09 September 2008
The Alabama football team was back in action this afternoon in preparation for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The folks at sportsbook.com
tell us that Bama is a 28.5 point favorite, but they also had the Tide favored to beat Tulane by 30.
The injury news remains positive. Andre Smith is working without restriction with the first unit offensive line. His return allows Mike Johnson to move back to left guard, which completely changes the make up of the entire line. Marlon Davis has been cleared for contact, though he is still splitting time with David Ross at right guard. Hamstring injuries can be slow to heal and the Tide staff is being cautious.
More intensive work was done with Bama's nickel and dime packages today. With Javier Arenas back at his cornerback and star spots, Marquis Johnson is getting most of the reps with the nickel. Ali Sharrief and Tyrone King are getting the most looks as the 'money' in the dime package, though Mark Barron is getting a little time in both formations. With WKU running a spread offense Bama is preparing for a different style of play than we've seen in the first two weeks.
The use of the nickel package will unfortunately take a linebacker off of the field, and that's a particular shame considering how well all four of Bama's starting LB played. Look for Don'ta Hightower and Cory Reamer to be the guys who swap in and out of the game based on how much the Hilltoppers are running the ball.
The defensive line rotation is beginning to firm after two weeks. There is no change at all with the first group, with Brandon Deaderick, Terrence Cody, and Bobby Greenwood having played well. The second unit appears to be Luther Davis, Josh Chapman, and Lorenzo Washington. That means that talented freshman Marcel Dareus could be the guy on the outside looking in. What has been interesting to note is that on 3rd and long situations Bama has played with Deaderick, Greenwood, and Washington on the field in an attempt to get more of a pass rush from the defensive line.
Earl Alexander looks to have jumped right back into the rotation with his injury fully healed. With the lack of production from the Tide wideouts on Saturday night this isn't much of a surprise, though the emergence of Marquis Maze could take snaps away from several guys. The surprising thing so far is the amount of plays that Nikita Stover has logged, despite the fact that he hasn't had a pass thrown his direction.
Al.com has a funny video interview
with Rashad Johnson about his inability to hold on to three interceptions. The Tide defensive captain led the 2007 squad with six picks, but has struggled through two weeks to secure the ball. In typical Rashad fashion he's found humor in it, and I fully expect he'll bring one in very soon.
Though Mark Ingram has been Bama's best runner so far through two games he has not yet supplanted Glen Coffee at the top of the depth chart. With all four of Bama's top backs getting touches in each of the first two games it is not as crucial to be at the top of the depth chart here as it might be at some other positions. Coffee isn't spectacular, but he has averaged 5.6 yards per carry and it Bama's most consistent blocker in blitz situations. Regardless of his spot on the depth chart, look for Ingram to continue to get a lot of looks as he is the type of dynamic running back that Nick Saban loves to use.