Blake Barnett’s illness came in a period of time when reporters did not have access to Alabama Coach Nick Saban. Wednesday evening Saban revealed what he could of the situation regarding the 6-5, 200-pound true freshman from Corona, Calif.
“Blake’s just ill,” Saban said. “I can't get into specifics of what's wrong with him. But he wasn't feeling well. We decided to admit him to the hospital for some tests.
“They found out what the issue is. He's out. We're very hopeful that he'll be fine. He probably won't be back to practice for another day or two, which kind of puts him out this week but we don't think it's anything serious, or anything that's a prolonged illness.
“We took a lot of precaution to make sure he was okay.”
While Barnett, as Saban said, will not play this week, there was really no reason to expect him to play. He has not played this year.
Alabama takes on Texas A&M at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station. Bama is 5-1 overall and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference games. The Aggies are 5-0 and 2-0. Both are ranked in the nation’s top 10. CBS will televise the game.
Barnett being out this week, though, and a decision having been made to redshirt him this season would be two entirely different things, as Saban explained.
“I don’t think missing two days of practice this week would really have anything to do with that,” the coach said. “We're developing him as a player and if we develop him to the point that we think he's going to give us the best chance to win somewhere down the road, then we probably play him. If that doesn't present itself, then we're certainly not interested in trying to waste a year if he's not going to play enough to help his development."
Saban opened his press briefing Wednesday saying it was a week of evaluation – evaluating where the team is and evaluating what needs to be done for Bama to be better.
“Everybody’s been working really hard this week,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a pleyr on our team that you can really say, ‘I’ve played my best.’ Yet.
“That’s what we always shoot for. That's what we're working for. That's probably what we need this week against a very good A&M team. They present a lot of challenges to you on both sides of the ball, some of them personnel issues, some of them scheme issues.
“But the preparation has been good. The challenges of playing on the road starts with really good preparation. You've got to have great focus in the game so that you can have discipline to execute. When we've played that way, that's when we've played our best. That's the challenge that we have, regardless of the circumstances that we have to compete in _ hot, cold, loud. Whatever it is. That's going to be our challenge in this particular game.”
Saban said the Aggies have made a commitment to run the ball more this year. Although he said, “Conceptually, they do a lot of the same things,” he said the Aggies have been successful in developing a running game, which has “created more balance for them. That makes them harder to defend.”
"He's a little different style guy than what they've had in the past,” Saban said. “They've had a lot of fast guys and not that he's not fast, but he is a bigger, more powerful downhill runner, which I think really helps the things that they do on the perimeter and the other perimeter players that they have. He's a really good back…kind of along the lines of the kind of backs that we've had around here who can run through tackles, has some power, and plays with some toughness, but he's still a very good receiver."
Saban said the Aggies are the quickest team Alabama has had to play against this year. “I think overall they have the best skill players that we’ve played against,” Saban said. “They have outstanding team speed. That's why they're good on special teams. They've got some really good receivers, three or four of them. It's going to be a real test. And the quarterbacks are athletic and can run. This is a very skilled, fast team.”
The Tide coach indicated the Texas A&M offense will mean Bama plays a bit differently on defense. “We are going to have to play more players,” Saban said. “They’re going to try to go fast. When they've got their four wideouts in the game, you've got to try to get as much speed on the field as you can. That's what we'll probably try to do.
“You still need to play a couple of big guys inside because they can run the ball. You just need to have good athletes on the edges. Their quarterback can scramble. Their quarterback pulls the ball on the option. And you need the pass rush.”