08 September 2010
Tuesday was day two of preparation for the Penn State game for the Alabama football team. The Tide practiced in full pads with Saturday's night's nationally televised game looming.
Here's what you need to know:
Mark Ingram's status for Saturday is still unknown. He wasn't working out with the team, which tells me that his status is probably doubtful. Nick Saban is not going to risk Ingram's future on one football game. Despite the fact that Boise State looks like they'll probably go undefeated, chances are that a one loss SEC Champion would still play for the BCS Championship. So while Saturday's game is a big one, it's not worth risking Ingram's long term or short term health. The coaches will leave it completely up to the doctors, and I'm guessing that the doctors will say no.
Wesley Neighbors is a week ahead of Ingram in his rehabilitation, but his status is also still unknown.
Courtney Upshaw was still very limited at practice. He was going through individual drills, but not at full speed. The fact that he is practicing at all is a positive sign, and an indication that he'll likely recover quickly. We might not know his status until game time, though.
D.J. Fluker was back working with the first unit at right tackle. So unless he has some type of setback, he should be good to go for Saturday.
I found it interesting that we saw the first unit offensive line stay in the game a little longer than normal against San Jose State. Even when we first saw A.J. McCarron, Demetrius Goode, and the reserve receivers, we still saw the first line for a little while. This is a group that is replacing 40% of last year's line, and the coaches obviously took advantage of the opportunity to give them more snaps together. Cohesion is a big deal for an offensive line, and every snap that they take together should pay off down the road.
The line did continue their incredibly impressive string of 42 consecutive quarters without a holding penalty - dating back to the first half of the Kentucky game last season. Not as much has been made of that streak as should have been made. In the current state of college football making it through one game without a holding penalty seems impressive. The fact that this group has made it 10 1/2 games is downright incredible. So how is it possible?
- Joe Pendry is an exceptional offensive line coach. He is a great teacher of technique, and the execution of proper technique should help players avoid penalties.
- The expectation of this staff is that players go full out in practice in executing technique correctly on every repetition. That goes for the first string, the second string, and all the way down to the walkons - and at every position. Success of a play doesn't matter in practice if the technique is wrong. The insistence that technique be right every time in practice carries over to the games.
- Alabama is an extremely well conditioned and disciplined team. Tired players make mental and physical mistakes, and holding is a penalty that usually happens when you get beaten on a play. When you are still sharp, both mentally and physically, late in games, you aren't as apt to get beaten. And when you've been held to the standard in #2 above, you are able to carry out that technique throughout games.
- This staff recruits talent. Great technique won't get you everywhere without the ability. And this staff has assembled a lot of very talented players. Coaching certainly helped overachievers like Drew Davis, but guys like D.J. Fluker don't grow on trees.
- Credit game plan.. The Tide doesn't run a lot of slow developing plays that require the line to block longer. Running plays are typically of the downhill variety, and using zone blocking schemes allows guys to match up better than if the Tide were running slower plays with man-blocking schemes. The passing plays are typically quick and the quarterbacks are taught to check down to hot routes and secondary routes if there is pressure.
- Credit the running backs. Bama's backs, especially Mark Ingram, are very patient runners. They allow the linemen to get out in front and execute their blocks before the backs hit the hole. When the back gets impatient, it causes the linemen to block when out of position. That causes holding penalties. But when the back waits for the linemen to set up blocks, the linemen get to use their basic technique, and that allows them to avoid having to hold.
Obviously this streak will come to an end at some point, but having Fluker healthy enough to play means Bama gets to keep its first unit together for another week. And, as I said in #4, talent means a lot. The longer the first group can stay together, the less chance there is of penalties.
Don't expect to see a lot of wild and crazy things from the Bama staff on offense this coming week. The game plan was very vanilla against San Jose State, though the Tide to throw the ball more than expected. I think we'll continue to see a lot of passing, especially since I expect Penn State to stack the box and force the pass. But expect Bama to go with what has won games the last two seasons. There might be a trick play or two in the playbook, but don't look for the Tide to use them unless they have to.
Defense is another story, though. Bama didn't blitz much against the Spartans, simply because they didn't have to. Penn State is starting a true freshman at quarterback, and I think you can expect Bama to throw everything at him. The Penn State staff is likely expecting this, so look for a lot of screens and draws to offset the blitzing. Missing Marcell Dareus is big, because he alleviates some of the need for blitzing. If Courtney Upshaw is also out, that makes things much more difficult.
Having said that, I still think you can count on seeing some pretty complex stuff from the Tide defense this week. The more they can confuse the young QB, the harder it will be for him to get in rhythm. Also look for Penn State to test the Cody-less Alabama front with downhill running. Bama hasn't allowed a 100 yard individual rusher since Benjarvis Green-Ellis in 2007, and this weekend could be the biggest test to that streak.
Bama will practice again tomorrow, and that will be a big day for Ingram, Neighbors, and Upshaw. Players who aren't able to go by Wednesday haven't played on Saturday under this staff. They might make an exception in Ingram's case, but I doubt it.
We'll have our normal report.
|< Prev||Next >|