Tide To Determine Two Starting Spots

A football player doesn't lose his position because he is injured. When he's ready to go again, he usually gets his spot back. That's because he was the best player at that position before the injury. The question becomes whether the injured player is back to full speed.

A couple of Alabama players who missed time with injuries are back in practice, and the coaching staff will determine whether they have sufficiently recovered to be back in their starting positions Saturday. The Crimson Tide goes to LSU for an important Southeastern Conference game. Both Bama and the Fightin Tigers are 7-1 overall and 4-1 in SEC games. CBS will televise the game, which kicks off at 2:30 p.m. CDT.

Offensive right tackle D.J. Fluker had a hamstring pull late in the game against South Carolina and missed starts against Ole Miss and Tennessee. In his absence, Alfred McCullough was the starter. Defensive back DeQuan Menzie was held out of the Tennessee game as he recovered from injury and Phelon Jones played at nickel.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said decisions would be made this week on the starters at those positions. He pointed out that Fluker has been back at practice. "We continually evaluate the right tackle situation and will decide probably as late as the game who will play there," Saban said. "To some degree, D.J. is able to practice...is he 100 per cent? That's what we have to evaluate and that's what we will continue to do as we get closer and closer to the game. Alfred has done a really good job at that position. We're satisfied at the way he has been able to do and hopefully he'll continue to do a good job."

Saban said that Phelon Jones "did a nice job in the Tennessee game. DeQuan Menzie is healthy again, so we'll have to make a decision on how we choose to play those guys this week. Probably make it tomorrow (Thursday) and practice that way tomorrow. Phelon is a bright guy. We've always worked to get him to play aggressively and he has made tremendous progress in that and I thought he did a nice job in the Tennessee game. He's a good athlete and he can do all the things we want him to do and it was good to have another player gain some experience and we can now count on in the games and in situations where we need another experienced player in the secondary."

Also on the injury front, Saban reported that the only player missing work -- back-up nose tackle Kerry Murphy -- had been back at practice this week.

Following Wednesday's practice, Saban discussed the difficulty in preparing for LSU, a team that uses two quarterbacks with distinctly different styles.

"In this case there is a significant difference in the style of the two quarterbacks so it does make a bit of a difference," Saban said. "Jordan Jefferson is more of a running-type quarterback. He is very capable of throwing the ball, has a strong arm, but he's made more plays with his feet, rushing quarterback type runs, option type runs.

"Jarrett Lee is more of a passer. They run some of the same plays. He's really a good passer, a classic drop-back style quarterback. He gets rid of the ball quick. He's obviously a pretty bright guy, gets it to the right guys in the right place."

Saban said, "It seems like it's been a long time since we've played. It seems like we've been practicing for a long time, and I think the players are feeling probably the same way.I think the most important thing about this week from here on out is that we have good mental preparation to finish the week. We don't have that many more reps, and we're playing a team that has a lot of multiples on offense and defense in terms of things that they do, so I think the mental preparation between here and there is what's really important."

Alabama has worked in the indoor practice facility the past two days because of wet weather.

Quiet Please!

Following Wednesday's practice, Saban discussed two of Alabama's quietest -- and best -- football players, strong safety Mark Barron and offensive left tackle James Carpenter.

Saban said, "Mark's a very quiet guy. A leader in his own way. He's one of those guys who sort of speaks softly but carries a big stick. He's really well respected by his peers and teammates. In his own way he's a very good leader, he's a good person, and he's played outstanding football for us, last year he had a phenomenal year as well as this year. He's one of the leaders on our team in terms of production points and making plays and doing the right things. It's important to him, he pays attention, and he's one of those guys who does everything he can do to help our team be all it can be. He's showed a lot of maturity and leadership this year and with a lot of young guys around him and that's certainly been appreciated by all of us."

"I think James does a great job. He works hard. Doesn't say anything. He doesn't speak unless spoken to. But that doesn't make him any more or less...I guess you'd say he isn't a vocal leader, but I think he leads by example. He does a good job of what he tries to do, never an issue, never a problem, never in trouble, never doesn't do the right thing, I don't think his name has ever come up for missing class, or anything. He has an opportunity to graduate at the end of this semester, so this is a guy who is a good person and I think he's developed a lot of confidence since he's been here. I think he's one of the guys that the players would kid a little bit because he is so quiet."

Saban was asked about Alabama's fine performance in the second half of the Tide's last outing, a 41-10 win over Tennessee in Knoxville in which Bama outscored the Vols 28-0 in the second half.

"The thing the players need to realize is we probably played better at Tennessee because we practiced bette," Saban said. "Ever since the South Carolina game we've been practicing better, we've paid more attention to detail, a little more focus, a little more energy, a little more effort, hitting plays better, doing more little things right that helps guys improve. That's the important thing players need to realize that if things came together we played better. Our best game is still out there. When it's ever going to come, I don't know. But it's going to be up to the energy and the focus and what it means to the people who are playing. They are all capable, they are well-prepared, they have practiced for a long, long time. That's something I'd like to build on, what happened in the second half of the Tennessee game, but that remains to be seen."

Saban expressed condolences on behalf of the Alabama athletics department to the family of Mississippi State football player Nick Bell, who died this week after a brief battle with brain cancer.

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