'BAMA Newsletter 4

'BAMA: Inside the Crimson Tide and BamaMag.com's weekly newsletter brings you up to speed on the week of Crimson Tide football.

Inside this Issue: Number 4, September 21, 2005

- Editorial: Tide At Crossroads In Season
- Tide Wins Decisively
- Depth Chart
- Scouting Report
- Coach Shula Says
- Season Statistics (PDF Version only)
(Printable PDF)



Tide At Crossroads In Season
By Kirk McNair


The preliminaries are over. Anyone looking at Alabama's 2006 football schedule saw three relative lightweights to start the season, then a trip to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas in a game that could prove pivotal for both the Crimson Tide and Razorbacks. No one is predicting great things for either Bama or Arkansas this football season, but in recent years the winner of this game often has gone on to a reasonably good season while the loser has struggled.

This is not going to be the difference in going to Tempe for the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS Championship Game or going to Shreveport. But it could be the difference in going to the Cotton Bowl or Shreveport. Or not going to any bowl game.

There is no such thing as an inconsequential game, and particularly not a Southeastern Conference game. For Alabama, the Arkansas game is of particular importance because it appears to be the least hazardous of the Crimson Tide's 2006 SEC road trips. Last year back-to-back home victories over Arkansas and Florida were instrumental in Bama having a 10-2 record and finishing eighth in the nation. This year those games fall consecutively and on the road, to be followed later by trips to SEC heavyweights Tennessee and LSU.

Many believe that Alabama is facing a team whose coaching staff considers its back to the wall. Houston Nutt has been head coach of the Razorbacks for a decade and has been no better than mediocre. The feeling among those who are close to the Arkansas program is that this is a make or break year for Nutt, and that the Alabama game is considered the make or break game in this year. Arkansas has had losing seasons the past two years and has been blown out by Southern Cal in both 2005 and this season.

This would be a good week for Alabama to get physical. Whatever else Arkansas has had in recent years, the Razorbacks have always been a very physical team. This year, Bama has some very physical players, but the Tide also appears to be a little softer than usual in a few areas. Word from Arkansas is that this is not the usual angry Hogs, either.

This week's game could be the first in which Alabama prepares for a balanced offensive attack, meaning the first game of the year in which Bama is in so-called its normal 4-3 defense instead of playing a lineman short and with an extra defensive back. The Razorbacks have an excellent running game. The Tide will also get to see an outstanding young quarterback in Mitch Mustain. He's a freshman who is still being coached by his high school coach, who was hired by Nutt as the Razorbacks won a recruiting war for Mustain, who prepped on the outskirts of Fayetteville. (Alabama was one of those schools after Mustain.)

There is a tendency to think that a man who was coaching in high school last year and is now the offensive coordinator will have no chance going up against an old hand like Bama's defensive coordinator, Joe Kines. But those who know football speak very highly of Gus Malzahn.

Alabama could be excused for being particularly wary of officiating this week. Last weekend, game after game was affected by shoddy officiating, Indeed, Arkansas got a big boost from an official's mistake in slipping by Vanderbilt last Saturday. the Crimson Tide can remember to a few losses at the hands of Arkansas that were the direct result of incompetent SEC officials.

Crimson Tide Gets Decisive Win Over Monroe
By Kirk McNair


No one would suggest that Alabama was impressive in its Bryant-Denny Stadium troika to open the season. Saturday night's 41-7 win over Louisiana Monroe was decisive, but obviously against an out-manned opponent. Louisiana Monroe, like Hawaii and Vanderbilt—Bama's first two opponents—was unconventional on offense, the third consecutive team to have Alabama playing out of its base defense and in a nickel package as its primary scheme. That gave the Tide occasional problems, but not much in the grand scheme of Saturday night's game.

There were familiar names scoring for the Tide—fullbacks LéRon McClain and Tim Castille and wide receiver D.J. Hall and placekicker Leigh Tiffin. But the fourth quarter was given over the second and third team players, many playing for the first time at Alabama, and Roy Upchurch had two touchdown runs.

