Players Recognize Arkansas' Challenge

All college football players -- or players in any sport -- love a challenge. When Alabama plays host to No. 16 Arkansas this weekend, Bama's players know they will have quite a challenge in the form of the Heisman Trophy candidate for the Razorbacks, tailback Darren McFadden.

Senior Alabama defensive end Wallace Gilberry knows it won't be easy, but the Bay Minnette native thinks his team can get it done against Arkansas and Darren McFadden, the 6-2, 215-pound speedster. The Gilberry Plan: "Full steam ahead," he said. "Best man wins. (McFadden) puts his pants on just like me. We're both men."

"He's definitely a man among boys. You just go hard every play. You take care of your assignments. It's all a mind thing."

Though media can't speak with true freshmen, Gilberry knows middle linebacker Rolando McClain will be up to this week's challenge. "Rolando's a special guy," Gilberry said. "He definitely has a knack for the ball. You just tell him to go out and play."

Gilberry likes the underdog role of the young Tide front seven going in. "Its fun to play against an offense like that," he said.

Asked who on the Tide scout team could possibly simulate McFadden or Jones, Gilberry didn't mention Underdog, but also didn't hesitate: "Probably Superman, or maybe Spiderman," he said with a grin.

If McFadden and his speedy co-runner, Felix Jones, get into the secondary, safeties like senior Marcus Carter and junior Rashad Johnson will have to do a good job on open-field tackling. "Get him up high, and wrap up," is the formula, Johnson said. "(McFadden's) a very gifted athlete. I look forward to the challenge. It'll be fun."

"I did get a little taste of his stiff arm (last year)," Johnson said. "We've just got to gang-tackle him. He's one of the best running backs in the nation."

No argument from Johnson's secondary mate, senior cornerback Simeon Castille. "I think the key will be stopping the run and making them throw the ball to beat us. It's definitely going to be a challenge," he said.

"Last year when we played them they weren't doing all the stuff that they are doing now. It's going to be a totally different ball game. We have to have a good week of practice, and it starts today. We need to build today and just go on from there."

What goes through the mind of a defender knowing a star like McFadden looms on the horizon?

"Tackle him. That's what's going through my mind," said Castille. "You use your techniques that we use all the time. Don't stop your feet. That's the biggest thing. If you stop your feet you're dead. He will either run over you or make a move and run right around you.

"Tackling is a mindset. You have to want to tackle. You can't just go out there and hope to get the guy down cause you're not. It really starts with your mindset and your attitude."

One of the best running backs in the SEC this year, so far, is redshirt freshman Terry Grant of Alabama, Grant leads the league in rushing after two weeks with an average of 153.5 yards per game.

Grant knows all about McFadden and Co. "I respect him. He's been in this league a while. He's pretty good at what he does," Grant said, though he quickly added, "I'm not playing against him. I'm playing against his defense."

Grant was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the second straight time. "It's just another day's work," said the laid-back Grant. "That's how I look at it."

Like his defensive teammates, Grant says he'll be ready when the whistle sounds Saturday. "I think we're all juiced up," he said. "It's on ESPN, and we've all got to go out there and play hard."

Like Gilberry, Grant is not short on belief. "Confidence comes from peparing well at practice," he said. "We do it every week, and it just pays off in the game."

The game is set to kick off at 5:45 p.m. CDT at a sold-out Bryant-Denny Stadium, and as Grant mentioned, ESPN will televise the contest.

BamaMag Top Stories