Stover Positive About Last Game
Nikita Stover, a 6-0, 200-pound senior, was wearing an Independence Bowl tee shirt, a memento of last year's Alabama bowl trip. Was there significance?
"Oh, no," Stover said, seemingly surprised to see what he was wearing. "I just put on the first thing."
Stover is looking at the positive of his final Alabama game. He is excited to be going to New Orleans to play in a BCS bowl game, he said.
Alabama, 12-1 and ranked fourth in the nation, will meet Utah, 12-0 and ranked sixth in the nation, in the 75th annual Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on January 2. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. CST with national television coverage by Fox.
Although Stover was out of Saturday's practice with "a little twinge" in his hamstring, he expected to be back for work either Sunday or Monday. "It's going to be fine," he said. Stover has a history of hamstring problems.
He got part of the tough practices Alabama has held before getting down to the specifics of Utah. "It's important to do it to be in tip-top shape," he said of Bama's first three days of preparation, which concentrated on fundamentals. "You go against the scout team and you may be a little relaxed. But when it's against the first defense, it's a lot different."
Stover is part of a small senior class, only nine scholarshipped seniors. He said he thought it was important that "there was one in just about every group—offensive line, defensive line, wide receiver, defensive back, quarterback—to try to influence everyone in that group. We look at it as us (the seniors) being leaders."
Although Stover has played more as a senior than in his previous two years with Bama (after transferring from junior college), his receptions are down this season. After making 12 receptions for 192 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore and 10 catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns in 2007, this year Stover has caught five passes for 86 yards.
He had more production than that in his game against Auburn in 2006 when he had five receptions for 101 yards.
But in this year's 36-0 rout of Auburn, Stover's final game in Bryant-Denny Stadium, he had a 39-yard touchdown reception.
Stover is looking ahead, and not just to the Sugar Bowl. This year he'll get to spend time with his family, notably his four-year-old son, Trey, instead of being away for a bowl game. Tide players will get time off beginning Tuesday until reporting to New Orleans on Saturday.
As for his future in football, he hopes to get a tryout with an NFL team. If not, he said, "I'll get a job."
And he thinks Alabama football is in good hands for the future. He expects next year's offense to be "great. Coach Mac (Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain) is a genius."
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