'Mr. Versatile' does it again

When Matt Lomax trotted onto the field Saturday at tight end more than one fan did a double-take. But Head Coach Mike Shula noted that it was just another notch in the fifth-year senior's position belt. <br><br>"He's played the guard, center and the tackle position this year," Shula said, "so why not put him there at tight end?"

Lomax, of course, is an offensive lineman by trade. He was signed to play tackle and has practiced at guard, but center has been his specialty this season. However Saturday, medical necessity became the mother of position-invention.

"We needed to do it just because of our tight ends being hurt," Shula said. "Even our healthy tight ends were banged up. We thought that with the combination of some three-wide-receiver sets and two backs we could move the ball."

When bemoaning Alabama's injury woes on the offensive line, most Tide fans had focused on the loss of left tackle Wesley Britt. But tight end David Cavan's recent surgery to correct a torn ligament in his knee hurt Bama just as much.

Matt Lomax signals "touchdown!" in a game earlier this year. (AP photo)

"We're not taking anything away from any of our other guys, but David is a really good blocker," Shula explained.

Cavan is out. Clint Johnston remains questionable with nerve "stingers" in his neck and shoulder. A sprained ankle has hobbled Donald Clarke. And Greg McLain is frankly still learning the position.

Bama needed help at tight end Saturday, especially on running downs. And Lomax answered the call.

"I thought it worked out pretty good," Shula said. "Matt did a nice job with what we asked him to do. It would have been hard for a lot of other guys to do that, but Matt is flexible enough."

Back in the fall when he was putting together his depth chart, did Shula ever dream that he'd finish the season with a center playing tight end?

"No, I didn't think that," Shula replied, shaking his head. "But that's part of football. I've actually been on teams that have experienced a lot worse injuries. You go with the cards you're dealt, whether or not it's injuries or something else. You don't look back. There's not enough time to look back.

"You've just got to find the best approach you feel like will win the game."

Injuries have undoubtedly taken their toll on the Tide's offensive line, but Shula's not ready to throw in the towel yet. "We look at it as an opportunity," he explained. "When someone gets hurt, it's an opportunity for someone else to step up and play well on the offensive line. Those guys have done a nice job."

"As coaches we've got to make sure all our backups are prepared," Shula continued. "So when they do have that opportunity, even though they might not have had the experience, they come in and play at a winning level."

Atlas Herrion (left) and Matt Lomax look on from the bench. Both fifth-year seniors have ended up playing valuable roles this year on Bama's offensive line.

Atlas Herrion, Danny Martz and now Lomax have taken over for former starters at left tackle, right guard and tight end respectively. But in order to withstand injuries, Shula said it's just as important for the still-healthy players to elevate their game.

"The guys with playing time have to step their game up, too," he said. "It's a whole team thing. The other guys that are still there have to step up and make (the replacement's) job easier."

Alabama started slowly on offense versus Auburn, but after tweaking its blocking schemes was able to garner some success on the ground. And as a fifth-year senior, Lomax contributed more than just muscle.

Shula explained, "Matt came to the sideline and told us how they were playing us on defense. We made some adjustments based on the things that he said. He did a nice job."


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