Tide Defenders Expect The Expected

They know it's coming, but they don't know when. Every day before Alabama football players head out to practice, the defense has a meeting with Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart. That meeting includes looking at video clips of areas of emphasis. At some point in the presentation the players see a familiar screen.

"He puts it up every day," said Alabama jack linebacker Courtney Upshaw.

Last year Alabama's defense ranked 118 out of 120 major college football teams in fumbles recovered. The Tide had a measly four.

"Coach Smart makes sure to show us that we were 118 out of 120 teams in that category," Upshaw said. Somewhere in the clips showing some area of defensive emphasis, the screen pops up:

118 of 120

Alabama defenders could be looking at film clips of NFL teams causing fumbles, or of past Crimson Tide teams in action. And up it comes:

118 of 120

"He makes sure to show us that," Upshaw said. "It's habit now. I;'m sure it will be posted again today."

Upshaw also expected to see film of Tide cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick causing two fumbles against Penn State in Bama's 27-11 win at Happy Valley last week. "Dre did a good job of getting his hands on the ball on both plays," Upshaw said. That earned congratulations from Smart.

In addition to recovering two fumbles, the Tide defense also got an interception from Mark Barron in the Penn State game.

"Our goal is to get three turnovers per game," Upshaw said."

The next opportunity to cause turnovers is Saturday when North Texas visits Tuscaloosa. Kickoff in Bryant-Denny Stadium is at 6:30 p.m. CDT with television coverage by Fox Sports South. Alabama is 2-0 and ranked second in the nation. North Texas is 0-2.

Upshaw had to leave the Penn State game briefly when he suffered ill effects from a strained oblique muscle. He said he had strained the abdominal muscle prior to the game and that now it's fine.

"It was just a little injury from a week ago that was bothering me a little bit," he said. "It didn't actually happen in the game. It was kind of injured coming into the game. But it's fine. I felt good until I kind of strained it making the tackle from the back side. But other than that I feel real good."

Alabama did not have a sack against Penn State. Along with causing fumbles, a point of emphasis for the defense has been to put more pressure on the passer. Upshaw pronounced Bama's rush against Penn State as "okay, but we've got to hit home, get more pressure, better pressure from the whole front four, front seven, and get more sacks."

He said the Penn State offense had something to do with that, having a scheme of the quarterback sprinting out and making quick passes to avoid sacks.

Upshaw said Bama's defense is "having fun out there competing with each other. It's a good thing. We have energy and chemistry. We're talking more. We want to go out and compete and make plays."

It was perhaps a mild surprise last winter when Alabama learned that Upshaw would be back with this defense. Many expected him to join Mark Ingram and Julio Jones in by-passing his junior year to go into the NFL draft. Upshaw has no regrets.

"Once I made the decision I never looked back," he said. "I'm looking forward to the rest of the season, trying to get better, make more plays."

And get past the 118 of 120.

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