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Inside the newsletter: Number 4 - September 21, 2005
- Editorial: Not Back, But Maybe Getting There
- Tide Dominates in Romp Over South Carolina
- Alabama Depth Chart Vs. South Carolina
- Scouting Report
- Coach Shula Says
- Season Statistics (PDF version only)
Not Back, But Maybe Getting There
Only the giddiest of Alabama football fans would think that the Crimson Tide is back among the elite after lopsided wins over under-manned opponents. As Brodie Croyle said after hearing that Bama had moved into the national rankings at number 20, it is not the goal of the Crimson Tide to be the 20th best team in the nation. There is work to be done.
And maybe Alabama is not the 20th best team. Starting out the season without making it into the rankings can make it a little tougher to move up unless your school is Notre Dame. (The Fighting Irish beat a woeful Pittsburgh team and a Michigan team that will soon be exposed as mediocre and jumped 42 spots from out of the pre-season rankings to number one. Notre Dame then lost at home to Michigan State and "plummetted to 18th.)
Perhaps Alabama is approaching top ten status. Maybe the Crimson Tide can be better than that.
We have heard it many times that two key ingredients for college football success are injury luck and schedule luck. Bad injury luck in 2004 killed any Bama chances for meaningful progress in the second year of the Coach Mike Shula Era. This year the injury luck has been good, and so has the schedule luck.
The injury luck started from the first game when quarterback Croyle, halfback Kenneth Darby, and fullback Tim Castille were all fit and ready to play after surgeries within the past year. A football team would never expect to have zero injuries, and there have been some. In fact, there have been some at positions where the Tide perhaps could least afford it, in the offensive line. But thus far Bama has been able to weather the 2005 injury squall much better than the riptide of last season.
As for schedule luck, Alabama got to start the season with a couple of home games against mid-majors (this year's edition of Southern Miss is mid-major rather than major quality, another piece of luck). The first road game and first Southeastern Conference game was the trip to South Carolina, where Steve Spurrier has a rebuilding job to do after the mess Lou Holtz left the Gamecocks in. That was a scary game before about the end of the first quarter.
Next up for the Tide is a game against an Arkansas team that might be showing signs of battle fatigue after back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt (surprise) and Southern Cal (surprise at the severity of the beating given the Razorbacks). And Arkansas had to travel back from Los Angeles through Saturday night and now must turn around for an early (11:30 CDT) game against Bama in Tuscaloosa.
Lucky, lucky, lucky. Now, the luck may run out next week when the Florida Gators come to town, but at least in keeping with the luck of the schedule, Bama has most of its tough SEC games in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
But Alabama is more than just lucky. This is the third season for Shula and his staff (his entire staff, in fact) to be with Alabama. The squad had changed in those three years, but many of the key players have been in the system. They know what Shula and Offensive Coordinator David Rader want to do on offense. They know what Joe Kines wants to do on defense. (They probably know what David Ungerer wants to do in the kicking game, too, but that remains a work in progress.)
Alabama is certainly not to the point where Tide fans can begin looking for hotel rooms in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. There are still plenty of opportunities for a slide backwards. For instance, Alabama doesn't have yet the experienced depth to handle a rash of injuries. But even if Bama is not yet back, almost all would agree that the Crimson Tide ie headed in the right direction. And considering where the program was about 25 games ago, that's substantial progress.
Tide Dominates In Romp Over South Carolina
It would be unfair to say that South Carolina's new "Cock and Shoot" offense under Coach Steve Spurrier misfired, just as it would be a mistake to label Alabama's 37-14 win over the Gamecocks in Columbia a signature win. But the Crimson Tide's Saturday victory was a good one.
In a game that many tried to portray as young Alabama Coach Mike Shula against the old veteran, South Carolina's Spurrier, it was, as most games, decided by things like blocking and tackling.
Alabama blocked and tackled very well in routing the Gamecocks. Bama scored in every quarter, while South Carolina scored on its first possession and on its next-to-last chance.
Alabama, which has been lurking just outside the nation's ranked teams since pre-season polls were released, is now 3-0 on the year. It was Alabama's first road game and first Southeastern Conference game.
South Carolina fell to 1-2, including an 0-2 conference mark.
Alabama returns home next Saturday, hosting Arkansas in another SEC game. Kickoff time at Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 11:30 a.m. CDT with regional television coverage by Jefferson Pilot.
