23 September 2009
The Alabama football team was once again in full pads for its Wednesday afternoon practice. The weather has improved as the week has gone on, though it looks as though there is a chance of rain again this weekend. According to Coach Saban, Bama practices with a wet ball every Monday, so if rain does come into play on Saturday, the Tide will be ready.
Here's what you need to know:
True freshman cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was in a black no contact jersey, and had a protective boot on his right foot. That's bad news for Dre who was named one of the special teams players of the week for his contribution to the Bama kick coverage team. It is thought at this time that it is just a deep bruise on his foot from someone having stepped on it, and the medical staff is being very cautious. Coach Saban indicated that he was hopeful that Dre would be back at practice tomorrow.
True freshman receiver Kenny Bell continues to work in a black jersey with bad shin splints. If you will remember, he missed an entire week of fall camp with a protective cast on his leg, but had been practicing in a white jersey for several weeks before the recent set back. Fortunately for the Tide, the receiver position has been solidly deep this season. At this point, it would be a surprise if Bell played in 2009.
For the second consecutive day Julio Jones was with the lead group at wide receiver. He could certainly have a setback that could hold him out of the Arkansas game, but that's unlikely. I would say that his chances of playing, and starting, at receiver for the Tide on Saturday are 99%.
Roy Upchurch is working actively with the team, but he is still running fourth among the running backs - Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Terry Grant. With the way the Tide has rotated backs, being fourth isn't as bad at this position as it might sound. The fact that he and Grant provide a completely different skill-set also makes the placement in groupings a bit meaningless. My guess is that Roy is not 100% and they are waiting to make a decision. He could be in the "we'll play him if we need him" position that Julio was in last Saturday.
Running fifth at the running back spot is Demetrius Goode, who is a white jersey for the second consecutive day. He doesn't look 100% yet, but the fact that he's been cleared for contact is a good sign.
Brandon Deaderick looks to have reclaimed his starting spot on the defensive line. Interestingly enough, the depth chart released in this week's game notes now has Marcell Dareus behind Deaderick, with Luther Davis now behind Lorenzo Washington. That's backwards from the way things were at the beginning of the season, and is likely a reaction to how well Dareus has played, and how much they think Deaderick will be able to play.
With Arkansas being pass heavy, getting pressure on Ryan Mallett will be key. With Deaderick having led the Tide in sacks in 2008, and Dareus leading the way in 2009, figuring out a way to get both of these guys on the field at the same time could be critical for Bama on Saturday. One other name to watch for - Nick Gentry.
I didn't expect much out of the sophomore from Prattville, but he has been a pleasant surprise. He's been especially effective against teams that run a fast-paced offense, as he's better conditioned than the Tide's two primary nose guards, Terrence Cody and Josh Chapman. Gentry has been at defensive end since the injury to Damion Square, but with the odd defensive line combinations that the Tide uses in its dime defense, don't be shock if Gentry ends up alongside Dareus in a two linemen set, flanked by Eryk Anders and Dont'a Hightower.
The Tide will practice Thursday and Friday, but both practices are closed to the media. If we hear anything of note, we'll let you know.
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