With a large number of the 108 who dressed for the game seeing playing time, attention was focused on three who did not. Three Alabama players did not see action in the game. Senior linebacker Juwan Simpson, sophomore halfback Jimmy Johns, and sophomore cornerback Lionel Mitchell were held out.

Upchurch got his first offensive action of the year at halfback as back-up to Darby. Demarcus Waldrop started at weakside linebacker in place of Simpson. Mitchell had started in Bama's second game in the five-man secondary. Rashad Johnson, who had been the starting nickel back in Bama's opener, resumed that role vs. ULM.

After a terrible first series, the Tide got the scoring started with an 8-play, 80-yard drive. Kenneth Darby had a 13-yard run and John Parker Wilson completed a pass to Keith Brown that went for 26 yards with the Louisiana Monroe cornerback fell down. From the 17, Wilson hit fullback Le'Ron McClain on McClain's first reception of the year and the senior fullback broke tackles en route to the end zone. (He has six career touchdown pass receptions.)

Alabama's second score was set up when Keith Saunders caused and recovered a Warhawks fumble at the Louisiana Monroe 24. Bama failed to move the ball and settled for a 34-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal.

The Warhawks didn't roll over. Louisiana Monroe came back with a 83-yard, 11-play drive with quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster sneaking over from two yards out on a third-and-one play. The drive took 5:39.

Wilson started Bama's next drive off with a 33-yard pass completion to Brown at the ULM 32. Brown then took a reverse to the Warhawks 12. On third down at the three, the Tide's jumbo package came in and Tim Castille took it in for the 17-7 lead. It ook only 1:58 for the 6-play, 65-yard drive and ended first half scoring. Castille has 17 career touchdowns, the most of any current Tider.

In what probably would be ranked as a horrible series, Alabama turned an almost sure touchdown into a field goal. The Tide had first and goal at the three and tried three passes—all incomplete. Tiffin did kick a 25-yard field goal to make it 20-7. It seemed an unsatisfactory ending to a 13-play, 43-yard drive.

Bama didn't risk that short yardage shortfall on its next opportunity. The Tide went 81 yards in five plays, a 43-yard pass from Wilson to D.J. Hall getting the touchdown to make it 27-7 as the third quarter ended. The drive took only 2:43. Darby had a 20-yard run and a 12-yard pass reception in the series.

Early in the fourth quarter, ULM gambled on a fourth and one play and failed to make it, giving Bama the ball at the Warhawks' 29-yard line. Alabama's second offense, with Marc Guillon at quarterback, took over. Roy Upchurch, who was Bama's second halfback, got all the runs, including the one-yard touchdown that made it 34-7.

Alabama's second offense got another nice opportunity when Jeffrey Dukes intercepted a USM pass at the Warhawks' 38. Guillon completed his first pass of the year, a 10-yarder to Will Oakley. Freshman halfback Terry Grant got his first run of the year, a 19-yard jaunt to the nine. Guillon hit Nikita Stover for five yards, then Grant ran it to the one. Upchurch took it in for his second touchdown and a 41-7 margin.

TIDE NOTES: Cory Reamer, Tide safety who reinjured a knee that knocked him out of the final half of 2005, was on the sidelines in sweats, as was wide receiver Tyrone Prothro. Terry Grant, the freshman halfback who has been back on kickoff returns but who was injured mid-week and pronounced as no better than questionable, was back in the lineup Saturday. But soon after the game, Alabama physicians were making decisions that will affect the play of the three for the remainder of the year.

It was announced that Prothro had another surgery on the leg he broke in last year's game against Florida and has now been counted out for 2006. He is eligible for an additional year of eligibility in 2007. It was determined that Grant should have surgery on his shoulder that will also end his season. He, too, is eligible for a redshirt season. By having the surgery now, Grant will be ready to participate in spring football practice.

Reamer was to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee and the early prognosis was that he would be able to return in a few weeks.

Fredshman Javier Arenas, who has been returning kickoffs, took over for Simeon Castille as Bama's punt return man against ULM.

