McClain Practicing Hard For Vols

Rolando McClain is preparing for Tim Tebow. No, Alabama's All-America middle linebacker isn't looking past the remainder of the regular season to a meeting with Tebow and the Florida Gators in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. But he's preparing for Tennessee's quarterback like he's a Heisman Trophy winner.



Alabama, 7-0 and ranked number one in the nation by the Associated Press, will host Tennessee, 3-3, in the Southeastern Conference headliner at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. CBS will televise the game. Bama is 4-0 in SEC play and the Vols are 1-2 in league games.

Tennessee did not play last weekend, giving the Vols two weeks to prepare for the Crimson Tide. Additionally, Tennessee is coming off its best game, a 45-19 romp over Georgia in its last outing. The Vols' quarterback, Jonathan Crompton, struggled early in the season, but in the last five quarters he has completed 68.8 per cent of his passes (33-48) for 491 yards and six touchdowns. He was SEC Offensive Player of the Week for completing 20 of 27 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns against Georgia.

Rolando McClain, who has been SEC Defensive Player of the Week once this year, last week was named the Lott Trophy Impact Player of the Week.

McClain said that prior to film study this week he had not seen Tennessee and Crompton. "I don't know how he's doing," McClain said. "Tennessee has a good running game, very good running backs. I'm not sure how the quarterback is doing and I'm sure he's not worried about that. The past is the past. I'm sure he intends to come out and have a good game against us. That's what we're going to prepare for. We're not going to prepare for him making mistakes. We're going to prepare for what he can do.

"He's obviously a good quarterback or he wouldn't be a starting quarterback in the SEC.

"We're going to prepare for him like he's Tim Tebow."

McClain said he doesn't consider the Tennessee game special. That's because he considers every football game special. "I'm going to treat it like any other game," he said. "I just know I'm playing against a good team that's well coached."

McClain knows he's not the only high-profile man who will be playing defense Saturday. Tennessee's Eric Berry is considered by some to be the nation's best player.

"It's hard not to see the guy," McClain said. "He makes so many plays. He's obviously a great player. But I'm not worried about their defensive guys and I'm sure he's not either. I'm focused on playing good football and getting prepared to play Saturday. I suppose he's doing the same thing."

In addition to being an outstanding player, McClain is the leader of the Alabama defense. As such, he sometimes gets questions from younger players. Nico Johnson has stepped into the weakside linebacker position next to McClain since the season-ending knee injury to Dont'a Hightower.

"Nico is a freshman and I don't expect him to know everything, to be perfect," McClain said. "If he's not 100 per cent sure about something in the game, he'll look to me and I'll tell him. That's how we are. That's how I was with Dont'a his freshman year. I know where everyone is suposed to be on defense on every play, so it's something I'm used to."

Senior strongside linebacker Cory Reamer has also spent some time at weakside, but McClain said Reamer doesn't have to ask. "Cory is a genius," McClain said with a laugh. "He went to Hoover, man. He knows what to do. Sometimes we have different coverages and he might not know that sometimes. Some of the things we change every week. Sometimes he might not know that."

Alabama has not given up a touchdown in the last two games. Bama has surrendered three field goals, nine points.

"That's big," McClain said. "We pride ourselves on playing good defense. That's what we do. We play defense. But we don't like having given up nine points in the last two games. We want to give up no points. We don't want to give up a yard."

Two games, no touchdowns. Thoughts? "That's big. We pride ourselves on playing good defense. That's what we do. We play defense. We've given up nine points in the last two games, we don't like that. We want to give up no points. That's what we're trying to do. We don't want to give up a yard."

Defense is one reason Alabama has moved to number one in the nation. That didn't make much of an impression on McClain halfway through the season.

"I didn't even know," he said. "I know it doesn't matter to me."

McClain's selection as the weekly Lott Impact winner means something to The University of Alabama. A prize of $1,000 goes into The University's general scholarship fund.

The junior from Decatur had seven tackles, two quarterback pressures, one tackle for loss and one pass break-up in Bama's 20-6 win over South Carolina last week.

"This guy shows up every single Saturday," said Pat Dye, the former Auburn head coach who is a member of the Legends Coaches who selected the Player of the Week. "He is the best defensive player I have seen this year. No, make that the best defensive player I've seen in many years."

McClain anchors an Alabama defense that leads the nation in total defense (226.57 yards per game) and pass efficiency defense (83.82 rating). The Crimson Tide leads the SEC in rushing defense (62.39 yards per game) and is second in the league in scoring defense (8.67 points per game).

For the season, McClain leads Alabama with 49 tackles, including 32 solo stops. He has also added seven quarterback pressures, 6.5 tackles for loss (-28 yards), two sacks (-19 yards), two interceptions (21 return yards), one pass break-up and one forced fumble.

An All-SEC selection last season as a sophomore, McClain has also made it on the SEC Academic Honor Roll. He was a preseason first team All-America this year and is a Butkus semifinalist for the second straight season. Earlier this year, McClain was named the Bronko Nagurski Player of the Week after his 12-tackle performance at Kentucky on October 3.

Named after NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, the Lott Trophy is awarded to college football's Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. Now in its sixth year, the Lott Trophy is the first college football award to equally recognize athletic performance and the personal character attributes of the player. Alabama's DeMeco Ryans won the award in 2005.

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