Arkansas State Presents Challenges

From afar, certainly, and for the most part from any view, Arkansas State is on the Alabama football schedule to provide a delightful time for Crimson Tide followers at homecoming. It is looked upon quite differently in the offices on the second floor of the Mal Moore Athletics Facility and the Thomas-Drew practice fields.

"This is a challenging game for us," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said following the Crimson Tide's Wednesday practice. "It's a challenging game because of the style of offense that Arkansas State runs and the quarterback they have running it, in terms of his ability to run as well as be a threat as a passer. They do a very good job and it's very challenging for our defensive players to do a good job to stop both."

Saban didn't say so directly, but indicated another challenge is making sure all players prepare for Arkansas State the way they did for Tennessee last week and will be expected to prepare for LSU next week.

"The players have worked pretty well this week," Saban said. "We always talk about three things that are important to being successful and that's your commitment to a standard of excellence, you're willingness to work at it and to have enough perseverance to do it day in and day out. We obviously had guys who have done a great job of that this week, and we've had a few who needed to be prodded along a little bit and we have had no problem helping those guys out."

He said some got pats on the back and some needed "a kick in the you know what."

It is understandable that some players might need a prod to prepare for Arkansas State at the level Saban demands.

It is clear that Saban is reminding Crimson Tide players that any team can be beaten by another, and citing last year's home loss to lightly-regarded Louisiana-Monroe as an example.

Alabama is 8-0 and ranked second in the nation. The Arkansas State Red Wolves have a couple of nice wins this year, notably the 18-14 win over Texas A&M in the season-opener, but the team is only 4-3 and is coming off a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Crimson Tide and Red Wolves will play at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The only television will be on a Pay-Per-View basis.

The second-ranked University of Alabama football team worked for two hours in full pads for the second straight day Wednesday afternoon as preparations continue for Saturday's homecoming game with Arkansas State. The Crimson Tide and Red Wolves kick off at 2 p.m. (CDT) in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

One Saban tactic is to give his team practice during the spring and during fall camp and during a bye week on things not necessarily relevant to the next game. He wants his team to practice for things that may come up at sometime during the season.

Did Bama get some previous work on the Arkansas State offensive system?

"On some of the things they do," Saban said. "There are segments of things they do that are different. We haven't played anything like this for awhile."

Alabama's only injury of note is the sprained medial collateral ligament nose tackle Terrence Cody suffered almost two weeks ago. As expected, Saban reiterated that Cody would not play this week. He said that Cody had done some jogging and "was able to do some football-related stuff," such as get in a stance. The hope is that Cody can return to play at LSU on November 8.

"It's just day-to-day," Saban said. "He is making good progress."

Saban participated on the SEC Head Coaches Teleconference Wednesday morning and here are some of those comments:

On offensive line play and the impact of tight ends Travis McCall and Nick Walker:

"They have played outstanding. I think they compliment each other very well. Travis is a really, really good blocker, but he's got good hands, so you can't just forget about him as a receiver. Nick Walker is a good athlete and a good pass receiver, but a very adequate blocker. Travis has a lot of diversity, in terms of moving around and being a fullback. He is a bright, smart guy who can do a lot of things. Those two guys have contributed immensely to the offensive line. You can't run the ball like we do, if you don't have tight ends that can block."

On concerns of team becoming complacent with a two-game lead in SEC Western Division standings:

"Well I really haven't thought about it, and I don't think about it. There is always a concern about that and I think there should be a concern with every team in the country because of the inconsistencies and the upsets that you see in college football. I think the number one contributor to that is complacency. If you're really playing to your standard of excellence and trying to be the best you can be as a person or as a team, then that really shouldn't matter. The Michael Jordans of the world, the Tiger Woods – I mean the guy's been ahead in 60 tournaments going into the final day. Does he get complacent? No, he is a great competitor and a champion and that's the way you do it. Michael Johnson doesn't stay as the top runner in the world for nine years and Bolt doesn't say ‘I don't care who I am running against, I just try and run the best race I can run.' Well if that's what you're aspiring to do then the standings and all of that stuff shouldn't matter. That's really what we try to get our team to do and that's really what all competitors should do, it's not normal and it's difficult, but that's what you should do."

On Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard and his ability to run and throw:

"He is probably the best dual-threat we've seen, especially this year. He does a great job with their offense. He has great speed and quickness and he is a very, very good runner. He is tough and he is a great competitor, yet he is a very good passer and very productive. I think the combination of those two things present tremendous problems to any defense."

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