Alabama coaches selected Players of the Week. They are center Antoine Caldwell on offense, end Keith Saunders on defense, and Justin Woodall on special teams.

This week's game at Arkansas was selected for television coverage by CBS, Bama's first CBS game this year after being on the national network seven times last season. Alabama stays on the road and stays on CBS the following week when Bama goes to Florida.

Alabama is 3-0 for the third consecutive season. The last time Alabama posted a 3-0 record in three consecutive seasons was 1994-96.

Alabama Depth Chart Vs. Louisiana Monroe
By Kirk McNair


Alabama dressed 108 players for the Louisiana Monroe game, but three of those were for show only. Starting weakside linebacker Juwan Simpson, cornerback Lionel Mitchell (who had started the previous week), and top back-up halfback Jimmy Johns were suspended for the game, just as wide receiver D.J. Hall had sat out the Hawaii game and offensive tackle Kyle Tatum had missed the Vanderbilt game. Demarcus Waldrop started in place of Simpson, Rashad Johnson moved back to number one nickel back in the absence of Mitchell, and Roy Upchurch saw his first action on offense as the number two halfback in place of Johns. There were also three injured players on the Alabama sideline–wide receiver Tyrone Prothro, who almost certainly will not play this year as he continues to recover from a broken leg; halfback Glen Coffee, who has missed all season with a knee injury and may be redshirted; and safety Cory Reamer, who reinjured the knee that knocked him out the last half of 2005. There was no limit on the number who could dress or play as is the case in Southeastern Conference games. This week at Arkansas Bama will be limited to 70, while the homestanding Razorbacks will be able to dress 95 but play only 80. Against Louisiana Monroe Alabama played a season-high 70 men–34 on offense, 27 on defense, and 9 just on special teams. For the first time this year, Alabama opened the game with so-called normal personnel on both offense and defense. That means on offense there were two wide receivers, one tight end, a fullback and halfback. On defense, it was four defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs. That meant Dominic Lee got his first start of the season at defensive tackle. Also getting his first start of the year was wide receiver D.J. Hall . Matt Collins was back as the starter at middle linebacker. He started the opening game of the year and Prince Hall started the second game.Collins was in on 20 plays and Hall 23. Junior place kicker Jamie Christensen made his 2006 debut after missing the first two games with a groin injury. Christensen handled most the Crimson Tide's kickoff duties in the game. Others seeing duty for the first time this season were wide receiver Danny Barger, fullback Will Denniston, and quarterback Marc Guillon. Nine players made their Bama debuts. They were linebacker Eryk Anders, quarterback Jimmy Barnes, offensive lineman Drew Davis, wide receiver Aaron McDaniel, linebacker Darren Mustin, wide receiver Darwin Salaam, defensive lineman Byron Walton, defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington, and tight end Reyn Willis. Four players who had been on special teams got to play on offense. Three of them are halfbacks–Upchurch, Terry Grant, and Ali Sharrief. Evan Cardwell played at center. Here are those who played against Louisiana Monroe with starters listed first and the number of plays in parenthesis. If there are two numbers, the second is the number of plays on special teams.

OFFENSE
Split End—D. J. Hall (40), Matt Caddell (17), Aaron McDaniel (4), Darwin Salaam (2)
Left Tackle—Andre Smith (47-6), Cody Davis (19-2), Drew Davis (6)
Left Guard—Justin Britt (47), Marlon Davis (29)
Center—Antoine Caldwell (47), Evan Cardwell (19-8)
Right Guard—B.J. Stabler (37), Michael Johnson (19-8)
Right Tackle—Chris Capps (47-6), Kyle Tatum (13-2)
Tight End—Travis McCall (37-12), Nick Walker (28-8), Charles Hoke (12-8), Reyn Willis (2)
Quarterback—John Parker Wilson (47), Marc Guillon (13), Jimmy Barnes (6)
Halfback—Kenneth Darby (35), Roy Upchurch (14-10), Terry Grant (4-2), Ali Sharrief (6-10)
Fullback—LéRon McClain (32-10), Tim Castille (15), Baron Huber (10-4), Will Denniston (6)
Flanker—Keith Brown (35), Will Oakley (23), Nikita Stover (4), Danny Barger (4)

