Vlachos Foresees Tough Assignment
"I don't think anyone on our roster has been there," Alabama center William Vlachos said. "I've heard it's very loud."
Alabama, 5-0 and ranked first in the nation, goes to South Carolina (3-1 and ranked 19th in the nation) Saturday for a key Southeastern Conference game. CBS will televise the game, which begins at 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 central time).
Alabama Coach Nick Saban has said he thinks this is the game that will define the 2010 Crimson Tide team. Vlachos said, "I agree with that.
"We're going to their place. And (South Carolina) coming off the loss and having an off week, they are going to be fired up. They aren't going to be making mistakes. They are going to be tuned into their game plan and have it all worked out early."
So is there any hope for Alabama?
Vlachos said Saban has pointed out, "It's about what we do. We have to execute, play our game, focus on the little things, and hopefully it should take care of itself. It's a big game, especially the timing. They are a team that matches up pretty well with us because it's physical football and that's what we play."
Alabama is coming off back-to-back wins over ranked teams, but there were false steps by the Crimson Tide in both. Last week, Alabama defeated Florida, 31-6, but the offensive numbers were almost woeful. Vlachos was asked where the offense needed to improve.
"A lot of areas," he said. "You just have to make improvement when that happens. They didn't stop us in the second half. We just stopped ourselves. A lot of mistakes we made were uncharacteristic of our team and there's no excuse for it. If we play like that against other good opponents down the road, it's going to turn out not the way we want it. We've had a good week of practice and we're looking forward to South Carolina."
The week before that, Alabama fell behind by 13 points in the second half at Arkansas before pulling out a late 24-20 victory. That first half went against the first half of the Saban mantra: Start Fast and Finish Strong.
"It's very important (to have a fast start)," Vlachos said. "We didn't have a good start against Arkansas. Everybody knows that. It's well documented. South Carolina is coming off an off week, they have a great football team, and they are going to be excited to play us, especially coming off a loss in their last game. They played us very tough last year, a real physical defense. Ellis Johnson, their defensive coordinator, is a great coordinator. He always has their guys in the right spots and ready to go. So we're going to have to bring our ‘A' game for these guys and focus on the little things."
Last year's Alabama-South Carolina game, a difficult 20-6 win for Bama in Tuscaloosa, was surprisingly physical.
Vlachos said, "The physicality of games is how you approach it in practice that week. It's not really that you have to have momentum on your side to be a physical team. I think we are a physical team. I think some other teams in our conference, like South Carolina, are physical teams. Some other teams are more speed teams and try to disguise stuff. There's not really a point in the game that makes it more physical. South Carolina is a very physical team, they have some athletes on defense, and they have a lot of those guys back this year that were there last year, so we're kind of acquainted with them a little bit and we know they are going to be fired up."
Prior to last week's stuffing of Florida, the Alabama defense had some issues. Vlachos noticed a change in the defense during practice prior to the game against the Gators.
"Coach was on them pretty hard about the way they played in the first half against Arkansas, and that's the way it needed to be," Vlachos said. "They came with it and they've come with it this week. I think that also comes with experience. There are so many young guys out there that are learning what they need to do. As for the offensive line last year the three of us who were new starters it was a few games before we really got comfortable and able to do the things that were expected of us. I think those guys that are new to seeing the field are really coming into their own and understanding what it's like and I expect them to continue to improve. They've had a great week of practice and they are making us a lot better."
One note from last week's game was that Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy was "dinged" against the Gators. That's usually a term reserved for a player who suffers a hit and becomes a bit groggy. It's difficult for the quarterback, who is calling plays in the huddle before each snap, to disguise a ding. But Vlachos said he didn't notice anything about McElroy's condition being different.
"He didn't say anything about that," Vlachos said. "If something's bothering him, he's not going to let anybody know about it, not going to show it. That's the kind of competitor that he is."
Why not let anyone know he's hurt?
Vlachos explained, "If your opponent sees that you are down, it's sort of like smelling blood in the water. That's the mentality our team would take. If somebody is hurt, you've got to put the nail in the coffin. If Greg can walk and his arm is able to throw a football, he's going to be out there and doing all he can to lead our team."
Vlachos said McElroy is all business on the football field.
Vlachos said, "Earlier in the summer when I was asked if Greg was funny, I said he's not, and I'm sticking with that. He's not very funny. He's very smart, but on the field he's all business. There are no jokes with him. When you get in the locker room after the game he might lighten up a little bit, but on the field, no matter what the score is, if he's in the game, he's focused on doing what he's got to do to help us win."
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