Getting The Tide Ready For Saturday's Game

When a football team runs its first play on offense, there are 11 offensive starters. It's the same on defense and when it kicks off or receives a kickoff, punts or receives a punt, plays a field goal or extra point try.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban has made it clear that he is not concerned with the depth chart, and he reiterated that he is not concerned with the designation "starter."

"Every guy has to get ready to play," Saban said following Alabama's Wednesday practice. He said it's not a situation where the starters get ready to play and the rest are "on vacation."

Saban said, "A guy never knows when he's going to be called on to play, and he has to be ready when that time comes."

Saban said as the season has gone along that more players are proving they can contribute and are getting playing time. He said the second team gets about 40 per cent of repetitions in practice. Beyond that, he said, it is hard to get players into the mix because even though it is the intention of the staff to coach all players, those below second team get little or no work on Alabama's plan.

"Someone's got to be on the look squad for the rest of the players, so they are not developing in our scheme," Saban said. "It's difficult to do. We coach 60 to 70 guys for depth and special teams. I wish there was an option where we could do it better."

NCAA rules that limit the size of coaching staffs and the amount of time that a student-athlete can spend participating in his sport prevent the option Saban wishes for.

This week the Tide is preparing those 60 to 70 players to go to Oxford and take on the Ole Miss Rebels. Kickoff is shortly after 11:30 a.m. CDT with regional television coverage on the Southeastern Conference's Lincoln Financial network.

Alabama is 4-2 overall and 2-1 in SEC games. Mississippi is 2-4 overall and 0-3 in conference competition.

On Wednesday Bama worked on red-zone offense, red-zone defense and third down situations during a two-hour session in full gear.

"I started out the week talking about guys being able to maintain focus, maintain intensity and use practice as a way to practice that," Saban said.

"We need to play at a high level at a high standard on a more consistent basis, and it has been interesting to see how the players have responded. A lot of the players have responded really well. Some had a good practice one day and maybe not as good the next day. Other guys can do it and maintain that intensity and other guys have a tough time finding it.

"I think the most important thing is to get a critical mass of guys that are able to do that on a consistent basis. That's what makes people good. That's what makes people consistent. That's what makes them great competitors. That's what makes them able to deliver in critical times during the game."

"I certainly think it's going to take a tremendous team effort on our part to be able to go on the road and get that job done in a difficult place to play, like Ole Miss."

The Crimson Tide football team will spend the next two days on nothing but football as the University of Alabama will hold a two-day fall break on Thursday and Friday for all students. The team will continue its normal practice schedule despite the school holiday.

"Our players have a couple of days off. Hopefully they will use that time to rest and do a better job of getting ready and using some of the extra time for preparation," Saban said.

"We really won't do anything different from a schedule standpoint or a practice standpoint or a practice-time standpoint. At the same time, I think it does give the players more opportunity to rest and also spend a little bit more time on their preparation."

Saban noted that senior right guard Justin Britt has missed practice this week while attending to a family emergency and his status for Saturday's game is unknown.

Saban also said that junior defensive end Bobby Greenwood and sophomore defensive back Ali Sharrief have returned to practice from injuries and both will be game-time decisions on Saturday.

"Hey, Coach" will be 6:30-7 p.m. CDT Thursday, followed by the "The Nick Saban Show" 7-8 p.m. CDT Thursday. Tom Roberts serves as the host for both programs from Bob Bauimhower's Wings Sports Grille in Tuscaloosa on the Crimson Tide Sports Network.

Saban talked with the media during the SEC head football coaches teleconference on Wednesday and again following practice. Here are some of his comments:

On lessons learned from last week's game:

"It's really important for our team to learn some lessons from our last game. We didn't play with consistency in the game. We got sloppy, especially in the second half and that affected our execution. Our intensity was not what it needs to be, especially in the second half."

"I think our mental intensity is something everybody has to elevate a little bit as we get back into league play against Ole Miss, who has lots of good players. They make lot of plays, and we have to play on the road which is always difficult in our league."

"We need to keep creating momentum in the game, not allowing teams to come back on us. It has happened twice to us in the Arkansas game and then the Houston game. We had some positive performances, a lot of positive things to learn from this. I think the biggest thing is to mentally stay focused so we can execute better for 60 minutes in the game and play more consistently."

On Ole Miss running back Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis

"Well they do a really good job of running the ball, a lot of direct runs. He is a very good downhill, inside runner. He can bounce it out. He has speed and power. He is one of the better combination-guys we have faced, in terms of being able to do both things – break tackles and as well as make some big plays running the ball."

"He is going to be a handful for us, and the balance of their offense makes it more difficult to play man fronts all the time because they can throw the ball effectively. They have made a lot of big plays on people."

On last visit to Ole Miss with LSU in 2003

"Well that was a great football game there was no doubt about that. There were two very good football teams. We were fortunate to win a close football game that day. That was probably one of the most difficult atmospheres we'd ever had to compete against. You talk about hard places to play in the SEC, but that was as difficult as any place that particular day."

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