14 October 2009
With the weather in Tuscaloosa wet and dreary, the Tide football team practiced outside again on Wednesday. The full pads practice was the final one this week with a media viewing period.
Here's what you need to know:
Excepting the three guys who are out for the season, Rod Woodson was the only guy in a black no contact jersey. It looks like a strain of his patella tendon, and the staff hopes to have him back next week. Don't be shocked to see him held out until after the off week if he's not completely 100% by Tuesday of next week.
Undra Billingsley was out of the black jersey that he was in yesterday. The true freshman tight end rode the stationary bike yesterday with an undisclosed problem. The flu is still hanging around Tuscaloosa, and he was possibly a little sick. Regardless, he was in white today and working with the third group at the tight end spot.
Wednesday is typically the day when we are able to identify any changes for the week. Things can certainly happen on Thursday and Friday, just as they can happen after the media viewing period on any day. But typically what we see on Wednesday is what we see on Saturday.
With that in mind, it looks like Jerrell Harris will be the starter at the will linebacker. He's practiced with the first group at the will since last Monday, and despite being pushed hard by Nico Johsnon, it looks like Jerrell will be in the starting lineup for the first time in his career on Saturday.
It also looks like a solid bet that Cory Reamer will remain in the game when the Tide is in the nickel package. It is possible that Harris could be a part of the rabbit rusher group, relieving Courtney Upshaw. Harris has experience with playing on the edge, from playing at the sam last season. Upshaw has been solid, though not terribly productive when given opportunities this season - one sack and two quarterback hurries. If the Tide struggles to get to Stephen Garcia, it wouldn't shock me to see Harris get a chance to come off of the edge on third down.
Roy Upchurch continued to work with the running backs, signaling that he might be ready to take on his normal role in the offense. For the last several weeks we've seen a steady diet of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and while the Tide has run the ball well, there have been times when Upchurch absence was felt - especially on third down. If he's back this week, look for Bama to have more options on third down, when Upchurch is more capable of taking on a heavy blitz than either of the Tide's younger backs.
Lots of folks have wondered why we didn't see more screens against Ole Miss, and the answer is simple - the Rebels schemed against it. The Ole Miss defense was able to get pressure with its front four linemen, which allowed the linebackers to key on the backs coming out of the backfield. While South Carolina has two very good pass rushers, the Tide won't face a front four the caliber of Ole Miss until a possible showdown with Florida in December.
Look for the Tide to pound the ball this week, attempting to tire out a very thin Gamecocks defense. South Carolina doesn't rotate on defense the way that Alabama or Ole Miss do, so long, sustained drives will take their toll. Big plays tend to come against tired defenses, so look for Bama to go on the ground early, and in the air late - if they need to.
Also watch for the Tide to get Greg McElroy some easy completions early in the game. Greg has been a streaky quarterback this season, and he was never able to develop of good rhythm in Oxford. Pressure from the front four will do that to you, but look for Jim McElwain to get Greg some high precentage stuff early to get him on a good streak.
Practices on Thursday and Friday will be closed to the media. If we hear anything, we'll let you know.
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