The first quarter was marked by Alabama getting a 15-yard touchdown run on a broken play by quarterback Brodie Croyle, and the Gamecocks answering with a touchdown drive that included two unlikely pass receptions–one determined (correctly) by the SEC's replay officials. South Carolina was also fortunate to recover its own fumble on the drive.
Croyle's 15-yard run capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive to start the game. Croyle hit D.J. Hall on a 20-yard completion and Tyrone Prothro had an 18-yard run to highlight the drive. Jamie Christensen was good on the extra point kick and a 7-0 lead just over four minutes into the game.
South Carolina didn't take long to tie it. The Gamecocks got an exceptional pass completion for 19 yards, Blake Mitchell to Sidney Rice for 19 yards, survived a fumble by Mike Davis at the Alabama 14, then moved it to the Tide one on a third down pass to Kenny McKinley. Davis took it in over left end for the touchdown and Josh Brown kicked it to 7-7 with 5:38 remaining in the first quarter.
But South Carolina would not have another first down until the third quarter. The Gamecocks had only 96 yards of total offense in the first two periods.
Alabama had another excellent drive to take the lead, going 75 yards in 13 plays. Croyle hit Hall for 15 yards on a third down play to keep the drive alive, then connected with Keith Brown on a short pass that Brown converted into a 46-yard touchdown and 14-7 lead.
A nice Crimson Tide drive over the last moments of the first quarter and into the first three minutes of the second quarter was disappointing only because it lasted 12 plays, took over five minutes, and resulted in only a field goal. But it was a good field goal, Christensen hitting on a 41-yard try.
Leading 17-10, Alabama got a break on a poor South Carolina punt, setting the Tide up near midfield. The drive was helped along by a Croyle scramble, 15 yards and an intelligent slide to a first down. Croyle also had an alert shovel out of trouble to D.J. Hall for a six-yard gain to near the 15-yard line. Alabama got a lucky break on a third down play just outside the 10 when Prothro lost the handle, forcing a 29-yard field goal by Christensen to make the score 20-7.
The Tide had another great opportunity moments later when Simeon Castille stepped in front of a Blake Mitchell pass and got Bama started at the South Carolina 46. Kenneth Darby ran for 11 yards on first down, but then the offense stalled and after a Jeremy Schatz punt into the end zone, the Gamecocks had 2:14 to go 80 yards. They didn't and had to punt with 1:26. Bama elected to run out the clock and take its 13-point lead to intermission.
South Carolina fumbled on its first two plays of the second half and had a gain of about 35 yards to the Alabama 44. One fumble lost a yard. The other came at the end of a double reverse that gained big yardage, and got a few more when the fumble went out of bounds. The Gamecocks opened the second half with second team quarterback, Antonio Heffner, a redshirt freshman. He did not have a college completion going into the game. South Carolina went for it on fourth and one at the Alabama 35, and Simeon Castille sacked the quarterback for a 17-yard loss, giving Bama the ball at the Gamecocks' 43.
After driving to a first down at the South Carolina 14, with Kenneth Darby getting a 21-yard run, Croyle and Darby had a poor handoff. Three plays later Christensen hit a 27-yard field goal for a 23-7 Bama lead.
DeMeco Ryans forced a fumble on an inside screen pass and Rudy Griffin recovered for Bama at the South Carolina 39 with just over five minutes to play in the third quarter.
Three plays later Darby followed a crunching block by Antoine Caldwell for a 23-yard touchdown. With just over four minutes to play in the third quarter, Bama was up by 30-7. And as the fourth quarter began, many of the South Carolina fans in the original crowd of 82,968 had made an early exit.
With John Parker Wilson taking over at quarterback in the fourth quarter, the Tide drove to another touchdown. Glen Coffee had a long run, then on a third down play Wilson hit Brown on a 36-yard score. It was Brown's second touchdown catch of the day and Wilson's first college touchdown completion. It was 37-7 with under 10 minutes to play.
The Gamecocks tacked on a final score against Alabama reserves with 5:43 to play. Mitchell hit Rice from six yards out. The drive was helped along by a personal foul and a face mask penalty against Bama, the first flags against the Tide in the game.
TIDE NOTES: Alabama has an 11-2 record against South Carolina, but the Crimson Tide had lost two straight games to the Gamecocks before Saturday's 37-14 victory. Bama is now 3-1 in Columbia.
