Saban Discusses Guard, Cornerback

Prior to the start of the 2013 season, there were two primary concerns for Alabama football. One was the offensive line. Although there's a little work to be done as the season comes to a close, the clear grade for the offensive line this year would be an ‘A.' The other questionable area was in the secondary, where the Tide had to find a safety and a cornerback.

Bama actually came up with two safeties. But cornerback?

Alabama had its second practice in the Louisiana Superdome in two days Saturday as the Crimson Tide works towards Thursday's Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPN.

The Crimson Tide is 11-1 and ranked third in the nation. The Sooners are 10-2 and ranked 10th.

Bama Coach Nick Saban was asked about the process of evaluating his options at cornerback following the Tide's Saturday practice.

"We've been evaluating our options at corner all year long," said Saban, who works with the cornerbacks in practice. "I think that all the guys have made progress. Eddie's (Eddie Jackson) made progress. Eddie played well early in the year, went into a little bit of a freshman lull, and he's bounced back and is playing really well right now. Deion's (senior starter Deion Belue) been hurt a lot so we're alternating guys at the other corner. Maurice Smith is going a good job. I think those guys with this being able to go back and start all over and practice for five or six days on camp-type stuff gave them a lot of confidence in terms of being able to relearn things a little bit. So both those guys have done really well."

Although the offensive line had a good year, the Tide goes into the Sugar Bowl without its senior leader and three-year starter, right guard Anthony Steen. Steen had to undergo surgery and will miss his final game.

Saban said there had been no final decision on who might start at right guard, but said, "Leon Brown has practiced there. We've practiced three guys there. (The others are Alphonse Taylor and Kellen Williams.) We think they all could do well there.

"We'll probably make a decision at the end of the week as to what we do at right guard. Leon's probably a guy that, if he continues to develop and progress, has a good chance to do it. He's not played guard all year, but he's a very good offensive lineman so if he can make the adjustments and get the things needed to get done, I think he's got a very good chance to do it."

Saban said, "I think our players are excited to be here in New Orleans. Obviously, the practice tempo picked up a little bit when we came down here. It's great to be able to practice here in the dome and have the players get used to that for a couple days. They've responded really well.

"We've had good carryover in the practices that we had before Christmas. We just have to keep on working and get some of the kinks ironed out so we can go out there and execute and play the best we can against a very good Oklahoma team."

Saban noted that safeties HaHa Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins continue to work in black (no contact) jerseys in practice, but said that Clinton-Dix was probably ready to go and that Collins, who still has a bit of an issue with an ankle sprain, is close.

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