On Tuesday at his regular press briefing, Alabama Football Coach Mike Shula revealed what it means to be "questionable." After pronouncing linebackers Freddie Roach (elbow) and Terrence Jones (ankle) and offensive guard Mark Sanders (ankle and knee) as "questionable," Shula followed up on Roach.
The Tide coach said that Roach, who was injured on the opening punt against MTSU in last week's 26-7 season-opening Bama win, would not require surgery. "He's going to have some pain this week, but, hopefully as the week goes on it will be better," Shula said. "Questionable means we think he's going to play, we hope he's going to play, but we're not quite sure."
Hurricane Katrina has had a big effect on Southern Miss to start the season. The Golden Eagles did not play their scheduled opening game against Tulane in Hattiesburg last week because of storm damage and the trauma of the event to the two teams. Since then, USM has been working out in Memphis, and will stay in Memphis until traveling to Alabama for Saturday's game.
Bama and Southern Miss will played at 6:45 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. the sold-out game will be nationally telecast by the cable network ESPN2.
Shula noted that the unfortunate circumstances have given Southern Miss "a little more time to prepare" for Alabama. He noted that the Golden Eagles always play Alabama a good game, and that USM is particularly strong early in the season. "We are going to have to be at our best because Southern Miss is very well coached," Shula said. "They've got talent in all areas of the game defensively. (John) Eubanks is one of the best cover corners around. He's one of the fastest guys. (Trevis) Coley their safety makes a lot of plays, especially in the passing game. He's actually been in and out playing the linebacker position with his brother Kevis Coley.
"Special teams-wise they're talking about having their best kicker-punter-returner combination ever, and a lot of people are talking about that combination being maybe as good as there is in the country.
"Offensively, this will be the first time we play them with Dustin Almond as the quarterback, and we all know what he can do. He's been very productive in his career. Also their receiver (Antwon) Courington has been very, very productive."
Shula said one problem in preparing for Southern Miss is that the Golden Eagles have a new defensive coordinator in Jay Hoppen and a new offensive coordinator in Jay Johnson.
He noted that Hoppen had been at Southern Miss, went to Ole Miss, then returned to USM this year. "It's tough to prepare," Shula said. "You have to look at a little bit of his background, where he's been. Of course he's been here at Southern Miss and then left to go to Ole Miss and now came back, the defensive coordinator. And last week was a good example. The coordinator last week had been on the staff. He had been the coordinator but came out with a lot of different looks. Obviously they had worked on a lot of things over the course of the summer that were different from what we saw on tape. So we've got to be ready for what we saw on tape last year, but we've also got to be ready to make some changes if they show us some things differently. Southern Miss has been a very good opportunistic defense traditionally. They're real good blitzers, and we've got to make sure we're prepared. We got blitzed a little bit last week. But we've got to make sure we're well-prepared for the blitz this week."
Junior tackle Kyle Tatum was named the offensive player of the week against MTSU. Shula said, "We were happy to see Kyle win that award. He definitely deserved it. He played as well as he's played since he's been here. Think about where he's come from as a defensive tackle two years ago to last year being a first-time starter. Last week he came out and played real well in the running game, played with real good pad level, protected better. You can just kind of see his comfort level increasing. He's become more mature and he's also become more of a leader now. All of a sudden he's one of our more experienced older guys after being brand new at the position last year. He and J.B. Closner have been very helpful for guys like Marlon Davis who came in and played a lot of snaps for us last week."
Shula has respect for the Southern Miss defensive front. He said, "We're not quite as experienced on the offensive line as we have been in years past, but, the good news for us is we've got one game under our belt so guys, hopefully, like Chris Capps and Marlon Davis are going to be better this week than they were the first week."
He said he was glad to be able to play young guys in the final 10 minutes of Saturday's game against MTSU. He said "18 or 19" players including nine true freshmen saw their first college football action for Bama against the Blue Raiders.
Among players coming back from a one-game suspension this week is place-kicker Jamie Christensen, and Shula said Christensen would be in competition with Ryan Saxby for the job this week. He also said that both might play.
Shula said that Simeon Castille, who started in place of Ramzee Robinson at left cornerback, had been productive and that Robinson, who was coming off a back injury, had also done well. Jeffrey Dukes was the nickel back and back-up safety and also was cited for having done "a nice job. He's improved his range and improved his tackling."