It was late in the fourth quarter before the field was shaded, and the Alabama sideline on the East side of the stadium never got into the shade. At gametime the temperature was in the 90s and the heat index over 100, but Alabama had practiced many days in high heat. The Tide team was hydrated before the contest.
South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier decided to have his team wear its white jerseys, which are usually road game jerseys, and so Bama was in its crimson jerseys. Although the change was not revealed until late last week, the request from South Carolina to Alabama was made last summer. Alabama usually wears its crimson jerseys to one road game every other year, to LSU where the Bengal Tigers wear white at home.
Hard as it is to believe since he once coached at Duke, the 37-14 Alabama win was the worst home loss Spurrier has ever suffered as a head coach.
Alabama became just the second team to post three straight victories over college teams coached by Spurrier. Alabama defeated third-ranked Florida in Gainesville in overtime, 40-39, in a regular season game in 1999, then romped over the Gators 34-7, in the SEC Championship Game rematch at the end of that season. FSU also has three consecutive wins over Spurrier-coached teams.
The replay officials stopped play to review only one play Saturday, over-turning a pass ruled incomplete for South Carolina near the Alabama goalline. It was the third time this year Alabama has had plays stopped for review. In all three cases the replay officials got it right, twice correcting on-the-field officials and once affirming the call.
Alabama did not suffer a penalty (other than the technical penalty of an out-of-bounds kickoff) until late in the fourth quarter when freshman defensive end Bobby Greenwood was called for unnecessary roughness. On the next play, Simeon Castille was flagged for an inadvertant face mask penalty. Those were the only penalties against Bama. South Carolina was penalized only four times for 25 yards.
Alabama has now won 14 consecutive Southeastern Conference season-opening games. Bama has not lost its first SEC game of the year since falling to Spurrier's Florida team, 35-0, in Gainesville to start the 1991 season. In the 14-year winning streak are 10 games against Vanderbilt and one each against Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and South Carolina.
Tyrone Prothro, the all-purpose yardage magician of the Southern Miss game, was virtually shut out of his two specialties Saturday. South Carolina made sure to punt away from Prothro and the Gamecocks' kickoffs were all deep into or over the end zone. And Prothro wasn't returning punts in the second half after suffering a bit of a foot injury. And as a receiver, Prothro had one catch for minus four yards. But the junior lined up in the backfield and had three rushes for a career-best 61 yards, including a long of 41 yards. He kept his streak of at least one pass reception going, now up to 21 games.
When Simeon Castille intercepted a South Carolina pass it marked the 20th straight game the Alabama defense has forced a turnover. Bama did not have a turnover against the Gamecocks.
Kenneth Darby had his first 100-yard rushing game of the year, picking up 145 yards. It was his fifth career 100-yard rushing game. He earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance.
Alabama had 52 rushes for 338 yards, the most rushing yards ever by a Mike Shula-coached Crimson Tide. Bama had only 273 total rushing yards in its first two games, wins over Middle Tennessee State and Southern Miss.
With a 3-0 start, Alabama has now had 53 seasons in which the Crimson Tide began the year with at least three victories.
Although senior Brandon Brooks has handled the football a number of times as a punt and kickoff return man, when he made a catch against South Carolina Saturday it was his first pass reception.
Freshman quarterback John Parker Wilson recorded his first touchdown pass with a fourth quarter bomb to Keith Brown.
Alabama Depth Chart Vs. South Carolina
Alabama played an unusually high number of players for the Mike Shula era with 63 Crimson Tiders seeing action in Bama's 37-14 rout of South Carolina in Columbia. As the road team in a Southeastern Conference game, Alabama was limited to 70 players. B.J. Stabler started at right guard for Alabama, becoming the third different starter in three games at that spot. Neither Marlon Davis, who started against Southern Miss, nor Mark Sanders, who started against MTSU, played in the South Carolina game. Ramzee Robinson regained the starting left cornerback job he had all last season, but Simeon Castille, who had been starting at left cornerback, was the nickel safety and saw just as much playing time as the starters. Jeremy Clark was back starting at defensive tackle, where he did in 2005. Justin Britt, who had started at tackle the first two games, did not make the trip because of injury. At least two players saw their first career Alabama competition, wide receiver Will Oakley and fullback Victor Horn. Alabama used 30 on offense, 23 on defense, and 10 just on special teams. Some played more than one position, such as Tyrone Prothro at both flanker and halfback and Taylor Britt at center and guard. Here are those who played with starters listed first. (Alabama opened the game with three wide receivers–Keith Brown, D.J. Hall and Ezekial Knight–and no fullback.) The number in parenthesis is the number of plays, and if there are two numbers the second is the number of plays on special teams.
