The prevalent theme from both the Ole Miss and Alabama camps is proper preparation.
Both coaches - Hugh Freeze and Nick Saban - stressed the importance of attention to detail, getting things right and focus in their weekly press conferences, but they weren't talking about Saturday's game, they were discussing this week's practices.
"If you don't prepare well in during the week, it's too late when the game rolls around," said Freeze. "We want to have fun this week and take everything in, but we have to be serious in our preparation to be successful."
So how was the preparation Tuesday?
"It was a good day. The kids were locked in," said Freeze. "We have to get some things out and clean some things up. The main thing is to not put in too much just because it is a big game. We want our kids to be able to understand what we want to do, play fast, play physical and execute."
Freeze said he does not anticipate having to motivate the team with any fiery speeches this week.
"They will be ready to play. Trying to motivate them this week is not on my mind too much," he noted. "Playing at home, Game Day, national TV - it's all there. It would be hard not to be excited for this one."
* The big news today was the announcement that Safety Anthony Alford has decided to leave the team to pursue a professional baseball career. Alford was backing up Trae Elston at strong safety and was part of the punt return tandem of him and freshman Markell Pack and on a couple of special teams coverage units. What impact will his departure have on the team/defense/special teams? Individually, Alford is a talent, but he had not been able to crack the starting lineup despite being on the squad for over a year, including two full springs. That does not mean he wasn't ready to contribute more, and doesn't mean he wasn't an important part of the team, but his impact has been minimal to this point. What is disconcerting is that what was perceived to be a deep secondary when August began has suffered the losses of Tee Shepard and Carlos Davis at cornerback due to injury and now Alford leaving. Collectively, ouch. Now the Rebels are going to have to depend on a true freshman, C.J. Moore, and a redshirt freshman, David Kamara, to back up Elston. Zero experience, not much football "maturity" either. One has to believe if push comes to shove that CB Mike Hilton would move to Elston's spot and there would be more CB reps for Cliff Coleman, Kendarius Webster, Derrick Jones and Kailo Moore. No matter how you look at it, Alford leaving is a setback, but the only choice is to shore up and move on. "Anthony is a great kid. I love that kid. I hate he is leaving. He was so torn making this decision," Freeze noted. "We started talking a week ago and I told him to do what was best for him and his wife and his future. I hate it for our team, but this was best for him and his future based on some offers he got. Until you walk in someone's shoes, don't judge them. We'll get those young guys ready and move on and get the job done."
* LG Aaron Morris did not practice Tuesday because of a bum ankle. He is anticipated to play against Bama, but it's a little unlucky he is missing any time because he had his best game of the year, his comeback year after missing last season, against Memphis. Morris had seven pancake blocks and 12 finishes. It was improvement he needed to show after a sluggish start. Hopefully, he can get some practice this week and build on that performance.
* If Morris is hobbled or slowed Saturday, look for RG Justin Bell to move to left guard and freshman Roderick Taylor to take over in Bell's spot. Taylor has improved substantially from the first game, but he has, as all freshmen do, had some issues when defenses start moving around and changing things up with different blitz packages and front looks. This is a big week for the talented freshman from a preparation/learning curve standpoint.
* Probably no position has taken the hits punt return has. Carlos Davis earned the top spot in spring and was looking good in August before he tore his ACL. Alford looked OK catching the ball as well. Now, it's freshman Markell Pack, who looked shaky against Memphis, and, most likely, RB Eugene Brazley. Pack has a chance to be special at PR. Hopefully, he will settle down this week.
* CB Senquez Golson sat out of practice Tuesday with a tight hamstring. It tightened up on him during the first half of the Memphis game and the coaches were wise enough to pull him out of the game before he strained it or tore it. He should be cleared to practice Wednesday if all goes well in rehab today and in the morning.
* Derrick Jones, who started the year at corner and was moved to wideout a few weeks ago, was working at corner today, probably because of the possibility of having to work Hilton some at strong safety. Jones is an experienced corner who is definitely "insurance," if not more.
* QB Bo Wallace told the media that he did not work his check downs well against Memphis as he had done since the first half of the Boise game. He said he will be getting back to that from this point on.
* On the TV broadcast between Arkansas and Texas A&M, there was a graphic showing Ole Miss as the second largest offensive line in college football, with a 328 pound average. That's not accurate. The current weights, per S&C Coach Paul Jackson, are Laremy Tunsil weighs 302, Ben Still 298, Fahn Cooper 326, Morris 326 and Justin Bell 345. That's 1596 pounds or an average of 319 pounds. As you can see, Bell skews the numbers a bit. Having said that, the Rebs are certainly a healthy group, but not 328, not that either number matters a whole heckuva lot. Just some clarification.
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