DEFENSE
Left End—Wallace Gilberry (36), Chris Harris (14)
Left Tackle—Jeremy Clark (23), Byron Walton (1)
Right Tackle—Dominic Lee (20), J.P. Adams (13), Lorenzo Washington (2)
Right End—Keith Saunders (29), Bobby Greenwood (17), Zeke Knight (9-7),
Strongside Linebacker—Terrence Jones (46-2), Zach Schreiber (12-8)
Middle Linebacker— Matt Collins (20-2), Prince Hall (23)
Weakside Linebacker—Demarcus Waldrop (35-2), Marcel Stamps (17-15)
Left Cornerback—Ramzee Robinson (49)Chris Rogers (3-16), Marquis Johnson (5-20)
Right Cornerback—Simeon Castille (49-3), Eric Gray (19-18)
Strong Safety—Jeffrey Dukes (49-10), Justin Woodall (3-18),
Safety—Marcus Carter (49-4), Rashad Johnson (23-12), Bryan Kilpatrick (3-10), Sam Burnthall (3-8)

SPECIAL TEAMS
Punter and Holder—P.J. Fitzgerald (2 punts, 3 field goals, 5 extra point)
Snapper—Luke Spaulding (2 punts, 3 field goals, 5 extra point)
Placekicker—Leigh Tiffin (3 field goals, 5 extra point), Jamie Christensen (6 kickoffs), Andrew Friedman (2 kickoffs)
Coverage and Returns—Javier Arenas (7), Forress Rayford (12), Eryk Anders (1), Darren Mustin (2)

Scouting Report: Razorbacks Have A Wealth Of Weapons
By Mitch Dobbs


Arkansas is one of six schools in the nation that returns its leading rusher (Darren McFadden, 1,113 yards), passer (Robert Johnson, 876 yards), receiver (Marcus Monk, 476 yards) and tackler (Sam Olajubutu, 69 solo, 49 assists, 118 total) from the 2005 season. While Johnson has been deposed by true freshman sensation Mitch Mustain, making the offense even more skilled and dangerous, the returning talent on the Razorback squad is what must be contained.

The Alabama-Arkansas game is annually one of the more physical and hard-hitting contests on the Southeastern Conference calendar. That should continue, but with the implementation of Arkansas Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn's spread offense formations, the game on Saturday could take on a different look.

Malzahn is the first offensive coordinator at Arkansas for ninth-year Head Coach Houston Nutt. He was also the high school coach of current Razorback starting quarterback Mitch Mustain. In fact, three freshmen from Malzahn's Springdale High made their presence felt quickly in a Razorback uniform, Mustain, wide receiver Damian Williams and tight end Ben Cleveland. Williams has hauled in nine passes for 138 yards, including connections of 42 (vs. USC) and 46 yards.

Cleveland caught two passes against Southern California for 24 yards, including a 22-yard connection with Robert Johnson in the second quarter that set up a Razorback touchdown. He snagged his third pass of the season against the Commodores with a 15-yard touchdown catch from Mustain.

Malzahn has, to an extent, taken Arkansas out of its traditional I-formation with a tight end, and using more one-back and shotgun spread formations. A phenomenal tailback lined up behind a good fullback and a veteran offensive line–all of which Arkansas has–is difficult to stop, even if it seems pretty certain what is coming. In addition, Alabama has shown it can shut down spread offenses repeatedly, including the first three games of this season and against Florida last year. The more of Malzahn's high school spread offense seen on Saturday, the better it should be for the Alabama defense.

But whether Arkansas stays mostly in the spread or goes back to a more run-heavy formation, the talent on Arkansas' offense at the skill positions is unmistakable. There is no lack of mystery about the four horsemen of the Arkansas offense: Quarterback Mitch Mustain, running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones and receiver Marcus Monk.