Split End - Keith Brown (39-3), Zeke Knight (14-13), Matt Caddell (19-1), Marcus McKnight (6-1), Matt Miller (3-19)
Left Tackle - Chris Capps (63-7), Cody Davis (22-1)
Left Guard - Antoine Caldwell (56-5), Justin Moon (7-7)
Center - J.B. Closner (67)
Right Guard - B.J. Stabler (67-2), Taylor Britt (21)
Right Tackle - Kyle Tatum (63-7)
Tight End - Nick Walker (42-8), Travis McCall (22-8), Charles Hoke (7)
Quarterback - Brodie Croyle (61), John Parker Wilson (6), Marc Guillon (7)
Fullback - LéRon McClain (48-11), Tim Castille (19-2), Vic Horn (7)
Halfback - Kenneth Darby (32-1), Glen Coffee (18-1), Jimmy Johns (6-15), Rashad Johnson (1-14)
Flanker - D.J. Hall (41-6), Tyrone Prothro (34-6), Brandon Brooks (6), Will Oakley (6)
Right End - Mark Anderson (31), Chris Harris (21), Keith Saunders (20)
Tackle–Jeremy Clark (24)
Nose Tackle–Rudy Griffin (28), J.P. Adams (21)
Left End–Wallace Gilberry (31), Bobby Greenwood (22)
Strongside Linebacker–DeMeco Ryans (49-2), Juke King (3-5)
Middle Linebacker–Freddie Roach (40), Matt Collins (18-8)
Weakside Linebacker–Juwan Simpson (51-2), Demarcus Waldrop (15-15)
Right Cornerback–Anthony Madison (38-4), Lionel Mitchell (9-9)
Left Cornerback–Ramzee Robinson (51-2), Simeon Castille (48-9)
Strong Safety–Charlie Peprah (50-5), Jeffrey Dukes (21-15), Chris Keys (9)
Safety–Roman Harper (51-3), Cory Reamer (9)
Punter–Jeremy Schatz (3)
Placekicker–Jamie Christensen (7 KO, 3 FG, 4 PAT), Ryan Saxby (1 KO)
Holder–Matt Miller (3 FG, 4 PAT)
Snapper–Drew Lane (3 FG, 4 PAT, 3 P)
Coverage and Returns–Marcel Stamps (14), Marcus Carter (3), Bryan Kilpatrick (1), Theo Townsend (13), Justin Ballard (2), Danny Barger (2)
Scouting Report: Hogs Run It Well
Arkansas is reeling after back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Southern Cal, and many fan and expert attention is already looking forward to a clash between what's likely to be a battle of two unbeaten teams when Florida comes to Tuscaloosa to face the Tide next week. But that doesn't mean the Alabama staff and players are looking ahead, and Arkansas presents challenges that merit attention despite their 1-2 record.
The rushing numbers for Arkansas virtually jump off the stat sheet. The Hogs' 291.3 rushing yards per game are leading the Southeastern Conference and rank third in the nation. Four backs alternate running behind a line that averages 6-5, 306 pounds among the starters.
Arkansas will use a first-time starter at left guard Saturday becauseJonathan Luigs, who had started three games, suffered a high ankle sprain early against USC and is expected to miss the game.
The left side of the Razorback line is the staunchest, made up by two 314-pound juniors. Left tackle Tony Ugoh (#66) has helped clear the way for the ball carriers with a team-leading 30 knockdown blocks. Left guard Stephen Parker (6-4; #74) 22 knockdowns. Center Kyle Roper (6-3, 291 pounds; #70) is a member of the Rimington Award watch list, given to the nation's top center. He anchors the Hogs' line and has 17 knockdown blocks this season. Tyler Morgan (6-6, 296; #68) will step in at right guard to make his first start. The junior does have some experience, however. He earned a letter a year ago. Right tackle Robert Felton (6-4, 313 pounds; #61) has started all three games at right tackle.
Tight end Mason Templeton helps to clear running paths with his 6-7, 258-pound frame. He has one catch on the year as well.
