Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Tide pumped for SEC opener Saturday

Alabama’s first week of Southeastern Conference play on the road has caused a lot of excitement in the Alabama locker room this week. With both teams in the top 10 — No. 10 Arkansas and No. 1 Alabama — the hype around the Fayetteville game is much higher than it was for the non-conference opponents.

“What you do all year long is about playing the SEC games and being ready for the conference,” head coach Nick Saban said. “You’re always excited about playing in-conference games. Every game in conference is a very important game. When you coach here, play here, come here, those are the things you get excited about and those are the games that you want to play in.”

Both Alabama and Arkansas are 3-0 coming into the game. After a 31-24 win over Georgia last week, the Razorbacks are now 1-0 in conference play.

“We’re pumped it’s SEC play, so things are going to get real,” said junior wide receiver Darius Hanks. “SEC play, this is what really matters out there. This is what’s going to get us to the SEC Championship.”

In the 2009 season, the Tide opened its SEC play to the Razorbacks as well, and even though Alabama beat Arkansas 35-7, some of the starters, such as junior offensive lineman William Vlachos, thought he could have played better in his first SEC game.

“[The SEC] is different; it’s a different speed, different physicality,” Vlachos said. “I thought I was ready going into it and I wasn’t. It was the worst game I played last year and as an offensive line we didn’t run the ball very well and we didn’t block up front very well. It’s definitely a different game, different opponent. I think we’re ready for it.”

Players unselfish

Saban said one aspect of Alabama that makes them different from their opponents is the unselfishness within the team.

When junior running back Mark Ingram went out with a knee injury, sophomore running back Trent Richardson took over, but then two games later went back to playing second in the lineup with no complaints.  The same situation also occurred while Marcell Dareus was out.

“Everyone is self-absorbed, but to be selfish is when you put what you want to do ahead of the team,” Saban said. “The guys have seen [that] when the team wins, more guys get accolades because of winning rather than individual performance. We have a lot of guys that buy into that and believe that’s what will make us successful.”

The place kicker position is another area of the Tide’s team where humility is mandatory. Freshman Cade Foster and sophomore Jeremy Shelley continue to switch off kicking duties depending on the length of the kick.

“We assess their range each week and we chart their kicks and decide [which player to field], whether [we’re on] the 20-yard line or 23-yard line,” Saban said. “Cade has a stronger leg. Shelley is more accurate. We’re trying to utilize both of them.”

In order for Alabama to win this Saturday against a team ranked No. 1 in the SEC in passing offense and sacks, the team will have to continue to rely on the unselfishness of all the members of the team.

Taking advantage of injuries

On the injury front, Saban said there are no major injuries at this point other than freshman defensive back Jarrick Williams, whose shoulder is being examined, but the extent of his injury is unknown at this point.

Saban also took the opportunity to comment on how a player can take advantage of his opportunities to improve while injured on the sidelines, noting that DeMarcus Milliner has been able to get substantial playing time as a true freshman coming off a fall practice injury.

“When you get injured, it is really a much better opportunity to learn. I could never shoot well when I was in high school basketball until I was [injured] my last football game,” said Saban, who sat in the stands above the basket during his injury. “I actually saw how big the basket was, so I was a much better shooter and scorer when I came back from being injured.

“I think the one thing DeMarcus Milliner did when he came back was watch. When he [could play again], he was much more further ahead.”

Saban’s philosophy on using injuries to improve individual performance has proved to be effective for junior running back Mark Ingram, who had two touchdowns and 151 rushing yards against Duke last week after coming off knee surgery.

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