16 October 2009
Of most interest to me will be how Greg McElroy reacts to a second consecutive week of play against an upper-echelon SEC pass defense. Greg struggled a bit last week but never lost his cool. Will he look more comfortable against the Gamecocks' pass rush than he did against the Rebels? Will Jim McElwain start McElroy with a series of short passes to get him in rhythm, or will he stick to the Tide's pattern of going up-top early in most games to loosen the defense?
A related question: how will James Carpenter, who has been burnt on outside rushes at least two or three times this year, handle Butkus finalist Eric Norwood, who leads the SEC in sacks, is fourth in the SEC in tackles for loss, and leads the Gamecocks in tackles?
One more thing on O: you know we worked on red zone efficiency this week. Did it help?
The quarterback is also the guy to watch on the other side of the ball. Steven Garcia is a make-it-happen guy, but it might be even worse for him this week than it was against Ole Miss, since starting offensive lineman Heath Batchelor has apparently left the team . Look for Bama, as usual, to come at Garcia from a variety of angles to try to fluster him, and to prevent him from having time to look downfield for South Carolina's dangerous wideouts, Moe Brown, Alshon Jefferey, and big Tori Gurley.
Just for the record, since I'm sure you folks are already on top of this, but I missed one really obvious point of interest, that being the play of sophomore linebacker Jerrell Harris.
Harris was one of the top 40 recruits at any position in the U.S.A. as a high school senior according to premier recruiting service Rivals. He didn't see much action as a true freshman linebacker - perhaps because he was a big undersized for a Saban linebacker - but he added weight during the offseason, practiced and scrimmaged well, and Saban has mentioned him as someone the staff was considering as a "potential starter" during pre-season scrimmages.
Then came a six-game suspension for accepting benefits during the off-season. This is Harris' first game after the suspension. I am among many wondering how much, and how well, Harris will play.
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On a non-game note, the front page of espn.com's college football section features a large photo of Matt Barkley accompanied by no less than six links to articles about the USC-Notre Dame game. Meanwhile, a game in Tuscaloosa between a team ranked higher than USC and a team ranked higher than Notre Dame goes unmentioned on the front page. (Note: the front page changes at irregular intervals, so there may be something different up shortly after I post this.)
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