Arkansas has a stable of four backs that fight for carries, led by De'Arrius Howard, the 6-0, 236-pound senior with 42 attempts for 263 yards per game. 6-0, 195-pound freshman Felix Jones is the big-play threat of the four. He already has an 80-yard run this season and is averaging 9.6 yards per carry (21 rushes, 202 yards). Peyton Hillis is second on the team in carries, with 37 attempts for 193 yards. He is the biggest receiving threat out of the backfield, too, with eight receptions for 85 yards so far. Darren McFadden has also seen significant action this season. He has 23 carries for 164 yards, and has not been stopped in the backfield this year. Senior fullback Kyle Dickerson is also a possibility to carry the ball. He has eight rush attempts for 55 yards.
Defenses around the league are grateful that Matt Jones is no longer the Hogs' quarterback. He is replaced by sophomore Robert Johnson (6-2, 212 pounds). Johnson has rushed for just 23 yards this year, and he has completed 56.1 percent (37-of-66) of his passes for 383 yards. He's thrown three interceptions and four touchdowns.
He has started all three games, but has been subbed for with Freshman Alex Mortensen. Mortensen (6-2, 212 pounds). Mortensen is just 5-of-13 passing for 58 yards, an interception and a touchdown.
Sophomore Marcus Monk (6-6, 227 pounds) is a sizeable receiving target and the Hogs' leading receiver. He has 14 catches for 169 yards in three games.
Flanker Cedric Washington (6-0, 200 pounds) starts opposite Monk, and has nine catches for 99 yards on the year.
Arkansas's defense has been horrible in three games, a fact that was made painfully clear after Southern Cal posted 70 points a week ago. Arkansas is 10th in the league and 95th in the country in rushing defense at 199.7 ground yards per game allowed to the opponent. Arkansas is 11th in the SEC and 103rd in the country in pass defense at 394.3 passing yards allowed. Total defense places them in 11th in the SEC and 111th in the nation.
Weakside linebacker Sam Olajubutu (5-9, 227 pounds) has been the Hogs' best defensive player with a team-leading 37 tackles. He's added two tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.Strong safety Vickiel Vaughn is the team's second-leading tackler. The 6-0, 204 pound senior has 13 career starts and 41 career games played.
Ripe for the picking at cornerback are Michael Coe (6-1, 186 pounds) and Darius Vinnett (5-9, 170 pounds). Coe leads the Hogs with two interceptions and has 15 tackles, 11 of which were solo stops. Vinnett is the best cornerback. He recorded two pass break-ups against USC.
Seniors Clarke Moore (6-2, 245 pounds) and Pierre Brown (6-0, 227) start at middle and strong side linebacker, respectively. Moore took over the starting spot for Weston Dacus after the season opener.
Left end Desmond Sims (6-3, 228 pounds) is an experienced junior who moved from linebacker to his current position. He has 11 tackles on the season and one sack. Junior Anthony Brown starts at right end. He has nine tackles on the year, seven of which came against Vanderbilt.
Soph Marcus Harrison (6-3, 300 pounds) and junior Keith Jackson (6-0, 285 pounds) start at the defensive tackle positions. Harrison has 10 tackles and started in the Vanderbilt and USC games. Jackson has started all three games and has 14 tackles.
Tide fans remember Chris Balseiro. He ended the five overtime game two years ago, and is a senior handling field goal kicking duties. He has made 2-3 field goals this year. The makes were from the 30-39 yard range and he missed a 44-yard attempt. His career long is a 42 yarder. Brian Vavra handles kickoffs. He has had two touchbacks and none out of bounds this year in 17 tries.
Jacob Skinner has 14 punts on the year for a 41.6 yard average. The junior has a 57-yard long and has landed five kicks inside the 20. He also holds. Brett Goode is the snapper.
Coe is the primary punt returner, averaging 7.9 yards per return in eight tries. Felix Jones has handled most of the kickoff returns. He averages 33 yards per return on seven attempts this year, including a 67-yard long.
Coach Mike Shula Says
Alabama is ranked 20th in the nation with a 3-0 record. Arkansas was embarrassed at home by Vanderbilt, then slaughtered last Saturday night by Southern Cal and is 1-2. And Alabama Coach Mike Shula thinks it's his Crimson Tide that has its back against the wall.
In his regular Tuesday press briefing, Alabama Coach Mike Shula was asked about the difficulty in preparing for Arkansas since the Razorbacks "have their backs against he wall" with the poor start by the Hogs. Should Bama "expect the unexpected?"
