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October 5, 2009
Notebook: Tide weighing options at linebacker
TUSCALOOSA _ The University of Alabama football team may go with a different look at linebacker against Ole Miss on Saturday, but exactly what it will be has yet to be decided.
During Monday's practice, senior Cory Reamer was working with the outside linebackers, indicative of playing his usual position at strongside linebacker.
After sophomore Dont'a Hightower was lost for the season with a knee injury against Arkansas, Reamer replaced him at weakside linebacker, with senior Eryk Anders switching from Jack (the hybrid end/linebacker position) to strongside and sophomore Courtney Upshaw inserted at Jack.
Essentially, it resulted in three players at new positions against Kentucky, which tallied 133 rushing yards, twice as many as any other opponent.
"I don't think this was one of our better defensive games," Coach Nick Saban said earlier Monday during his press conference. "I think they all did a good job in what they did. I think we have to improve in all those positions for us to continue to be better defensively. I don't think we pass-rushed particularly well in this game. I think they got us off-balance early on by running the ball on third down. I don't think we really got back in the groove of things relative to the pressure. I think that was more of a scheme thing on their part then it was a physical thing on our part.
"I do think we need to get more players involved defensively. We need to coach more players, get some young players ready to play because they may get the opportunity to play because we're going to see a different type of team."
When reporters were allowed to observe Monday's practice, junior Rolando McClain led the inside linebackers through individual drills, ahead of sophomore linebacker Jerrell Harris (who is ineligible for Ole Miss), and true freshman Nico Johnson.
However, when the inside linebackers paired up, true freshman Tana Patrick was alongside McClain.
"We're probably going to need to get our most physical players out there," Saban said.
Players of the week
McClain was named the Southeastern Conference's defensive player of the week after recording 12 tackles with an interception, forced fumble and pass deflection against the Wildcats.
Sophomore running back Mark Ingram, who had 140 rushing yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns, was honorable mention for the offensive award. It instead went to LSU running back Charles Scott, who had 95 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to cap the Tigers' dramatic comeback.
"Mark is a very good player and he has done a very good job for us," Saban said "He's a great competitor. He runs hard in the game. He has great balance and body control. He has good instincts and vision as a runner. He can change direction and has some explosive speed and he's got good hands.
"He's had a great year so far."
Reamer was named both a defensive and special-teams player of the week by the Tide coaching staff. Ingram, sophomore center William Vlachos and junior wide receiver Darius Hanks received the offensive honors, Reamer and McClain earned the defensive awards and senior Javier Arenas was co-winner of the special-teams honor.
South Carolina kickoff
The kickoff time for next week's home game against South Carolina will remain in limbo for a few more days until CBS makes its selection between the Tide-Gamecocks and Arkansas at Florida.
Whichever game CBS doesn't select by Sunday will be shown by ESPN at 6:45 p.m.
The rest of the SEC schedule will be Georgia at Vanderbilt, 11:21 a.m. SEC Network/ESPN Regional, Mississippi State at Middle Tennessee, 11:30 a.m. ESPNU, UAB at Ole Miss, 6 p.m. Fox Sports Net, and Kentucky at Auburn, 6:30 p.m. ESPNU.
Arenas admitted to getting "frustrated" about teams kicking away from him, but added, "There's not too much you can do." As for the long touchdown pass against him, he said: "(Coach Saban) was angrier with me being able to make the play and being in a position to make the play, as opposed to me trailing or completely getting beat. All I had to do was turn my head around, and I didn't turn my head around. I was just as mad as he was." When asked if the receiver pushed off, he grinned and replied, "It was a great play."
Junior quarterback Greg McElroy laid into teammates during the break when officials were reviewing whether freshman running back Trent Richardson got out of the end zone to avoid a safety. "I used some choice words to get those guys going," he said. "There was just a lull in the first quarter and at the start of the second quarter. Guys were just kind of in a daze, people weren't even sweating it seemed like. There was no sense of urgency. I got on them a little bit." McElroy also said that in addition to the wind, Alabama had some early trouble with Kentucky's defense because it expected more man coverage.
Although they've never competed against each other in a game, McElroy and Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead were once on opposite sides during the finals of a seven-on-seven tournament (McElroy said he won). Snead is from Stephenville, Texas, while McElroy hails from Southlake. "I haven't talked with him, it's a busy time, but I do keep up with him," he said. "I keep up with his performances, I'm always checking. All Texas guys I want to see do well."
Defensive lineman Damion Square and running back Jeramie Griffin rode exercise bikes during practice. Both are out for the season with knee injuries.