Harris Gets Help From His Friends

How can the Alabama offense help the Crimson Tide defense? Let me count the ways. Bama linebacker Jerrell Harris counts at least two: one in practice and one in games.

Alabama linebacker Jerrell Harris is looking forward to Saturday's game at Arkansas. The Crimson Tide, ranked first in the nation, goes to Fayetteville to take on the 10th ranked Razorbacks. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. CDT with television coverage by CBS.

Harris, a 6-3, 231-pound junior from Gadsden, has started the first three games for Bama at weakside linebacker, an inside position. This week, though, Harris has worked at outside linebacker, a position he has played in the past.

Alabama practice sessions are one area where the Crimson Tide offense helps the Bama defense. "That's probably about the best offense we're going to face, every day at practice," Harris said. "That's our biggest challenge."

The Tide offense got a little better when junior tailback Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, returned to the Bama lineup after having missed the first two games of the season.

Alabama leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring offense (44.7 points per game) and total offense (542 yards per game).

Those game performances also help the Tide defense, Harris said. "It helps us out because it keeps us off the field and it keeps us fresh when we do go in," Harris said. "It helps us out in the long run."

Actually, Alabama hasn't exercised ball control and time of possession to the extent it has in previous seasons. Scoring quick touchdowns, particularly against Duke, means that Bama's time of possession is barely over 29 minutes per game, almost two minutes per game less than opponents.

Still, something must be working for the Alabama defense. Although everyone seems to think there are defensive shortcomings – perhaps comparing it to the outstanding 2009 Alabama defense – the record shows that Alabama is doing okay on defense.

Alabama is second in the nation and first in the Southeastern Conference in pass efficiency defense. The Tide is second in the nation and first in the SEC in scoring defense. Bama is ninth in the nation and first in the SEC in total defense.

Alabama has only two sacks on the season, both by defensive backs, but Alabama Coach Nick Saban doesn't put a lot of emphasis on sacks provided his defense is putting good pressure on the quarterback and affecting the passing game. Harris said, "That's going to come as the season goes along. We're not trying to show too much right now. We're taking it easy."

Asked to grade the Tide defense, Harris said, "I grade it fairly well right now, but we have a lot of improvement that we can make. We're still a young defense and we're learning as we go."

Harris said the shortcomings are "basically, all around. Everybody needs to improve and step up his game. We really don't have any weak areas right now. It's just that everybody is trying to improve."

Harris knows the Tide will be tested by Arkansas, and particularly quarterback Ryan Mallett and his talented corps of Razorbacks receivers.

Harris said he had watched videotapes of Mallett. "Watching some of the runs and stuff they are doing and his passing game, how he releases the ball, he's a good quarterback," Harris said. "He's very tall in the pocket and tries to stay in the pocket and pick the defense apart."

Harris added, "We're licking our chops. We're ready to play and show the world what we can do against one of the top teams."

Harris said, "I feel like we're a pretty good defense and [opposing] teams will have to be balanced. A lot of people are going to try to get the ball out quicker this year."

Late in the first half in the romp over Duke, the Blue Devils had a long drive going with a no huddle offense. Harris said, "It was a little frustrating because they were moving the ball pretty fast and we couldn't really get set. Those are things we have to work on this week at practice."

Would he expect Arkansas to try that?

"I'm sure they will this week," Harris said.

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