Shula gave an unexpected answer. "I kind of feel like our backs are always up against the wall," Bama's head coach said. "I think you have to have that approach each and ever week as a coach. And your team does. You have to stress the importance of each and every play, each and every drive, each and every quarter, each and every game. We've got to be prepared in all three phases."
As for the unexpected, Shula said, "I think you come to expect that when you face Arkansas and Coach (Houston) Nutt because they do a lot of different things and he's not afraid to go out on a limb and call things that maybe other coaches wouldn't."
In the same vein, Shula said, "There is no reason for us ever to be overconfident. We've got a bunch of young players. We have won a couple of games, but this week is our biggest game, the biggest game we've coached in and the biggest game our players have played in. As a coach you want to praise your players when they do well and help them in their confidence that we, but you also want to make sure you have your best week of practice to give yourself the best chance to win the game on Saturday. So as coaches we have to cover every detail. We can't let any mistake go unnoticed. We've got to be really, really focused."
The coach said, "It's good to have confidence. And the best way to have confidence is to win. We talk to our players about one week the questions being, ‘Why don't you play better?' and the next week the questions being ‘Why did you play so well?' But after the game is played, it's over. You have to get ready for the next game."
He said, "Each week the games get bigger. Everything you talk about in terms of goals comes down to winning games like this."
Shula said, "We have a huge week of preparation ahead of us as we get into the Arkansas game, our first SEC game at home. We know what kind of team Arkansas has. They are definitely the most talented team that we've faced. They have as big an offense as we've faced up front and probably as fast and quick a defense that we've faced."
Shula said, "Our players, hopefully we can build on some of the good things that we did last week, but this week is going to be about getting ourselves ready to improve ourselves all over again. It's going to be a difficult task obviously as we get into the game. It's an early start for us so we've got to make sure we get our players prepared. And as coaches we've got to make sure we get everything going so our players can get off to a good start for an early game."
With kickoff at 11:30 a.m., Shula said, "You're not used to getting up that early for a ball game. We usually have pre-game meal four hours before kickoff, which means at 7:30 in the morning. Then at a midday game, the sun's a little brighter and it's got a chance to be hotter. You hope to get the blood flowing quicker, which means things like having a little more contact in the warm-ups."
Both Alabama and Arkansas played USC last weekend, but on opposite coasts with distinctly opposite results. While Alabama was dismantling South Carolina, 37-14, the Razorbacks were shocked by Southern Cal, 70-17. While there is a thought that the USC-Arkansas game can be discarded as "one of those things," that doesn't mean the videotape isn't valuable to Alabama's coaching staff in preparation.
Shula said, "You look at their schemes in all three phases–how they did things, especially early in the game, compared to how they did them in their first two games. We look at personnel, how certain guys react, their quickness, their speed."
Even without looking at tape, Shula said, "We know what Arkansas has. We've played them the last two years. We know what kind of talent they are. We know what kind of coaching they have. They're great motivators, their staff. They've fallen short the last two weeks and they're going to be more motivated now than they ever have. But we have got to be motivated. We have got to have our best week of practice, be more focused than we've ever been just because that's what it's going to take to beat this football team."
Shula named three players as questionable for Saturday's game. Defensive tackle Justin Britt (shoulder) and nose tackle Dominic Lee (leg infection) missed the South Carolina game. Shula said Britt had practiced "a little," but that Lee had not and would not practice Tuesday. (After practice Tuesday, Shula added that defensive end Mark Anderson had a pin inserted into his hand, but added he hoped Anderson would be ready to play.)
Shula said it would be important to have defensive linemen ready to play against Arkansas, which "has a big offensive line and likes to run the ball." He noted that freshmen Lorenzo Washington, who has yet to play this year, was taken to South Carolina as a precaution. Also questionable is linebacker Terrence Jones, recovering from a sprained ankle.
Bama's Kenneth Darby, who had off-season surgery to repair a sports hernia, was the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 145 yards and a touchdown against South Carolina. Shula said, "He has been great. He has worked hard in his rehabilitation and he has a lot of energy. And he always has a smile on his face. He has become a leader for us through his productivity."
But, Shula said, "Like a lot of our players, he's got to prove himself again this week."
Speaking of improvement, Shula said left tackle "Chris Capps improved the most. He played well."
- Kirk McNair