berry. There has been some internet chatter that Berry could play some on offense if Gerald Jones' ankle injury keeps him out of the game. I'm all for that, despite his potential talent on offense, because it will keep him from being as effective on defense. Berry is an extremely aggressive run supporter, so Bama will likely have to attack him specifically with play-action.
If the run isn't there, the play-action won't work, so the Bama offensive line is getting a solid workout to try and improve upon Saturday's 107 yards on the ground. With the Vols ranking 14th in the nation against the run, it should prove to be a great battle at the line of scrimmage.
Glen Coffee is still running #1 at running back, despite his continued fumble problems. He actually had less carries on Saturday than Mark Ingram, and his fumble was the likely reason. With the weather possibly bad, expect Bama to be prepared to grind it out on the ground, so both Coffee and Ingram will likely get a lot of carries. Don't be surprised to see Roy Upchurch get the ball again after a week with no carries.
And even though it has nothing to do with practice, I do want to mention again (in case you missed it) that tickets to Saturday's game are still available
. I don't mean that you can get them for an arm and a leg on e-bay or stubhub... nope, you can actually buy them for face value from the ticket office at the University of Tennessee. Just click here
for info on how to do that.