Tide Faces Excellent Quarterback

In Alabama, most of the quarterback talk is on who will be running the offense for the Crimson Tide against Mississippi Saturday. But it is the Rebels who have the marquee quarterback in that game. Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said that his defense will be challenged by going against one of the best quarterbacks and one of the best passing games in the nation. The quarterback is senior Eli Manning.

Alabama will play at Mississippi Saturday with kickoff at 11:30 a.m. CDT and regional telcoverage by Jefferson-Pilot. Alabama is trying to even its record after the Tide has started 3-4 overall and 1-2 in Southeastern Conference play. The Rebels are 4-2 overall and 2-0 in SEC play. Coach Mike Shula noted that things will happen quickly Saturday morning with the early kickoff.

Eli Manning has been exceptional in his Ole Miss career, breaking records that had been set by his incomparable father, Archie Manning, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Shula said he was familiar with Eli's brother, former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning, who is now an excellent professional quarterback, and said that Eli resembled Peyton in having a quick release and a "quick twitch," the kind of quarterback who makes quick decisions and then gets the job done. And, Shula said, he knew that Peyton had helped Eli. Shula said, "Eli is probably tired of being called Peyton's brother and Archie's son–I know a little bit about that ‘son of' thing–and it's true he probably had the opportunity to know what to do. But he's still had to do it."

Alabama will work out in Tuscaloosa Friday and then fly to the Memphis area for the evening meal, and sometime after that Friday workout the decision will be made on which quarterback starts for Alabama. Sophomore Brodie Croyle, who has missed all but a couple of plays of the last two games, and redshirt freshman Brandon Avalos, who went the distance last week in his first college start, split practice time this week

In Thursday's practice the offense spent time practicing in the indoor facility, which has the same AstroPlay turf that Mississippi has in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The team worked with crowd noise blaring over loudspeakers. "We just wanted to give them a little feel for how it will be," Shula said. He added that Avalos had shown in his quarter and a half playing time at Georgia earlier this year that he has the confidence to run the team in a hostile environment.

The defense had worked in the indoor facility on Wednesday. Shula said the turf "is just about like grass."

Things look promising for a handful of players who have missed playing and practice time with injuries. Indications are that tight end David Cavan, linebacker Derrick Pope, fullback Le'Ron McClain, and defensive tackle Kyle Tatum will be able to play.

Shula said that game captains will be Chris James on special teams, offensive tackle Evan Mathis on offense, and middle linebacker Freddie Roach on defense.


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