19 October 2009
It's Tennessee week! I'd love to tell you that the practice report is late because I was out working on the physical manifestation of my hatred of all things orange. Unfortunately my wife has bronchitis, and I've been playing the doting husband. She's in bed now, so it's time for me to do my part towards being a champion.
As is always the case on Monday, the Tide football team worked in shells for the first day of preparation for the Tennessee Vols on Saturday.
Here's what you need to know:
The injury news is ok. Coach Saban went way out on a limb and listed the following guys as "day-to-day" - Javier Arenas, Josh Chapman, Michael Bowman, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Rod Woodson.
Here's the breakdown:
-- Javier Arenas has a bad rib. How bad? No one is saying for certain, and I wouldn't expect to hear anything official. He missed the game on Saturday because the pain was too intense for him to play through it. Javy is a tough and determined kid, so the pain must have been severe. Rib injuries are tricky, though, and severe pain can come from an injury that isn't too terrible.
Coach Saban said today, "This is not an injury that is something that's going to get worse. It's an injury when you can manage the pain you're fine. But managing the pain it still hurts, it's still throbbing. The biggest problem is when he really tries to open up and go fast. How fast it gets better, we don't know."
While Marquis Johnson was brilliant in Javy's place at corner, and Julio Jones was great at returning punts, Bama is a better team with Javier Arenas. If there is any way possible for him to play, then he'll play. The fact that he was working in a red jersey today, rather than a black one tells me that he's likely.
-- Josh Chapman has an abdominal strain. Again, the severity is the key, and no one is saying how severe it is. Like Arenas, he dressed for the game Saturday, but was held out. Kerry Murphy filled in admirably, but Chapman could be a key this Saturday.
Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton had his best game in his last game, but there is no doubt that Tennessee will try to ride Monterio Hardesty and Bryce Brown on Saturday afternoon. Terrence Cody should have a great day, but he can't play every down. So Chapman needs to get healthy.
He was also in a red jersey today, having been cleared for contact. That's a good sign.
-- Michael Bowman has an injury to a pattelar tendon. It was a severe enough injury that he didn't dress Saturday. He hasn't played since the Arkansas game, and isn't likely to play Saturday unless the game gets out of hand. I expect the staff will hold him out and use the off week that follows to try to get him healthy.
-- Dre Kirkpatrick was having back spasms. As someone who suffers from that frequently, there are an absolute bitch. He's been a solid special teams contributor, and if Arenas is out again, he could factor into the rotation at defesive back. So there is solid motivation for him to get better. Back spasms can come and go pretty quickly unless there is a bigger problem, so I'm guessing that he'll play.
-- Rod Woodson also has a pattelar tendon injury. He was in a black jersey all last week, and didn't dress against South Carolina. He's been a mainstay on Bama's kick coverage, so the staff would almost certainly like to see him back as soon as possible. If it's still an issue late in the week, they'll certainly hold him out, and as with Bowman, use the week off as extra time.
So while the injury situation isn't great, it could be worse. You can clearly tell that seven consecutive weeks with games is beginning to take a physical toll on this Bama team. Coach Saban really preaches mental toughness, and that is exactly what the Tide will need this week to overcome the fatigue.
Fortunately Bama has a rivalry game this week, so the players should have no problem getting up for the game emotionally. With the way that Lance Thompson has been rumored to have handled "the truth" in recruiting since his departure from Tuscaloosa, there is a little extra motivation for the Tide to play well - especially at the linebacker position.
Greg McElroy also has motivation to play well. He claims to be a perfectionist, and after three straight sub-par games, he's tired of it - "I put so much pressure on myself, I can't even see straight sometimes. I am a perfectionist, so I demand perfection from myself, I demand perfection in my preparation and I demand perfection on Saturdays."
Something tells me that Jim McElwain and company will be looking for ways to get Greg into a rhythm early. The good news for the Bama quarterback is that Tennessee ranks 76th nationally and tenth in the SEC in sacks. Greg has proven that when he's given time to set his feet, he's an accurate quarterback. Look for Greg to have a big game.
What will help that tremendously is that Tennessee has to scheme to stop the run, and specifically to stop Mark Ingram. Good luck. Ingram is pretty much everyone's conference and national offensive player of the week after his 246 yard effort on Saturday night. Heisman talk isn't likely to be much of a distraction for a kid who has dealt with far worse distractions in the last 12 months.
We won't be seeing Crimson against orange on Saturday, despite Tennessee's request that they be allowed to wear their home jerseys. A new NCAA rule (an old rule back in effect, actually) allows both teams to wear their home jerseys if their conference approves, and both teams are on board. Alabama declined the request.
Mal Moore said today, "Mike (Hamilton - UT Athletics Director) and I had a good conversation this morning, and I told him that it is our desire to maintain the custom of the visiting team wearing their visiting jerseys. We'll continue to wear our white jerseys when we visit Knoxville next year."
Tennessee could decide to wear orange anyway, but the Vols would have to serve a 15 yard penalty to begin each half. Lane Kiffen said, "We're not good enough to do that."
No, Lane, your team isn't. I wouldn't be surprised to see the controversial young coach show up in orange anyway.
Bama will practice again on Tuesday, likely in full pads. What players are in black jerseys tomorrow should be very telling. We'll have our normal report.
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