09 September 2010
The Alabama football team worked inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility on Wednesday in preparation for Penn State this coming Saturday. The full pads practice was the last of the week that will have a media viewing period.
Here's what you need to know:
Mark Ingram is doubtful for the game on Saturday. With no viewing period for Thursday or Friday, we won't know anything for certain, but it looks like he'll miss the game. Coach Saban indicated that Mark might be healthy enough to play by game time, but without having practiced, it is unlikely that he will play. Don't be surprised if he is dressed out for the game, and ready to go in case of some freak rash of injuries. But do be surprised if he plays under any other circumstance.
Courtney Upshaw continues to work very little during the media viewing period. He's not in a black jersey, so he's been cleared by the doctors to work. That doesn't mean that he's ready to go full out, though. He'll probably play on Saturday, but he will almost certainly be limited. Ed Stinson continues to get the main reps with the first unit at jack linebacker, but I think you'll also see Dont'a Hightower take some snaps there in the game, especially in the rabbit rusher group.
D.J. Fluker looks to be good to go. After being limited in Monday's practice, he has worked with the first group at right tackle for each of the last two days. The most likely option to replace him would be Alfred McCullough, though it's possible that a scenario involving Alfred would involve him playing right guard and Barrett Jones sliding to tackle. All signs point to Fluker being ready to play.
Wesley Neighbors has returned to practice following his knee surgery two weeks ago. He looks likely to contribute on special teams.
Redshirt freshman running back Mike Marrow has left the team and intends to transfer. His father played for Coach Saban at Toledo, and his family is very close with the Saban family. According to the coach, Mike is transferring to be somewhere closer to home. He split time at tight end and running back for the Tide during his year in Tuscaloosa.
With Marrow gone we actually saw true freshman linebacker Jalston Fowler spend some time at running back during practice. He was wearing a red jersey, indicating defense, but Coach Saban indicated that he is an option for the team as a fullback in goal line and short yardage situations. We saw Brian Motley in that role last week, and I expect we'll continue to see that.
With Ingram likely out this week, the Tide will have to look elsewhere for production in the running game. We saw three backs get carries against San Jose State, though I would imagine we'll see Trent Richardson more involved this week. This is how I see things with the backs:
--- Richardson will be the guy. It's not been Coach Saban's m.o. to have a guy carry the ball 30 times in a game, but I think we'll probably see Trent approach 25 carries. Penn State is likely to stack the box, so that might limit the overall number of runs, but Trent will likely get 70% of the carries.
--- Eddie Lacy will be the #2 guy. Yes, he fumbled last week, and he has had that problem in practice before. But he is also the second best back on the team, and the staff will use him as the secondary option. He wasn't pulled from the game because of the fumble, but rather because he used improper technique in lining up his feet to hit the right hole. As long as he stays within the game plan an executes properly, expect him to get around 20% of the carries.
--- Demetrius Goode showed me something on Saturday. He's added a good 20 lbs. of bulk since last season and has developed a mean streak as a runner. He ran much more downhill than we've seen in the past, and he actually came close to doubling his carrer numbers in the game. If Lacy struggles to execute properly, he'll become the second option, but I'm thinking he stays as the number three guy. Even still, I'm guessing he'll get roughly 10% of the carries for the backs.
Also don't be surprised to see a few carries for the receivers. We saw Julio Jones get a carry last week, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see that again. Bama will likely use the wildcat at least a handful of times, and the option of Julio or Marquis Maze will always be there. Earl Alexander is a former quarterback and could also be used if the staff wanted to go the trick play route.
Ultimately we'll have to see Greg McElroy force Penn State to move guys out of the box, though. They are talented enough to limit the rushing attack with eight guys in the box, and that means that Greg will have to demonstrate the ability to complete passes in order to open the run. Thankfully he's capable of doing that, despite the fact that he has now officially thrown three incomplete passes this season - the Bama media relations staff correctly appealed to change the stats from Saturday's game.
Two other items of note:
--- According to Coach Saban it will be a "crying-ass damn shame" if we boo Penn State. He didn't specify PSU, but made more of a general comment about booing. The Coach believes that we, as a fan base, should conduct ourselves with class. I happen to agree.
--- How bad did Lane Kiffen leave things at Tennessee when the current staff is having to give lessons on how to properly bathe? If you haven't heard, the UT staff is dealing with a staph infection problem with the team that has resulted because guys aren't bathing right. Wow.
Bama will practice again on Thursday, before having a walk through on Friday. There will be no media viewing period, but we'll let you know if anything important happens.
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