October 25, 2006

Offensive notebook: Under pressure

The Tide offense has struggled all year long but posted its worst effort yet last weekend against Tennessee, leading some to question just how much improvement the Tide has made over the course of this season.

"There's been a lot of good things shown but the major stat that shows is the amount of touchdowns you score and we've got to get better there," said offensive coordinator Dave Rader. "We showed great concentration getting only one penalty and no turnovers, we just didn't score enough points."

Rader said that there is no major change of philosophy needed to fix his offense, only a continued effort to improve on every snap.

"We continue to stress with our guys being assignment perfect. We've seen plenty of times that when we are, we move the ball and the only way to get that way is to practice."

Rader said that his team has been a bit down this week but he doesn't believe the frustration will hamper their play on Saturday.

"Disappointed, upset and angry with not scoring more points? Sure, they are all feeling some of that. But despair and discouragement? I haven't picked that up from them at all. They are still working hard and they still believe they can get better this season."

Despite missing a number of starters on defense, Florida International is not a team that Rader is willing to overlook and label as a guaranteed win. If anything, Rader believes the players filling in for their suspended teammates will have added motivation to play their best game.

"We look at it this way: what if it was you on that team? What if the guys in front of you aren't there any more and you finally get your chance to help your team? Are you going to lay down and quit? Absolutely not. We're preparing for them to play without any drop-off from missing those players."

Quarterback John Parker Wilson said one thing his team has been focused on this week is finding a way to make a play when it counts the most.

"Anytime you get game experience you learn from it," Wilson said. "We know what we need to do, we just need to go out there and execute. Execution has been our big thing right now and it seems to be breaking down at key moments in the game. We just have to find a way to step up in clutch situations."

Stover steps up

After coming through with a key catch in Saturday's game against Tennessee, Nikita Stover has earned himself a place in the regular rotation of wide receivers according to Rader.

"Nikita is going to see more playing time, he's earned it," Rader said. "He has a better understanding of our offense and he understands where to line up, he understands when he's hot, he understands what adjustments to make on routes. We have a lot more confidence to put him out there now and you're going to see him a lot more this week."

"He was hurt during the spring but he's gotten better this whole season. He's been out there working hard and now he's starting to work his way into the mix."

Stover impressed Wilson as well with his dedicated, uninhibited play against the Vols.

"I think Saturday he showed what kind of player he is," Wilson said. "He went across the middle and got tattooed by a couple of guys inside the plus territory. He goes and gets the ball, he's not scared of anything."

Rader also mentioned true freshman Mike McCoy as a candidate for more playing time this weekend and for the rest of the season.

"We'd love to have Mike be more involved. He's shown in practice that he's ready to go. We made a commitment to play him this season and we really want to make sure we get him on the field as much as we can during the remainder of the season."

Running game struggles continue

After another disappointing performance by Kenneth Darby, Rader once again defended his senior running back saying that Darby wasn't given the same opportunity to display his talent that he was in the last two games.

"He made some good blocks and had some tough runs come at him. He's one of our playmakers and has shown that over the years. He's a guy that we believe in. He had 14 carries and it our running game wasn't what we need it to be. Without a doubt, we played against the best defense we've seen all year but we needed more of a running game and we didn't get it. Our guys are not proud of that and they know we did not attack first downs like we should have."

Rader also explained that backup Jimmy Johns was not able to give Darby any relief in the running game due to a nagging injury suffered against Ole Miss.

"We wanted Jimmy to play more on Saturday. He was limping around and was just not full speed. That's a tough call to make. If you're still tender and are not full speed, how much should you be out there? If you leave him out there too long, then you lose him for two weeks. We felt we played him the right amount considering his health. We expected him to play more but we weren't aware of just how hurt he was."

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