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November 3, 2010
Notebook: Tide preparing for two QBs
TUSCALOOSA _ If there's one thing the University of Alabama defense is expecting to see Saturday at LSU it's dealing with more than one quarterback.
The Tigers have been going with a platoon system with dual-threat Jordan Jefferson starting and being occasionally spelled by Jarrett Lee, who is more of a traditional drop-back thrower.
"In this case there's a significant difference in the style of the two quarterbacks, so it does make a bit of a difference," Coach Nick Saban said.
Although LSU is ranked 10th in the conference in scoring offense, 11th in total offense and 12th in passing offense, the key for the Crimson Tide figures to be awareness.
"We have to be ready for both," sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "One's a really good runner, Jefferson, you want to try and keep him in the pocket and make him beat us with his arm. He's a very talented athlete. He has trouble sometimes hitting wide-open receivers, we want to take that and use it to our advantage.
"The other quarterback is the total opposite. He's not a very good runner. Not very mobile, but great arm, great accuracy. He's not very mobile in the pocket. There's been couple of plays where he's pulled it down and made a big play or two. We want to get him out of the pocket."
Jefferson has 78 carries for 281 rushing yards (391 gain with 110 loss) while Lee has eight attempts for minus-24. In terms of passing, Jefferson has completed 52.8 percent of his throws (65-of-123 with eight interceptions), while Lee is at 68.8 percent (44-66-1). However they often run the same plays without a major shift in the scheme.
"We have to prepare for them and watch who's in the game and not in the game," sophomore defensive end Marcell Dareus said.
As for which type of quarterback he'd face, Dareus chose a third kind: "I like an antsy quarterback. I like the one we can get out there and move a little bit."
Saban spoke to the team about the death of Mississippi State defensive end Nick Bell, and publically offered condolences from the entire program.
"You always feel horrible when a young, bright person who has such a future ahead of them in so many ways in terms of the things they can do in their life, sore of all gets cut short," Saban said. "He was a fine young man, I know he was friends with a couple of players on our team. I think it's something for our players to understand that you need to have gratitude for every day that you have and make the most of it because you never know when something like this could affect you. Our thoughts and prayers are with he and his family as well as the Mississippi State team."
A memorial service for Bell is planned for Thursday night on the Mississippi State campus and the funeral will be held Saturday.
"It's been pretty rough," Darues said about his friend from the Birmingham area. "You just have to keep going."
Bell played four games before being diagnosed with a brain tumor on Oct. 1, and the cancer quickly spread. The 20-year-old died Tuesday at UAB Hospital a day after undergoing emergency surgery.
"I was down there yesterday," Dareus continued. "I've been back and forth the whole time he's been in the hospital and when he first checked in. I was there Monday and I was there Tuesday. Just checking on the family making sure everyone's ok, to try and comfort them and make sure everyone's head is in the right place."
This is the second time in recent months both Dareus and Saban have dealt with something like this. For Dareus it was his mother, while the Saban family mourned Nicole Francois, an Alabama sophomore who was killed in a car accident just before the season started. She was a close friend of Saban's daughter Kristen and worked as a student assistant in the football office.
"We really, really liked him," former MSU coach Sylvester Croom told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger about recruiting Bell. "Even though he was playing linebacker, we thought he would be a defensive lineman. He played hard, played fast and was very talented.
"The thing I was most impressed with was, when I first met him and his mother, they were class people. She was very persistent on him getting his education and doing things the right way. I think that was the main reason we got him. We promised her that he'd be a better man when he left."
Redshirt freshman D.J. Fluker (groin) continued to work behind junior Alfred McCullough at right tackle. Sophomore defensive lineman Kerry Murphy (knee soreness) was again with the top unit.
"We'll continue to evaluate the right tackle situation and decide possibly as late as the game who will play there," Saban said. "D.J. is able to practice. Is he one hundred percent? That's what we have to evaluate."
Junior Phelon Jones, an LSU transfer, worked a star in the dime package. DeQuan Menzie (groin) was limited during Alabama's open-date workouts last week, but Saban said he's full strength and a decision on who will primarily fill that role will be made Thursday.
Meanwhile, sophomore safety Wesley Neighbors elaborated on the new injury that kept him off the practice field last week. He underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his knee, similar to that of Mark Ingram, just before the season started.
"My knee feels really good," he said. "I was really back with my knee 100 percent in about two weeks. I've had a pinched nerve in my ankle that's been kind of hindering me, and they recently found a stress fracture in my right foot. So I took last week off, but I'm back this week feeling well."
Rain has forced the team inside for a second consecutive day Wednesday. "It seems like it's been a long time since we've played," Saban said. "It seems like we've been practicing for a long time. The players are feeling probably the same way."
Sophomore kicker Jeremy Shelley said his best moment so far was the Arkansas field goal to pull Alabama within 20-17: "It was my first big-pressure kick in college and I hadn't had that situation since my freshman year of high school." The former soccer player also revealed that the 25-yard line is generally the border for whether he or Cade Foster attempts field goals, translating to a 42-yard attempt (not factoring in the wind).
The open date appears to have helped a lot of beat-up players. "You don't really realize how much of a grind it is until you're in it," sophomore guard Barrett Jones said. "You get those little injuries that you can't get well because you keep practicing on, you keep working. It's great to have a few days off and let some of those things heal up."
Hightower on the Les Miles's high-risk reputation: "He's a gambler, kind of like Houston Nutt. Both of those guys will throw something in your face that you're not aware of. Third-and-6 and they throw you a shovel pass, something that you wouldn't think would come."
McCullough is practicing as if he'll start again, but is also feeling a little anxiety regarding the decision. "Everybody wants to be a starter. The anticipation is great, it makes you work harder in practice. I think it's a good thing."
Saban called his friend Gov. Joe Manchin to offer congratulations Tuesday night after he was narrowly elected to the U.S. Senate and replace late Sen. Robert Byrd in West Virginia. His victory was crucial to the Democrats keeping the Senate majority, although he condemned the healthcare reform bill and had a controversial television ad that showed him cap-and-trade bill with a gun.
When asked what he's most grateful for, Saban said: "I have too many things to list" but eventually said the things that make him feel best are "being gracious and giving. I guess that's the thing that's most important to me."