Will Tide Roll With Guillon?

FAYETTEVILLE -- After learning Alabama junior quarterback Brodie Croyle suffered a season-ending knee injury last Saturday night in a 52-0 Crimson Tide win against Western Carolina, Arkansas defensive coordinator Dave Wommack winced.

"Everybody probably thinks we'll be better off against a new quarterback," Wommack said. "But I don't like it. What usually happens is the team rallies around the new guy and comes closer together."

The new guy in this case is 6-foot-3 Alabama sophomore Mark Guillon, a transfer from "Quarterback U." (Miami) who completed 5 of 7 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in a mop-up role against Western Carolina. It was his only Alabama action thus far and he gets his first start today against Arkansas in Razorback Stadium.

"It's a compliment to Alabama that the new quarterback just picked up where Croyle left off," said Arkansas free safety Vickiel Vaughn. "I say Croyle maybe had more arm strength, but Guillon may be just as good in their system."

It's up to Vaughn and his secondary mates to stem the Tide today after an early-season Hogs allowance of six touchdown passes in three games.

Alarmingly, Arkansas yielded 331 yards, 2 TD passes and 20 points in the first half of its 49-20 win over Louisiana-Monroe last week.

ULM coach Charlie Weatherbie credited Wommack with "an unbelievable job" in shutting down the Indians in the second half of that game, but Hogs cornerback Darius Vinnett said, "We came out in the first half not ready."

Maybe Arkansas was too ready.

"I probably overprepared our defense," Wommack said. "We prepared for a lot of stuff they didn't use. In the second half, we narrowed it down."

This week?

"I know we're ready," Vinnett said.

Alabama coach Mike Shula didn't seem inclined to disagree.

"Defensively, Arkansas has very good team speed," Shula said. "They're big up front, and they played a lot of guys last year."

Shula didn't tip his hand when asked if he would still try to exploit Arkansas' young secondary with a new quarterback.

"We'll do the things that Marc does best," Shula said. "There are some things he does that Brodie didn't do as well, but you won't see a new offense out there."

Wommack expects the Tide to try to roll with its running backs, -led by senior Ray Hudson - while mixing in some play-action passes. Hudson played sparingly in last week's second half with a minor concussion last week after gaining 68 yards and was still limited in Tuesday's practice.

He probably won't be limited today.

"We expect him to be full-go," Shula said.

Said Vaughn: "I look at Alabama's whole team with respect. They have a great program, in all aspects of the game."

From his position, Vaughn said he must monitor Alabama's young receivers while also being ready to apply quick run support. Fullback Tim Castille leads the Tide in receiving (8 catches, 72 yards), but sophomore wideout Tyrone Prothro and freshmen Keith Brown, Matt Caddell and DJ Hall will challenge Arkansas' secondary.

Communication will be vital, so Shula took loudspeakers to practice this week to prepare Guillon for today's crowd noise.

"The communication part is big - getting the play from the sidelines, being real loud and clear in the huddle, getting in and out of the huddle in time to see what's in front of him," Shula said. "Marc did it last week, but it will be a lot tougher on the road."

Last year, third-team Tide quarterback Brandon Avalos had to run a plain-vanilla offense when pressed into duty in a 37-23 loss against Georgia.

This time, Shula has available 6-4 junior backup Spencer Pennington, plus walk-on Adam Thrash of Little Rock Pulaski Academy, who moved up from the scout team to attended quarterbacks meetings this week.

But Guillon is the main man for now.

"Marc has a quick release, makes quick decisions, and his accuracy has been good," Shula said. "He's a similar athlete to Brodie, but taller and thicker.

"We've got more leaders now than at any time since we've been here. We think our team will rally around Marc."

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