16 November 2009
The Alabama football team began preparations on Monday for its final home game of the season. As usual, Monday's practice was in shells.
Here's what you need to know:
Eryk Anders was in a black jersey. Apparently he has an ankle sprain that he has played through for some time now. He's getting some rest early this week, and should be fine.
Terry Grant is still out with a pulled muscle. He's missed consecutive games, and continues to work on an exercise bike.
Otherwise, the overall health of the team looks good. After a tough, physical first half, the Tide wore down Mississippi State to the point that the second half was a bit easier. Coming home from Starkville without a bunch of guys bruised is a stroke of luck that Bama has not had in a while.
It's an interesting week of practice coming up. The coaching staff will never admit it publicly, but there has to be at least an eye turned to a week from Friday. Chatanooga has a former Tennessee quarterback leading their offense, so their is some ability there. But this is a team that lost badly to Furman.
The staff will almost certainly prepare like normal for Chatanooga, at least early in the week. But with next week being a short one, leading up to the Auburn game, it's probably that there will be some things done to prepare for the Tigers. Of course, those things will almost certainly be done after the media is out of practice.
One thing that we'll likely see come Saturday is the participation chart light up. With that in mind, we'll probably also see a lot of guys getting extra work this week in practice, with some starters probably getting a lighter load.
Anders would probably be practicing if the Tide were playing Auburn this week, and that's an example of what I'm talking about. Courtney Upshaw worked with the first unit with Eryk out, and that's something we'll probably see a lot of on Saturday. Upshaw is one of Bama's best options at getting pressure on the quarterback, so extra snaps this week could pay good dividends down the road when the Tide is facing quarterbacks that pose a bit more of a threat.
It will be very interesting to see how the coaches handle Mark Ingram this Saturday. He's not really been over-worked this season, but you have to imagine that the coaches would like to give him a light load. The coaches would also like to see him win the Heisman Trophy, and another 150 yards and two touchdowns would go a long way toward accomplishing that.
The Mocs allow an average of 132.4 yards per game, ranking 49th in the FCS. This is a team that gave up 45 points to Elon. So you would think that the Tide would be able "name the score" of this game. With that in mind, the coaches will have to decide how much they want to use Ingram. The Heisman would be nice, but a fresh and powerful Mark Ingram against Auburn and Florida would be much nicer.
The great news there is that I think Ingram is in good enough shape that they won't have to decide between those two things. And I think we'll see him get 20 touches in the game.
Otherwise, this week will mostly be about maintaining focus. Most of my practice report was about what lies beyond this Saturday's game, and that's probably going to be the norm for the players when the meet with the media. So look for the coaching staff to ratchet up the intensity for tomorrow and Wednesday, before possibly changing the focus a bit on Thursday and Friday when the media doesn't get a chance to look in.
Bama will practice again tomorrow afternoon, and we'll have our normal report. That report will probably come after the basketball game, and we'll also have a report on that.
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