Lester Expects Tide's Best In Bowl
But when those same coaches, along with sportswriters and sportscasters, put Alabama safety Robert Lester on the All-SEC second team, the conclusion had to be that they didn't know much.
Lester, a 6-2, 205-pound sophomore from Foley, had seven interceptions in his first season as a starter for the Crimson Tide. That led the SEC and was second in the nation, which was good enough for second team All-America. On one of the best defensive teams in the nation, Lester turned in 45 tackles, which was fifth best for the Crimson Tide.
Arkansas will be playing in a BCS game, the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State. A primary reason Alabama defeated Arkansas in Fayetteville is because Lester turned in two interceptions against the Razorbacks. That earned him national player of the week honors from Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe organizations.
Next up for Lester and his teammates is a game against ninth-ranked Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on New Year's Day. Alabama finished Tuscaloosa practice work Wednesday, then took a short break before assembling in Orlando Christmas evening.
The Crimson Tide is 9-3.
When Lester was asked what impressed him about Michigan State, he got right to the bottom line.
"Their record says it all," Lester said. "They're 11-1. They are obviously a good team. We have seen on film they are not going to give up. They came from behind in a couple of games, so they're not going to quit so we've got to be ready for a tough game."
In Alabama's last outing, the Tide was victimized by a big comeback from Auburn. That isn't lost on Lester. "We just experienced something like that and I'm pretty sure our guys don't want to go through that again, so we're going to have to fight hard and if we're on top we've got to stay on top."
Lester, who said Michigan State has shown to be balanced as a running and passing team, demands that Alabama "keep executing the game plan and not let up at all. Make sure we see, make all our checks."
Lester doesn't anticipate a problem with Alabama being ready for the game. Does Lester see any chance of another Utah, Bama's Sugar Bowl collapse at the end of the 2008 season?
"I don't think so at all," he said. "This is another game we need to win. Every game is important, like Coach Saban said. I'm pretty sure every player on our team is motivated to going to win this game. That's going and executing our game plan and playing our best."
There will be one difference for the Alabama defense against the Spartans. Mark Barron, who made All-America at safety this season as a junior, suffered a season-ending injury against Auburn. He has had surgery and will not participate in the bowl game.
Will Lowery, a walk-on, is expected to step up into Barron's spot.
"It's different," Lester said, "but whenever we go dime (six defensive backs), I'm back there with Will. Will and I have a ot of history and we communicate well, so I don't think there's a problem at all.
"Will's been in his playbook hard. He understands what he has to do. We have a lot of time before the bowl game, so he has extra time to make sure he has his game plan down. I'm not worried about that at all."
He said the change in personnel would not change Bama's approach. "Whatever we need to do, Coach Saban will install it and trust whoever is playing to execute it."
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