Alabama Starters Are On The Mend

Alabama fans probably shouldn't be too excited about the absence of Florida star pass-rusher Carlos Dunlap for Saturday's SEC Championship game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome. That's the word from both the Tide head coach and one of the men who would have been blocking the Gator all-star and likely first-round NFL draft pick.

" I don't think it really changes much at all, because they have a lot of good players and they've played extremely well on defense without some of their other good players at times this year," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said "I think they have such a good group and they have so much experience and they've played together for so long and they have good depth on their team and someone else will step in and do a very good job for them.

"He's an outstanding player and there was attention to where he was and what he was doing and how we were going to block him," Saban said of Dunlap, "but we also have a lot of respect for their other players. Our overall concern is the quality of their entire group."

Senior right tackle Drew Davis agrees, and added that there will be plenty of familiar faces in orange and blue lined up across from him that he faced in last year's Gator game.

"Florida is a great team. They'll just plug another great athlete in there (at defensive end), and go from there," he said, adding that "as far as personnel, I think it will help that we've played them before, with the one-on-one matchups, depending on how we play.

While Alabama features one of America's top linebackers in Rolando McClain, the Gators counter with another: Brandon Spikes.

"He's another tremendous athlete for Florida," Davis said. "He really has a knack for finding the ball. He's very aggressive, and he's just an all-around good player."

McClain leads Alabama with 96 stops. Spikes is fourth for the Gators with 53, but missed two games due to an injury and a suspension.

On the injury front, senior linebacker Cory Reamer was limited against Auburn, but is back on the field practicing full-speed wearing what he termed a "fake hamstring" that allows him to play through the injury to his real one.

Said Reamer: " You don't really notice it while you're wearing it. I'll definitely be ready to go by Saturday."

Reamer added that, like against Auburn, he will on play on punts as the protector specialty team wise, but unlike in the Iron Bowl, will be ready to re-assume his normal linebacker duties. Ali Sharrief subbed in for Reamer much of the day in Auburn.

"We've got guys who have stepped in and are doing a great job," Reamer said of his normal duties on Bama's kick and punt return units. "We've got plenty of guys who can do that."

Saban has liked what he's seen so far this week in three pre-SEC title tilt workouts, where the team is getting plenty of work indoors on turf like they'll play on Saturday.

"Florida is a very difficult preparation. They do a lot of things. They have a lot of good players. But our players have had pretty good focus. We're solving more problems every day.

"Our players have created a great opportunity for themselves relative to what they've accomplished this season and what that have the opportunity to do playing if not the best, one of the best teams in the country."

Saban added that in addition to Reamer's renewed health, running back Mark Ingram (hip-pointer) is ready to go.

The Tide and Gators square off in the de facto national semi-final known as the SEC Championship game Saturday at 3 p.m. CBS will televise.

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