12 October 2009
The Alabama football team began preparations for the South Carolina Gamecocks on Monday. The rain forced Bama into the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility, and as is usually the case on Monday, the team practiced in shells.
Here's what you need to know:
It looks like Rod Woodson is going to miss at least a week with an injury to his patellar tendon. Coach Saban indicated that he hoped by next week that Rod would be day-to-day, though the off-week following the Tennessee game could affect the staff's decision on when to bring him back. He's seen very limited mop-up time in a couple of games at safety, but has been a major part of the Tide's kick coverage units since the opening kick of the Virginia Tech game.
Dont'a Hightower returned to practice today. After having successful knee surgery, Dont'a was sitting on a stationary bike, working on his cardio by using the arm exercises on the bike. He isn't quite ready to pedal yet, but if he follows the pattern set by Jeramie Griffin and Damion Square, we should start seeing that in the next ten days or so.
It is amazing how quickly these guys are returning to workouts after having ACL tears. Forget going back to Kerry Goode essentially having his career ended in the early 80s because of the injury, and just go as far back as Brodie Croyle less than a decade ago. Guys are getting clearance to return to working out the knee within a few weeks of the injury, which speaks volumes about how the procedure itself has changed. It will be interesting to see if any of these three guys are cleared in time for spring practice - and that's something that wouldn't even have been on the table five years ago.
It looks like a two-man battle for the starting spot at the will linebacker between Jerrell Harris and Nico Johnson. After Johnson got the start in Oxford, racking up three tackles and a forced fumble, it looked like he might have made up some ground on Harris who sat out the final game of his six game suspension. Harris is still working with the first group, though I expect that to be a battle all week.
It looks like Tana Patrick is likely headed for a redshirt. After not playing against Ole Miss, it's doubtful at this point that he'll magically jump both Johnson and Harris for playing time at the position. An injury to another linebacker could certainly change things, but when a guy has made it half way through the season without playing, his odds of "taking off the redshirt" become tiny.
It will be interesting to see how the addition of Harris to the rotation affects the lineup when Bama is in the nickel defense. Prior to Saturday a lot of folks probably would have assumed that Jerrell would stay on the field and sam linebacker Cory Reamer would be replaced by the third cornerback.After Saturday saw Reamer rack up four tackles, one for a loss, a quarterback hurry, a forced fumble, and a blocked kick, some things might have changed.
Reamer also lost a part of his left ear during the game. I don't think he pulled a Bully VandeGraaff (who attempted to tear off his own injured ear in the 1913 Bama/Tennessee game), but it's still an odd note to find out on the Monday following a game.
One other interesting to note from Saturday's game is that the Tide went back to their 2-3-6 look in the dime package, after not using it against Kentucky. Prior to Dont'a Hightower's injury, Bama would go with Hightower and Anders as hybrid linebacker/end players, with Lorenzo Washington and Marcell Dareus as the linemen, and Rolando McClain in the middle. After seeing Kentucky attack a different look, Bama went back to what had worked earlier in the season, inserting Courtney Upshaw into Hightower's spot.
Red Zone effectiveness will be the key phrase for the Bama offense this entire week. Look for Bama to go back to what worked earlier in the season when they get inside the ten yard line. Also look for the staff to try to get Greg McElroy some easy looks early on Saturday to help him establish the rhythm that he was never able to get into in Oxford.
Finally getting back to picking game times more than five days in advance, the folks at CBS announced that they would be carrying the Alabama vs. Tennessee game next Saturday, with a national air time of 2:30 central.
Bama will practice again tomorrow afternoon, and we'll have our normal report.
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