Jackson Readying For Another Test

Alabama practiced on its indoor practice field Wednesday because of wet fields and was in the indoor facility again Thursday, which is normal. Thursdays is when the Tide presumably does the secret stuff and doesn't want any prying eyes. For road games, it also enables enhanced broadcast crowd noise.

Alabama has all the assets necessary for football success. This week Bama will be at Ole Miss. The field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is an artificial surface. Alabama has that surface on an outdoor field and in the indoor facility, so the Crimson Tide players will be accustomed to the footing Saturday.

But that's only part of the reason Alabama is 5-0 and ranked third in the nation. Bama will be taking on a ranked opponent in Mississippi. The Rebels are 3-1 and ranked 16th in the nation. Kickoff Saturday in Oxford will be at 2:30 p.m.CDT with television coverage by CBS.

This has been regarded as a key Southeastern Conference game. Bama is 2-0 in league play, while the Rebels are 1-1 after having been upset by South Carolina.

A primary reason Alabama has a good football team is that Bama has good players and good coaches.

"They do everything well," Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin said. "They don't have a weakness. They are big, strong, fast, great tacklers and are very sound fundamentally.

"We have to get every single yard we can get and we can't make a single mistake. We have to fit a gameplan to what we think their tendencies are, but even that is difficult because their tendencies are hard to pinpoint. Coach Saban (Alabama Coach Nick Saban) mixes things up and gives you a lot more to prepare for, especially on third-and-long. Overall, they are just very good and we'll have to bring our best to the field Saturday."

One area in which Alabama's defense has been much improved this year is in pass rushing. And though Saban says sacks tend to be overrated, it doesn't hurt that Bama defenders have turned in 15 sacks this year, best in the SEC and 11th in the nation.

One player who hasn't made a sack is cornerback Kareem Jackson. Lest one think cornerbacks aren't supposed to make sacks, in last week's 38-20 Bama win over Kentucky, the Tide's Javier Arenas made two sacks from his cornerback position.

"That's all right," Jackson said. "I like to cover."

Jackson knows he has his work cut out for him this week against Mississippi's outstanding quarterback Jevan Snead.

"He's a good player, has a strong arm," Jackson said. "But we've had a good week of practice and we're looking forward to it."

Jackson, a 6-0, 193-pound junior from Macon, Ga., has been in on 13 tackles this year and leads the Tide with five passes broken up.

Jackson is aware of other Ole Miss offensive strengths. "Dexter McCluster (flanker and wildcat) is very explosive," Jackson said. "You always have to know where he is. We have to try to contain him, keep him from making big plays."

Jackson said, "You know it's going to be a dogfight. It's an SEC game. That has to be exciting for the fans. We know we're going up against a team that will punch back. They have a good team."

Jackson has another role for Alabama. On punt returns, he's in charge of blocking a gunner, one of the outside defensive players streaking downfield towards Tide punt return ace Javier Arenas. "Javy is an explosive guy," Jackson said. "We know if we can keep the gunner off him that he can make an explosive play, make someone miss, get us good field position or maybe even go for six. We consider his punt return to be our first offensive play of the series."

Jackson said he hopes one day to play professional football. "Playing college ball at this level, the practice, the camp, if you don't have pro ball as a priority, I don't know what's wrong with you."

Jackson has a memory of Alabama's last trip to Oxford. Fans were upset with a late call in which it was judged that an Ole Miss receiver had gone out of bounds and therefore was not eligible to receive the pass he seemed to snag at the Alabama 7 with seconds to play. (Ole Miss still had to kick a field goal to send the game to overtime or risk one play to try to win.) Debris, including the memorable one red woman's high heel shoe, rained down on Tide players headed for the locker room after the victory.

"Coach Saban told us it was going to be crazy, but we didn't expect it to be that crazy," Jackson said.

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