Pollard juggling lineup for Night of Champions

With the Night of Champions less than a week away, Tide Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard has some decisions to make. It's not that he lacks for outstanding lifters, because he's literally got scores of outstanding athletes to choose from. But injuries--some serious, but most somewhat less so--are limiting Pollard's options.

It's been two weeks since spring practice ended, but numerous athletes are still recovering from various injuries. And unfortunately for Pollard, that list includes many of his best lifters. "I think Jarret (Johnson) is going to participate," Pollard said. "Jarret was doing well on all four lifts during the winter. But then having hurt his knee, that set him back a bit on some of the lower-body stuff. He hasn't squatted in awhile, but even last week he did some things on the squat I was really pleased with. So he may still be able to come back and do some things."

Despite the fact that he's still recovering from a strained MCL, Jarret Johnson will probably participate in the Night of Champions.

The event will take place Tuesday, April 30th at 7 pm in Coleman Coliseum. Stations for the bench press, the incline bench press, the squat and the hang clean will be set up on the basketball floor. Admission will be free.

Those fans that attended last year's inaugural event will recall that both Sam Collins and Hirchel Bolden were featured athletes. But each will sit out this year, recovering from shoulder surgeries. "Hirchel and Sam will not be able to do anything at all," Pollard said. "Had Hirchel been healthy, he might have had a shot at setting a record."

A-Back Ray Hudson may not be the biggest athlete on the squad, but his 455 mark on the bench press currently is the record for running backs. However, leftover ailments from spring will keep him out. "Ray Hudson does well on the bench press," Pollard said. "But his shoulder won't allow it."

Clint Johnston and his impressive physique is one of the newcomers Pollard would like to showcase Tuesday night.

Pictures don't lie, and fans have been looking forward to seeing freshman Clint Johnston show off at the NOC. But unfortunately that might not happen. "Clint is another one we'd like to showcase in the clean," Pollard said. "But he injured his rotator cuff diving after a ball in the A-Day game when he was underthrown. That has hurt his bench press, but I'd like to try him on something else."

"I told him his legs are too skinny," Pollard added with a laugh. "So I'll never showcase his squat."

As he did last year with Tyler Watts--who at the time was coming off ACL surgery--in some cases Pollard purposefully selects an athlete that has been injured to let the player prove he's now healthy. "If I'm confident that Jason Rawls feels good, I'd like to showcase him on the squat," Pollard said. "That way we could show how strong he is and how much he's done after coming off his third ACL surgery. He's really done a pretty good job. But he's a little banged up."

Though he has yet to make an impact on the game-day depth chart, "Big Bart" Raulston has a well-deserved reputation for prodigious feats in the weight room. But a recent wrist injury may keep him out of Tuesday's event. "I was going to have Bart out there doing the snatch," Pollard said. "He had previously set a record in the weight room. He's doing the snatch, because he can't clean. But I'm not sure now."

Rover Mark Anderson is another newcomer who will likely participate.

Due to minor injuries that won't be healed by Tuesday, numerous athletes will likely miss the big night. But starting strong tackle Evan Mathis may have the best excuse of them all. "I wanted Evan Mathis out there doing the bench press," Pollard said. "But he's going to have surgery on his leg today, so he'll be out." (Mathis will have a steel rod inserted in his leg on Thursday to repair a stress fracture in his tibia, an injury he played with all last season.)

In addition to showcasing his top lifters, Pollard will also make certain that fans get a glimpse of some of the newest Tiders. "I'd like everybody to get a look at Shaud Williams," Pollard said. "If you consider the entire year, Shaud has outworked everybody here. Every time he comes in here he brings a lot of energy and does a great job. I want him to have the opportunity to lift. I can't say for sure, but I think Shaud we're going to try to use him on the squat."

"I'd like Anthony Madison possibly involved, probably on the squat," Pollard continued. "Possibly Brandon Brooks could participate as well and also Mark Anderson. I'd like to see Mark Anderson clean. He's got long arms, so his bench press isn't going to be phenomenal."

Cornelius Wortham and his impressive "guns" simply looks "too good" to not feature Tuesday.

Fans should also get a chance to check out J.B. Closner, Bama's heir-apparent at center and a player that has made excellent progress in the weight room since he first arrived on campus. "J.B has worked really hard," Pollard said. "One of the things that hurt him early last season was he cut a tendon in his hand. There was a period of six to eight weeks where he couldn't lift at all. But he's a hard-working kid.

"Those are the type kids you want to reward for doing a good job."

A lot of factors go into Pollard's decision-making process on who should participate in the Night of Champions, including hard work, the potential for setting a record and injuries. But in at least one case his decision was easy. "Cornelius (Wortham) probably will lift," Pollard related. "He'll be on the bench press.

"Cornelius just looks so doggoned good that you want to have him out there."

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