Alabama wide receiver D.J. Hall is "above probable," Shula said following Wednesday's practice. Hall bruised his lower back when he fell to the turf while trying to make a reception in last week's game at Ole Miss. Shula said it had been something of a surprise that Hall was able to practice Sunday. "D.J. looked good," Shula said. "He didn't miss a beat today."
The Tide coach said if Hall is able to go at receiver, then he will also be able to return punts. If he is not ready, then the punt return duties will likely fall to Brandon Brooks (who returned punts last week) or Matt Caddell.
"I thought we had a good practice today," Shula said following Bama's hour-and-a-half practice in helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts. "Tuesday was okay, but today was good. And we're pretty healthy."
He said he is talking to the players "about how important the focus is going to be. We've got to understand this is the best team we've faced all year. It is a challenge at every position. Nothing less than our best will do."
Shula said that sometimes a player doesn't realize how big a game against a Tennessee or an Auburn is until "afterwards, sometimes even after graduation when other alumni talk about it. That's one of the great things about college sports. It's a wonderful opportunity for our players."
Alabama, 6-0 and ranked fifth in the nation in all polls and in the Bowl Championship Series compilation, will host Tennessee, 3-2 and ranked 17th, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Bama is 4-0 in Southeastern Conference games, while Tennessee is 2-2. Bama is coming off a struggling 13-10 win over Mississippi in Oxford, while the Vols had their usual off week before playing the Crimson Tide. The game will be nationally telecast by CBS.
The weather forecast for Saturday calls for sunny skies, but a major drop in the temperature with the high Saturday expected to be only 73.
Shula avoided a question about Marc Guillon getting more practice time this week. Back-up quarterback John Parker Wilson has been demoted to scout team work this week following his arrest early Sunday morning for driving while intoxicated. Although a source has said Wilson has been suspended for three games, Shula has not announced a penalty–although he did confirm there would be a punishment. Shula said Guillon "looks fine, just like he has looked every other week."
Alabama leads the SEC in the statistic Red Zone Defense, which comes from facing opponents inside the 20-yard line. Bama has faced the situation 13 times and allowed eight scores, 61.5 per cent. (By comparision, Tennessee, this week's opponent, is fourth, having allowed 11 scores in 15 attempts, 73.3 per cent. And Georgia is 12th, having given up 10 scores in 11 opportunities, 90.9 per cent.)
Bama has allowed four touchdowns (one rushing, three passing) and opponents have kicked field goals four times in six tries. The Tide has held on downs twice and had one other stop.
Shula was asked why Bama had been so good in red zone defense. He first noted that "This team we're playing against this week, we'll have to play well. I hope they aren't down there too often."
He then suggested that "Speed helps. There's not as much room down there, so it helps if you can get to the ball faster. And if you can change direction quickly, that helps.
"The biggest thing is to stop the run in plus territory. Tennessee is good at it, and that's what we've got to do."
Saturday's game will be Alabama's second straight against a top 25 opponent in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide defeated then-fifth-ranked Florida, 31-3, in its last home appearance on October 1.
The Crimson Tide will work out Thursday, then have a walk through on Friday.