15 September 2010
The Alabama football team practiced in full pads again on Wednesday. It was the final practice of the week that will have a media viewing period.
Here's what you need to know:
According to Coach Saban all of the players who have missed time due to injury should be ready to play on Saturday.
Mark Ingram is ready to make his season debut. He's running and cutting well, and I don't think the staff will limit him. A lot of people think that the staff will limit Mark to a handful of carries, but I think we'll see a normal 12-18 carries for him. He averaged more than that last season, but I expect the staff to split the carries more evenly between he and Trent Richardson this year. The reason I think we won't see the staff limit him this weekend is simple - he's either ready to play, or he isn't. If he's not ready to take his normal snaps, then there's no reason to run him out there.
That's a little contradictory to what I think we'll see with Courtney Upshaw, though. Upshaw will play as much as it's possible for him to play. The difference between the two is a simple one - surgery. Upshaw's injury is a nagging one, while Mark's was more acute. Courtney is recovering daily, but it's unlikely he'll be 100% by Saturday. His injury will likely facilitate that Dont'a Hightower play more on the line of scrimmage, which also means that Chris Jordan will play more in the middle. Jordan has been dealing with a shoulder injury, but it looks like he'll be recovered enough to play his normal amount.
James Carpenter has worked with the first unit for consecutive days after being limited on Monday. He isn't moving around like a guy who is anywhere close to 100%, but we also saw him play most of a quarter that way against Penn State. Alfred McCullough played well in his place, and we might see this be a game time decision at Duke.
DeQuan Menzie returned to practice after missing yesterday due to illness. He was back with the first unit in the nickel package at the star position. It looks as though his achilles injury will likely keep him at the star position for the next little while, with DeMarcus Milliner starting in the base defense. We'll see Bama primarily in the nickel for the next three weeks, so Menzie will still play a lot, though.
Expect to see Bama continue to throw the ball a lot this weekend. Greg McElroy is completing nearly 70% of his passes, and the Tide staff looks poised to exploit that as a strength. He's spread the ball around to a number of different receivers, but seems to be more in rhythm with Julio Jones than at any point other than the Auburn game last year. Duke and Arkansas both lack any player capable of shutting Julio down, so expect to see McElroy and Julio continue to build on their solid numbers.
Look for Bama to also continue to rotate at will on the defensive line. We actually saw Kerry Murphy playing at both nose guard and defensive end, and I expect we'll see more of that. What has been surprising is the amount we've seen Nick Gentry play. While he lacks the explosive athleticism of several of the Tide's younger linemen, he features great technique. This staff has demonstrated that they'll side with technique over raw athleticism (see B.J. Scott's lack of time in the secondary), so expect to see more of Gentry.
Through two games the Tide's young kickers on performing well. Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley appear to be settling into their split roles, and Cody Mandell has been very good so far. Mandell has punted very well with the whole field ahead of him, but has struggled in his two attempts to pin the ball deep. His second effort in that situation was better than his first effort, and it will be interesting to see how he progresses.
Bama will practice again on Thursday before traveling to Durham on Friday. There will be no media viewing period, but we'll let you know if anything important happens.
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