Atonement Time

Sure, the entire University of Alabama football team is abuzz about Saturday's showdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium with archrival Tennessee. But perhaps no single player is as ready for Saturday as junior right tackle Kyle Tatum.

For Kyle Tatum, in his second season at offensive right tackle for Alabama, playing the Vols is more than a chance for a big victory.

It's a chance to make amends.

A year ago in Knoxville's Neyland Stadium, Tatum got what he calls his "welcome to the SEC moment."

On the Tide's second play from scrimmage, deep in Tennessee territory, a run right was called for tailback Kenneth Darby. Right guard Danny Martz pulled left on the play, but Tatum went right – the wrong way – allowing Vol defensive tackle Turk McBride to essentially take the handoff from Alabama quarterback Spencer Pennington's hands.

Defensive end Parys Haralson scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 18 yards for a touchdown, the ultimate difference in UT's 17-13 victory.

A year has passed since Tatum's embarrassing moment. And he's ready to show the Vols he's a totally different player.

"Going back to last year, I was a much more immature ballplayer than I am now," he said. "This is the game that I want to go and prove I'm a much more mature ballplayer. I have better technique now, and that's what I want to come away from this game with."

Last fall's debacle was only Tatum's eighth game as a college offensive lineman; he spent his first two years on campus as a defensive tackle.

And Tatum readily admits he was a work in progress back then.

"The plays were a little blurry," he said. "It's such a complex offense that we have, and as a young player, I needed to play better. That was my fault."

This year, he's become a rock of the offensive line, a veteran that younger players like right guard B.J. Stabler, left guard Antoine Caldwell and left tackle Chris Capps turn to for advice.

Saturday, he wants to show them – and the rest of his teammates – how far he's come.

"I've prepared, gotten all the reps, added them up and gotten better, become the kind of player I want to become," Tatum said. "I want to prove to myself, prove to this football team that I've become a better player. It's really what I want to do every week. That should be every player's goal – getting a little better than last week."

While he's motivated by last year's screw-up, Tatum made it clear Tuesday that he's only looking forward.

What's done is done, he said. All he can do now is atone for his mistakes.

"It's one of those things that helps you keep focus, helps me realize that if you mess up mentally, have a brain fart, this is what happens," he said. "I don't do it anymore.

"That's the kind of player I am. That's what you're taught – all the way from junior high ball on, you've got to forget the last play, whether it was good or bad. If we dwelled on the past, we've be sitting here whining about our 4-9 season two years ago. The past is the past. We're looking ahead."


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