Saban Says Tide Ready to Play Game

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The 24th-ranked Alabama football team practiced outside for the first time this week as preparations continued for its game against No. 9 Clemson Saturday night.

"We can practice everything indoors, but it does inhibit us from a specialty standpoint," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. He added the indoor work Monday and Tuesday, due to the weather, would help since Saturday's game in the Georgia Dome "will be played indoors."

"The noise in this place doesn't seem to be like in some indoor places I've been. The games that we played in there in the past, I never thought it was that big a deal (when he coached LSU in games at the Dome), but we need to be prepared for it."

Saban added his players will figure out in pre-game how to field punts that rise into the Dome's roof.

Saban reiterated one thing his players have been saying all week: he, and his team, are ready to play somebody.

"Fall camp is a long time to practice without anything to look forward to," he said.

Personnel-wise, Saban said inside linebacker Charlie Higgenbotham has practiced all week after missing several days last week with a pulled muscle. Wide reciever, Will Oakley is practicing, but according to Saban is a week for two from being 100 per cent after an off-season leg operation.

One depth chart question was cleared up. When Alabama goes to five defensive backs, starting cornerback Javier Arenas will move to the nickel back, or "Star" position, and junior Marquis Johnson will be in the game as the third corner.

"I think he's playing with a lot more confidence," said Saban, who works mostly with the corners at practice. "He's playing with a lot more toughness. He doesn't seem to be making the mental errors he did in the past."

Safety Rashad Johnson said he, too, has noticed a difference in Marquis Johnson.

"He's come out in camp, and competed for the position, and he won it as that nickel defensive back. He's playing with a lot of confidence, and making plays. That makes a big difference as a safety when you've got a guy in there (in the nickel) who knows what he's doing," Rashad Johynson said.

Last saeason, Marquis Johnson struggled when presented with a major opportunity against Florida State in Jacksonville.

"He had a couple of tough moments. Hopefully, he'll bounce back," said Saban. "He's had a good confession, a good spring, a good summer, and a good camp."

One reporter wondered if running backs Glen Coffee, Terry Grant, Mark Ingram and possibly Roy Upchurch would get a set amount of carries Saturday.

"I don't have a number. If a guy's running the ball good we're going to let him (play)," Saban said.

"Running backs are like pitchers. Some days when they've got going good, let them run. Each one of those guys have a role in the game. When those circumstances come up, they'll get to play. They may not even get to carry the ball."

Coach Saban said that would depend on Clemson's defense.

"We're trying to win this game. It is what it is," he said, repeating a common refrain. "If we make mistakes in the game… we're going to have to build on that and improve. What do we do to build on it, so that we get better and improve as a team. There's never any room for mistakes, but I'm sure we're going to make a few."

The Tide will work out Thursday afternoon, and then have a walk through practice in Tuscaloosa Friday, then head to Atlanta. Saban said he likes to keep things simple for his players on road trips.

"Our thing is to make the travel thing as easy and convenient as it can possible be for the players to be able to focus on the task at hand," said Saban. "I cannot remember the last time we went to the stadium and did anything the day before the game."

Kickoff Saturday night is set for 7 p.m. (CDT). ABC-TV will televise the Tide-Tigers tilt. Top Stories