Much like Alabama's Kenneth Darby, the man whom preseason prognosticators tabbed as better than Darby, the Arkansas sophomore McFadden (6-2, 212 pounds) had a little trouble getting the wheels in motion in the first quarter of the season. McFadden played as a true freshman a year ago, quickly establishing a reputation as one of the strongest and fastest backs in the league. He was a freshman All-America and an All-SEC pick.

McFadden had to have surgery after he dislocated his big toe in a bar fight over the summer, and faced some tough sledding in two of the first three games. McFadden had a huge day in week two against Utah State, however, something Darby has failed to do through three games. McFadden rushed for 184 yards against USU, the highest total in the SEC this season. He ranks second in the league in rushing at 99 yards per game. In limited action due to the injury, he had 42 yards against Southern Cal in the season opener. Last week against Vanderbilt McFadden rushed for just 80 yards on 19 carries in the 21-19 win. McFadden already has a 72-yard touchdown run this season, the longest among the league's top rushers.

McFadden's 70-yard touchdown run against Alabama last year sticks in the minds of Bama fans, and in the craw of many on the Alabama football team. McFadden found a seam on the left side and burst to the second level before stiff-arming Roman Harper, one of the Tide's best tacklers, and racing to the end zone. He had 95 yards on 8 carries in last year's game. The Bama game was McFadden's SEC debut last year, and he followed it up by going for 190 yards against Georgia and 187 against South Carolina.

He and Felix Jones (6-0, 200 pounds), another sophomore, are both among the top five in SEC rushing statistics. Jones sports 27 carries for 194 yards on the season. He's yet to reach the end zone and his long is a 35 yarder. Jones rushed for 48 yards against Southern Call, and 78 yards against Vanderbilt.

Mustain was named the Razorbacks' starting quarterback for the Utah State game after just one game as a backup. Not letting Mustain start in a blowout loss to Southern Cal allows him to enter the Bama game with an unblemished 2-0 record. Mustain's start was the earliest in the season for any true freshman in school history. He was also the first true freshman to win his first start since Barry Lunney beat Tennessee in 1992. Mustain was a highly touted quarterback out of Springdale Arkansas. After originally committing to Notre Dame, Mustain had a change of heart and ended up at Arkansas after his high school coach was hired as offensive coordinator there.

Mustain, at 6-3, 205 pounds, is 26 of 43 (60.5 percent) on the year with 290 yards, two interceptions and four touchdowns. Mustain was just the seventh true freshman quarterback in Razorback history, since freshmen were made eligible in 1972, to make a start. The last true frosh to take the first snap was Casey Dick last season against South Carolina. Former Razorback quarterback Matt Jones played extensively at quarterback as a true freshman, but never started a game in his freshman season.

He completed 9-of-17 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown against Utah State, and threw for 224 yards against Vanderbilt last week.

Marcus Monk, 6-6, 217 pounds is Mustain's main man in the passing game. Monk caught a pass in his 25th-consecutive game against Vandebilt, a 56-yarder which led to a touchdown. He also had a career-high 124 yards on five catches against Vanderbilt.

Monk led all SEC freshmen in receiving two years ago and set a school record for freshman receiving. He hauled in 37 balls for 569 yards and six touchdowns. As a sophomore in 2005, Monk caught 35 passes for a team-high 476 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2006, Monk is turning in the best numbers of his career with 12 catches for 224 yards through three games. He has caught two touchdown passes and is averaging 18.7 yards per catch. Monk ranks fifth in the SEC in receiving yards and tied for eighth in receptions per game. He has caught at least three passes in 17 of his 25 career games.

Arkansas' line consists of three seniors, a junior and a sophomore. The sophomore, center Jonathan Luigs, is a Remington Award watch list candidate for the nation's best center. At 305 pounds, Luigs is the smallest starter on the offensive line which averages 316 pounds. Zac Tubbs, from Cullman, Alabama, is the biggest at 335 pounds. He missed half of last year with a broken ankle, but the senior is an all-star candidate this season.

