Backers Have Options

A lot of things can change in a week's time, and Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines' first task in preparing his defense is to make sure his linebacking corps remains the dominant force it has become, even with the uncertainty of senior Freddie Roach at the middle linebacker spot.

"I probably wouldn't have said this a couple of weeks ago, but the linebackers, we've got to make sure we get some folks out there on the field that know what to do," Kines said. "Our end of the bargain will have to pick up."

No one knew what to do for a very brief moment last Saturday, when Roach was injured on punt coverage just before the defense was about to take the field for the first time.

"I'll tell you what - in the first play they said Freddie's hurt, and I looked up there and DeMeco's shoe is off. You talkin' about a mess, now," Kines laughed. "I didn't know who we were going to put in there. All I know is I wasn't going in."

It looked liked the linebackers might be using a variant of an old Wallace Wade trick, starting second-string linebackers Collins and Terrence Jones as a mental ploy.

Then Ryans ran on the field and Jones came off, then Jones went back in and Collins came out - all before the first play.

"I said, ‘No Matt, we're going to put DeMeco in the middle," Kines recalled. "He said ‘No coach, he's out,' but It all settled down there and was all right."

As it stands now, Roach is questionable for Saturday's home game against Southern Miss, scheduled for a 6:45 p.m. kickoff on espn2. Shula said Tuesday that Roach would likely have to play with pain if he was able to go at all.

"The main concern we got right now is that the biggest improvement you should make is between you first and second game," Kines said," and how much of that we can do is – we need to get every little ounce we can done this week.

Not wanting to tip his hand to the Golden Eagles, Kines said he would look at two or three options on linebacker personnel and other options if Roach can't go and make a decision later in the week. Keeping Ryans at middle linebacker and starting Terrence Jones at strong side linebacker seems a likely choice.

"It doesn't bother him," Kines said of Ryans' ability to slide over. "I kept talking to him during the game and he said ‘Coach, I'm fine.'

"He has just picked up the Mike deal from what he was taught in high school and being a pretty good student of the game. We get them up on the board and they can draw up what all three guys can do. If they understand the concept they have a pretty good chance of going out there and at least being in the general direction of what's pretty sound."

Kines said Jones, "gave us some punch there defensively that I'm glad we had."

Matt Collins did have a chance at middle linebacker, and could see a healthy amount of action again Saturday.

"Matt Collins played good. He had a steady game and didn't have any busts. Right now he's not a big playmaker but sometimes a big plays is doing your job and he gives us that," Kines said.

In fact, after being in the same system with the same coordinator for three full years, all of the linebacker seem relatively well-schooled on the position.

"We're at that stage," Kines said. "At the meeting we go over the scheme and try to teach the concept. In our system it's really important that you be in the right place and fit in the right place. If the Sam knows where the Mike fits and the Mike knows where the Will fits mentally they have a pretty good picture of how that things supposed to unfold."

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