15 September 2011
The University of Alabama football team practiced outside all week in preparation for the North Texas Mean Green. There was not a discernable drop off in intensity or effort coming off of Bama's big road victory last Saturday, and that's exactly what you want to see from a team in contention for a championship.
Here's what you need to know:
The injury situation is good. Courtney Upshaw has an oblique strain that he can play through. It wouldn't shock me to see him held out of action this weekend to try to get him totally healthy for Arkansas, but he is not too hurt to play.
That might not be the case for Chris Jordan. He hasn't played in Bama's first two games, and all that Coach Saban will say is that he is "banged up". It's possible that the staff is looking to possibly redshirt the senior in or order to have him back next year when the linebacking corps will be depleted by the departure of Upshaw and likely Dont'a Hightower (though Dont'a is just a junior).
Dee Hart continues to improve after having ACL surgery prior to the season. He's gone from riding the stationary bike to running lightly. I still think it's a longshot that he plays this year, but that's certainly better than it being out of the question completely. He's shown great mental and physical toughness throughout the situation, and if he is able to get back to where he was physically, this kid will be a star.
Darius Hanks is eligible to play this weekend, and he immediately shot to the top of the depth chart alongside Marquis Maze at wide receiver. Bama has missed his leadership and downfield blocking during the first two weeks, and it will be big for A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims to have him back in the mix.
And, yes, we will see both quarterbacks again. I don't know if the staff is planning to rotate the two like we saw against Kent State, but Coach Saban has indicated that the staff is going to continue to develop both players.
One interesting development in practice this week is that senior Alex Watkins has moved from the sam linebacker spot back to the jack linebacker where he was prior to his spring knee injury. Watkins could get the start Saturday if Upshaw doesn't go, and Coach Saban indicated on Thursday's "Hey Coach!" show that the staff would like to see him used the way that Eryk Anders was used in 2009, as a rabbit rusher specialist.
Arie Kouandjio is healthy again after having some knee issues after the first fall camp scrimmage, and he's back working with the second unit at right tackle. That means that we're likely to see an Arie Kouandjio-Cyrus Kouandjio bookend situation on Saturday.
Duron Carter was working with the scout team on Wednesday, which is typically an indication that a player is not expected to play on Saturday. Having said that, the scout team guys typically wear the jersey number of a player from the other team, and Carter was wearing his #8. So it's still possible that he'll see game action this weekend. I don't know any more about his situation than what has been reported, and that the staff is frustrated that he isn't eligible to play.
This is Bama's final tune-up for conference play, and we'll adjust our coverage a bit once the "pre-season" has ended. Look for daily reports next week, along with some analysis of what's gone on through the first three games.
The weather for Saturday is expected to be absolutely perfect, so if you are coming to town, you should have a great day for football. Coach Saban raved on "Hey Coach!" about the Penn State crowd, and how they stayed until end, mentioning the student section specifically. Hopefully we'll see the Bama fans, especially the block seating student section, hang around past half time this week.
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