Senior fullback Peyton Hillis deserves mention as a cog in the Razorback offense as well. He's actually been a do-it-all player for Arkansas in the past, running, catching and at times returning kicks. He has started all three games this season, and returns punts, but has had just four carries this year to go with six pass receptions.

Arkansas' defense returns All-America linebacker Sam Olajubutu. The 5-9, 225-pound weakside linebacker has 39 tackles in three games (13 a game) and he is one of the best linebackers Alabama will see all season. He also has 3 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble to his credit this year. He anchors an experienced defense comprised of three seniors, seven juniors and one sophomore atop the depth chart.

Juniors Jamaal Anderson (6-6, 280, left end) and Marcus Harrison (6-3, 310, left tackle) are the biggest men Alabama's right tackle and guard have seen this season. The right tackle is senior Keith Jackson (6-0, 296) and the right defensive end is the lone starting sophomore Antwain Robinson (6-3, 255). Harrison is the second leading tackler on the team with 28 stops in three games, and he also has a frightening six quarterback hurries. Robinson, the right end, has two of the three Arkansas sacks this year. He should be the stiffest competition Bama's left tackle Andre Smith has seen this season. Jackson is a senior team captain, and a run stopper if there ever was one.

Juniors Weston Dacus (6-2, 230) and Matt Hewitt (6-2, 205) start at the other two linebacker positions. Dacus is actually listed as a co-starter at middle linebacker with senior Desmond Sims (6-3, 230), and is the fourth-leading tackler. Dacus has played all three linebacker spots during his career.

Arkansas starting corners are also both juniors, Chris Houston (5-11, 188) and Matterral Richardson (6-0, 195). Houston and the rest of the Hogs' secondary have stepped up and locked down two of the more high-profile wide receivers in the country. Houston held USC's All-American Dwayne Jarrett to five catches for a mere 35 yards. Jarrett responded his next week out by torching No. 19 Nebraska's secondary for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 11 receptions. Utah State then managed just 114 yards through the air against the Razorbacks. Houston lined up across Vanderbilt's All-SEC candidate Earl Bennett and held him to four catches for 31 yards. For the season, Houston has 10 tackles.

Randy Kelly (6-0, 190) is the other senior, starting at strong safety for the Hogs. He's known as a punishing hitter. Michael Grant, a 5-11, 198 pound junior, has solidified himself as the starting free safety. The converted cornerback made six solo tackles last week against Vanderbilt.

Arkansas has had a change in placekickers after Stephen Arnold was 4 of 5 in PAT attempts and missed a 38 yarder in his only field goal attempt this season. Sophomore Jeremy Davis took over the duties in the Vanderbilt game, making three extra points. The snapper is senior Brett Goode and the holder is also a senior, Jacob Skinner.

Brian Vavra, a sophomore, does kickoffs for Arkansas, and the running backs Jones and McFadden handle kickoff returns (Peyton Hillis is the punt returner.

Coach Mike Shula Says
By Kirk McNair


Alabama Football Coach Mike Shula heard the message in several forms as the Crimson Tide prepared for its first Southeastern Conference road game this week. "Arkansas will be physical" was a part of many questions regarding Bama's upcoming game in Fayetteville. And Shula doesn't disagree with that depiction of the Razorbacks.

"Arkansas is going to try to line up and knock you off the ball," Alabama's coach said. "Vanderbilt is tough, but they don't play the same way Arkansas does. The other two teams we played, Hawaii and Louisiana Monroe, are pass-oriented."

Shula said that on defense the Hogs have quick ends and inside players who are moving. The Bama coach pointed out that sometimes a defensive tackle will stunt himself out of position, but that Arkansas' defensive tackles are good enough to get back in the play even if they've stunted the wrong way.

Shula is certainly aware that Arkansas has a true freshman quarterback in Mitch Mustain. "We liked him a lot," Shula said. "We had him high (on the recruiting board). Then he committed to Arkansas and we dropped him down and went in another direction. They there was a time when he was available again and he went back up. But he signed with Arkansas."

