Vlachos Readying For Rivalry Game

William Vlachos has a very good grasp of the situation. About as good a grasp as the umpire thought Vlachos had on an Ole Miss defender last week. Twice, in fact, once negating a touchdown against the Rebels.

"Sometimes when you play hard that type of stuff happens," Alabama senior center William Vlachos said. It's true that he was twice called for holding, but it's also true that Bama was able to overcome the mistakes to post a 52-7 win over the Rebels in Oxford.

This week Vlachos and his Crimson Tide teammates host Tennessee. Bama has defeated the Vols four consecutive years.

"It's a huge rivalry," Vlachos said, "especially for people who have followed our program for a long time. Whenever you play Tennessee, regardless of record, it's a lot like our Auburn rivalry: it's going to be one of the most physical games you are going to play in.

"That's definitely been my experience the last two years playing against them.

"They probably should have beaten us in '09. We had to make some big special teams plays to come out with a win in that game.

"But they're going to be ready to go. They're going to be fired up, so we're ready for the challenge."

The challenge is that Tennessee with a 3-3 record (including a 0-3 Southeastern Conference mark) will meet Alabama, 7-0 overall and 4-0 in SEC play and ranked second in the nation, in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 6:21 p.m. CDT Saturday. ESPN2 will televise the game.

Second year Tennessee Coach Derek Dooley, who formerly coached under Alabama Coach Nick Saban, has been poor-mouthing about the prospects for the Vols Saturday. Vlachos isn't buying it.

"The color of the shirt says it all," he said. "It's orange. It's Tennessee, man. There is no backing off in a game like this. It doesn't really matter who they have over there, what their record is whatever. It's Alabama-Tennessee. I've played against them twice now. It's a battle."

This might seem a time for complacency, but having perhaps Bama's top rival on tap has helped the Crimson Tide stay focused, Vlachos said.

Practice, he said, "has been really good. It's been really spirited. This time of the year you kind of have to make a conscious effort to make sure it is like that because it gets a little monotonous this time of year. You've been practicing for a while and everyone's a little nicked up and stuff.

"I think the energy level has been exceptional this week and we have to continue that to Saturday."

That Tennessee is the opponent is one reason for Alabama having the right mental approach, particularly for those players who remember that it took two blocked field goals by Terrence Cody in the fourth quarter – one on the final play of the game – to preserve victory for what would be an undefeated, national championship team.

Vlachos said the team can also think back to last year. "We lost some games in this little stretch," he said of last year's 10-3 season. "We're conscious of that."

And even looking back at last week's rout of the Ole Miss Rebels, Vlachos said, "Yeah, you score 52 points and rush for 389, but you also see about 200 yards out there that you missed on offense. Little things here and there and you get those yards. So I think we're hungry right now. Something our coach (Jeff Stoutland) always says is that hungry dogs run faster. That's kind of the mentality and approach we're trying to take this week."

Vlachos also sees a capable opponent in Tennessee's defensive front.

"They are big and they are physical," Vlachos said. "Malick Jackson's a very good player. They've got some new faces on defense.

"It's Tennessee. They're going to have athletes. Their front four is very physical. We're expecting their most physical game. They are going to be ready for us like they are every year, and it's going to be a challenge."

One concern in the Alabama offensive line is that starting right guard Anthony Steen suffered a concussion last week. Although there are indications he will be ready to play against Tennessee, Vlachos said if Steen cannot play that the Tide will be fine.

"Alfred McCullough is in there," Vlachos said. "Alfred McCullough started against Tennessee last week. I think he was a player of the week. He played great. He knows what he's doing. He's a fifth year player, a lot of experience, a very good player. We all trust him and he trusts us. We're ready to roll with whoever plays."

There is also a possibility that true freshman Cyrus Kouandjio could be at left tackle, allowing Barrett Jones to move back to the right guard position he played the past two years.

Vlachos didn't address that possibility, but said Kouandjio "is doing a really good job. Coach Stoutland I think is doing an outstanding job individually with him as far as the things he needs to do on the practice field and paying attention to detail and stuff like that, which can be challenging to a young player. I think he's doing a great job. I continue to say the sky's the limit with him. I think y'all are going to be very pleased with him before he leaves this place."

Vlachos is pleased with the job Alabama's scout team has done.

"We were talking about it today, actually," he said. "We got a really good scout team. Our scout team is better than some of the teams we've played this year, guys like D.J. Pettway and Wilson Love and Brandon Ivory and LaMichael Fanning are really talented guys that are just young. They're biding their time just like most people have to do. But they're really taking advantage of the reps to get better against us. It's just making us better, it really is. They're a special group of players. They're all going to be good players before they leave here."

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