At one time Tuesday afternoon there might have been a dozen Crimson Tide players scattered around the Naylor Stone Media Suite in the football building (shouldn't it have a name?) conducting interviews with the print media and the electronic media. Some of the said reporters actually knew what they were doing, contrary to many Internet posters.
Contrast that player attendance to some years–2003 for example–when the players must have thought bubonic plague resided in that media room. For weeks on end, we were lucky to get one or two defensive players on a given Tuesday. Some Tuesdays were utter shutouts for defensive players, which was a lot better than they were doing on Saturdays.
Anyway, the point is, there were a lot of words, opinion and bytes flowing through the room concerning Alabama at Arkansas football on Saturday. And thanks to a handy teleconference set up by the Arkansas media relations folks and the good help of some friends in Arkansas, I received quotes, notes and comments from going on 30 Bama and Arkansas players and coaches heading into this SEC West showdown.
It puts me in the mind of–as Kenneth Darby would say–an old tune by The Police called Too Much Information. I feel like my head's going to burst with stats, remarks and observations regarding this UA vs. UA foray. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
I feel very well prepared for what we're going to see up in Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday.
Both teams are vowing to tackle better after miserable efforts in their last outings, otherwise:
``We'll get shredded,'' Arkansas Defensive Coordinator Reggie Herring said.
``If they get in the secondary, well, good luck to you and your partner,'' Alabama Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines said.
And if Alabama doesn't steel itself for the task at hand?
``We're gonna get killed,'' Tide fullback Tim Castille said, ``if we don't come ready to play. Because they're going to come ready to play.''
Both the Tide and Hogs want to protect well for their precocious, stars-in-the-making young quarterbacks. Arkansas freshman Mitch Mustain makes the first home SEC start of his career. Alabama sophomore John Parker Wilson makes the first road start whatsoever of his career.
Will either quarterback be rattled under the pressure they know is coming?
``We just have to play our style of football and not worry about anything else,'' Wilson said.
Alabama Quarterbacks Coach David Rader's take on his young quarterback: ``We've seen three different looks in three games, so he should have a whole lot more confidence in his command of our offense, and shouldn't let another geographical spot affect him that much. ... I truly don't think it's going to affect him that much.''
Mustain has already thrown two interceptions (one more than Wilson) in roughly one-third less playing time.
Still, the composure of perhaps the most celebrated recruit in Arkansas history (his Springdale High's exploits around the Ozarks are quite similar to Hoover's in these parts) is already impressive.
``He's very mature, very cool under pressure,'' Arkansas Coach Houston Nutt said.
But the Razorbacks' top Hog estimates that Alabama's defense will have some special tweaks it didn't reveal in its first three games.
``Joe Kines is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country,'' Nutt said. ``We know he'll come after Mitch in some ways we haven't seen.''
Alabama desperately wants a win to at least temporarily hush the nay-sayers, and prove itself worthy of entry into the conversation of legitimate SEC contenders.
Arkansas desperately needs a win to keep the wolves from inching any closer to Nutt. The Razorbacks have come up dry in trying to win critical home games in recent years. Folks around Fayetteville say the Hogs last decent SEC win here came exactly two years ago, in a 27-10 win over the Crimson Tide.
That makes Arkansas like a cornered wild hog: extremely dangerous.
This should be a good one.
Editor's Note: Thomas Murphy is the Alabama beat writer for the Mobile Register and contributes to ‘BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com