Closner back in Texas

Injured senior Crimson Tide center and Texas native JB Closner was on crutches at Alabama's practice and talked to Alabama reporters for the first time since he suffered a season-ending broken leg against Mississippi State.



"The leg's good," Closner said. "Almost there. Next Friday I get two pins taken out and I'm going to walk a couple of days after that and start rehabbing and running and getting up to speed."

After the January 6 procedure to remove the pins Closner still has a long road ahead of him. He said he hopes to be able to work out for NFL scouts at Alabama's senior pro day in March. "We'll see as it goes, but that's the plan right now," he said.

Alabama was 9-0 in games in which Closner played. Alabama's offensive line had highly publicized struggles with LSU and Auburn after he went down.

"It was terrible," J.B. Closner said. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done was watching the guys I've worked so hard with and prepared with go out to battle and there's nothing I can do with it."

Both Closner and receiver Tyrone Prothro, who was injured against Florida are in Dallas with the team. Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said, "It's important (that they are here) for just the fact that these guys have helped this football team get here and contributed. I talked to those guys, too. They can help these guys look after each other."

The loss of Closner left a void at center that was filled by senior Taylor Britt for the final two regular season games, but it appears more certain there will be a new center for the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

"Getting all these reps, it's got to mean something," freshman Antoine Caldwell said. "Right now I'm getting ready to play center in the bowl game."

Caldwell indicated he has not explicitly been told he would start the bowl game, or make a permanent move to center, but that is what he anticipates.

"I'll be strictly center," he said. "I've been doing that and I guess I've got to get ready for that. It's a clear indication, sounds like. It's been a real easy transition for me and it's been going great."

Quarterback Brodie Croyle said Caldwell has, "come in and done a good job for us. It took him a couple of days to get used to it but he's making all the calls and he's becoming a good center."

The likely move also makes Mark Sanders the likely left guard. Sanders has worked at left and right guard, as well as at right tackle this year.

"Mark has been a utility type guy. He hasn't played a whole lot but if he's going to play this week his preparations have helped him," Shula said. "I think going from right to left is just as difficult as going from guard to tackle."

Tuesday night the Tide players went to the Wyndham Anatole Hotel for a welcome show sponsored by FOX Sports with ventriloquist Jeff Dunham and comedian Frank Caliendo after having dinner Lawry's Beef Bowl.

Tuesday evening photos:


Players walk into Lowry's for the Beef Bowl.


Justin Britt gets excited about the arrival of dinner at the Beef Bowl.


Mike Shula entertains the idea of putting on a cowboy hat.


Jeff Dunham and his sidekick Peanut opened for Frank Caliendo at the FOX Sports Welcome on Tuesday.


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