Jerrell Harris Is Making Progress

Six games into an undefeated 2011 Alabama football season is a lot better for Jerrell Harris than it was for him six games into what would be an undefeated national championship season in 2009.

After playing in 10 games as a true freshman for Alabama in 2008, strongside linebacker Jerrell Harris was suspended for the first six games of 2009. He came back to start the first three games of 2010 at weakside linebacker (an inside position) before switching to the outside Sam spot for the rest of the year.

This year Harris is starting at weakside linebacker (although because that position is not always iin the starting defensive lineup, he has only two official starts) and has been in on 12 tackles, two for lost yardage, and also has a quarterback hurry. And as he has for his first three seasons, Harris has been a mainstay on special teams.

"Jerrell has done a good job," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said. "He does a really good job in his role and has been a good special teams player for us."

The sam linebacker is often odd man out when Alabama goes to a nickel package. And, as Saban pointed out, the Tide doesn't play much regular 3-4 defense. The coach noted, though, that Harris has prepared himself to play in the nickel linebacker position that was manned by C.J. Mosley before Mosley injured his elbow against Arkansas.

Saban acknowledged that Harris "had to overcome some adversity in his career here -- not as a football player, but in other areas -- and his perseverance has been good and things have come out for him this year."

Harris, a 6-3, 242-pound senior from Gadsden, is expected to be in the starting lineup when Alabama goes to Ole Miss this week. The Crimson Tide will take on the Rebels at 5 p.m. CDT at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with ESPN2 televising the game. Bama is 6-0 overall and 3-0 in Southeastern Conference games. Mississippi, coming off an open week, is 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the conference. Alabama is ranked second in the nation.

Alabama had a bit of a flat game last week, although the defense did pitch a shutout in a 34-0 win over Vanderbilt. Harris said he hadn't noticed a difference in the intensity at practice this week.

"Practice is intense every week," he said. "There's not really one week where we do more or do less. It's probably a little more intense because of how slow we came out last weekend. We're trying to pick up the pace a little bit and just get back to what it was."

Harris did not completely discount the value of Ole Miss having a week off before playing Alabama, just as Vanderbilt had an open date before playing the Tide a week earlier. That was a bigger issue in 2010 when six of eight SEC opponents had open dates before facing Bama.

Harris said he could notice a difference in the preparation a team has made with the extra week. "We have to be ready if they are going to come out with something different, watch stuff a little bit better," he said. "You just have to be ready for anything."

Harris said watching videotape of Ole Miss he has "seen a very good team. They have a lot of good skill players, and also a very good offensive line. They have the capability to have a lot of good playmakers we have to watch out for and do our job.

"They have a couple of speed guys like Florida. They've got good receivers like Arkansas. They have a good set of skill guys"

Ole Miss has used different quarterbacks this year, but seems to have settled on Randall Mackey as the starter. Harris said the different quarterbacks have different strengths and that Mackey seems to have it all. "He's well-rounded," Harris said. "He can do a lot of everything."

A week ago Alabama strugged in the first half against Vanderbilt, and the suspicion was that things would have been heated in the Alabama lockerroom at intermission. Harris doesn't think a game is won at halftime, though.

"I believe they're won in all four quarters," he said.

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