Shula was asked, "Was he worth signing his high school coach?" Arkansas hired Mustain's high school coach to be the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator. Shula said, "Coach Rader (Alabama Offensive Coordinator David Rader) said we didn't need to go that far."

Shula said there might be a temptation to try to confuse a freshman quarterback. The problem, he said, is while you're doing that, they'll just give the ball to two big running backs in Darren McFadden and Felix Jones behind that big offensive line.

The Tide coach said that Arkansas also has a big offensive weapon in "their go-to wide receiver, Marcus Monk."

He said, "Our mindset is ‘This is Arkansas. We have to find a way to go on the road and win a ball game.'"

Shula said the intensity in practice should pick up this week. "It's on national TV," he said. "It's on the road. Arkansas is a good team. We have to win if we're going to have a chance at the end of the season to be in the SEC Championship Game. That should be reflected in the way we practice this week."

Alabama is 3-0, but is making its first road trip. "It's good to see that we played better last week," Shula said. "The better we run the ball, the better we are." He said he puts having a balanced offense high on the list of priorities. "After scoring points," he said. "It's a fact that when we're best moving the ball is when we are balanced. It's important every week to have balance. It helps the quarterback even if he's a three-year starter."

Shula said the road game this week presents special problems, particularly for younger players. He noted that older players would be expected to help those younger ones prepare. He said that Arkansas would have crowd noise and the momentum of having won two games with a freshman quarterback. He said the Razorbacks have an aggressive running game, "but they keep you off balance by things like reverses. They will be good in all three phases. We have to have a good week of preparation."

Shula said part of the preparation would be working with crowd noise, which is piped in to the practice area.

Much attention is on Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson. Shula was Bama's quarterback in the mid-1980s. Shula said his advice to a young starter based on his own Crimson Tide experience would be, "Do as I say, not as I do. I wouldn't want to show him a tape of myself."

Shula added that his advice to Wilson includes "Be yourself. And use the talent around you. Stay on the field; don't do things that will take you off the field. If you keep making first downs, when you get down close you have play-makers who can get the ball into the end zone."

Shula said it is important that Wilson "not suddenly feel he has to win the game by himself. If he has to throw the ball away, throw it away. Things may happen more quickly than they have in practice. He has to adjust and make plays.

"And he's been doing that. He's made gtood decisions for the most part, and when he didn't he's come back and made adjustments and done well."

Shula said, "This is going to be his toughest test. I think the offensive line has been doing a good job. The offensive line and the quarterback have to stick with it and keep going."

Shula is not surprised at Wilson's success. "We felt good about him coming into this season," the coach said. "He had gone through a couple of spring practices and he played a little last year. But we still weren't sure.

"After three games, we've liked what we've seen.

"This is a new test; a very good test. We'll find out more about him. Hopefully he'll continue to get better."

Shula said that Wilson had shown exceptional "pocket presence" for such a young quarterback. "He moves around well," Shula said. "That buys a little more time for a receiver. It helps the passing game, helps the offense."

Shula said, "John Parker's arm strength is pretty close to Brodie's (former Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle, now playing with Kansas City in the NFL). We haven't changed our Xs and Os," Shula added.

Shula said there are "a lot of good young quarterbacks in the SEC who have had good high school coaching and been exposed to to more things in the passing game.

"And I think one of those good young quarterbacks is ours." Shula said that Bama's defensive backs "have done a nice job" this year.

He also had praise for fullback LeRon McClain and linebacker Terrence Jones, former teammates at Tuscaloosa County High School. He said McClain takes a lot of pride in his blocking. "He's a good lead blocker," Shula said. "He's 250 pounds and can block linebackers and defensive ends. And he can catch the ball well. And he sees defenses well, about like a senior quarterback."

It was suggested that Jones had been a weak link in Bama's defense in his freshman year in 2003. Shula said, "He's gotten better each and every year. He understands the defense and he uses his athleticism. He's really running to the ball well, which will be important."


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