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September 22, 2010

Notebook: Johnson appears poised to start again

TUSCALOOSA _ Although University of Alabama coach Nick Saban isn't ready to proclaim a new starter yet, there's a good chance that sophomore Nico Johnson will be at weakside linebacker Saturday at Arkansas.

"We have not been really sort of totally satisfied with how we can sort of get this group to come along," Saban said Wednesday evening. "We've moved a lot of guys around and have some young guys who are very promising. C.J. Mosley is a very promising player for the future and has done well, but the multiples of mental errors in the game plan have sort of accumulated with those guys and needs to improve.

"Nico played very well in the last game and will probably play more in this game."

Although Harris is tied with Mosley for the second-most team tackles with 13, Johnson had six off the bench last week at Duke to improve his season total to nine.

Johnson has been paired with sophomore middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower during the individual drills this week, when reporters are allowed to observe practice, with junior Jerrell Harris working with the strongside linebackers. Johnson, of course, replaced Hightower at weakside linebacker last season after his season-ending knee injury sustained against Arkansas.

Saban said Harris has been working at both spots this week.

"We'll probably make the decision tomorrow on how we'll probably go with those guys," Saban said.

Practice report

Alabama practiced in full pads inside the Hank Crisp Facility.

For the first time during a viewing period this week, Courtney Upshaw (sprained ankle) lined up with the first-unit at Jack linebacker.

However, defensive end Luther Davis (knee, ankle) was not working with the first two units. The first grouping had Marcell Dareus and Damion Square with Josh Chapman at nose tackle, followed by Kerry Murphy and Undra Billingsley, with Nick Gentry in the middle.

Gentry being a little quicker in pass-rushing but also big enough to hold the point at nose tackle has allowed coaches to move Murphy around more.

"Kerry Murphy is a guy we try to get involved in a lot of different ways," Saban said. "He probably plays outside more than he does inside."

Richardson added to watch list

Sophomore running back Trent Richardson has been added to the watch list for the inaugural Paul Hornung Award, which goes to college football's most versatile player, along with Michigan's Denard Robinson and Florida's Jeffery Demps.

Richardson's 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Duke was Alabama's first since 2004 while he's also leading the Crimson Tide by averaging 179 all-purpose yards per game. Three three games he has 271 rushing yards on 39 attempts, eight receptions for 101 yards and he's scored 30 points.

With his addition there are only three player watch lists that don't include at least one Alabama player. Here's the rundown:

Bednarik Award (defensive player): Mark Barron, Marcell Dareus and Dont'a Hightower named to watch list. Semifinalists named Nov. 8.
Fred Biletnikoff Award (wide receiver): Julio Jones named to watch list. Semifinalists named Nov. 15
Butkus Award (linebacker): Dont'a Hightower and Nico Johnson named to watch list. Semifinalists announced Oct. 21 (Rolando McClain reigning winner).
Walter Camp Award (Player of the year): Mark Ingram named to watch list. Semifinalists announced Nov. 16.
William Campbell Trophy (scholar-athlete, formerly known as the Draddy Trophy): Semifinalists announced Sept. 30.
Heisman Trophy: Finalists announced Dec. 6 (Mark Ingram reigning winner).
Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end): Marcell Dareus was named to the watch list. Midseason list to be announced in November.
Rotary Lombardi Award (lineman): James Carpenter, Marcell Dareus and Dont'a Hightower named to the watch list. Semifinalists named Oct. 27.
Lott Trophy (defensive impact player): Mark Barron on watch list. Quarterfinalists expected to be announced in October.
Manning Award (quarterback, includes bowls): Greg McElroy on watch list. Finalists named Nov. 29.
Maxwell Award (outstanding player): Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and Greg McElroy on watch list. Semifinalists named Nov. 8.
Bronko Nagurski Award (defensive player): Mark Barron, Marcell Dareus and Dont'a Hightower on watch list. Finalists announced Nov. 18.
Davey O'Brien Award (quarterback): Greg McElroy on watch list. Semifinalists announced Oct. 25.
Outland Trophy (interior lineman): James Carpenter and Barrett Jones on watch list. Finalists announced Nov. 22.
Paul Hornung Award (most versatile): Trent Richardson on watch list. Finalists announced in early December.
Rimington Trophy (center): William Vlachos on watch list. Finalists announced Dec. 6.
Jim Thorpe Award (defensive back): Mark Barron on watch list. Semifinalists announced Nov. 1.
Unitas Golden Arm (senior quarterback): Greg McElroy on watch list. Semifinalists expected to be announced in November.
Doak Walker Award (running back): Mark Ingram named to watch list. Semifinalists announced Nov. 11.
Burlsworth Trophy (walk-on): Nominees announced Nov. 17.

No one from Alabama on watch list
John Mackey Award (tight end): Semifinalists announced Nov. 15.
Lou Groza Award (kicker): Semifinalists announced Oct. 29.
Ray Guy Award (punter): Semifinalists announced Nov. 12.

Tide-bits

Saban was asked about his most-recent ad on ESPN, where he appears to drop a cookie and eats it anyway, during the weekly SEC coaches conference call: "I just do what they tell me when I do that stuff. The thing I remember the most is there were 33 takes and after 17 bites I couldn't take any more Little Debbies."

Arkansas will host a matchup of top 10 teams for the first time since 1979. Overall it's played in seven such meetings, and won two, both in 1965: No. 3 Arkansas 27, No. 1 Texas 24; and No. 2 Arkansas 42, No. 9 Texas Tech 24. All-time the Razorbacks are 4-11 against No. 1 teams.

Alabama will continue to use Jeremy Shelley for close kicks and Cade Foster for longer field- goal attempts. "We sort of assess their range each week," Saban said.

Freshman Jalston Fowler will likely stay at running back for the rest of the season, but over the long-term the move isn't considered permanent. In addition to the lack of a fullback, Saban disclosed that running back Demetrius Goode's "been hurt a lot."

Wide receiver Darius Hanks has impressed his staunchest critic. "Every game my dad calls to tell me how I did. This year he's been pretty pleased." Hanks credit his catch of the tipped ball at Duke to years of playing baseball. "Good hand-eye coordination."

Center William Vlachos on the popular video of the kid crying outside of the Auburn store: "I laughed pretty hard. Pretty good stuff."


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