What to watch for: Western Kentucky
The Alabama Crimson Tide will take the field on Saturday with a chance to improve to 2-0 on its young 2012 season as it takes on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The match-up will provide Alabama an opportunity to further sharpen its craft before heading on the road to open conference play next weekend against Arkansas.
When the game begins, there are sure to be similarities to the lineup the Tide used against Michigan. However, with a few lingering injuries and the stable of talent head coach Nick Saban has built during his time in Tuscaloosa, there are a few areas to keep an eye on during Saturday’s game.
What will the distribution of carries look like?
The Crimson Tide used four running backs in the season opener against Michigan and fared quite nicely. True freshman running back T.J. Yeldon carried the ball 11 times, junior Jalston Fowler had eight carries, Eddie Lacy had 9 as did redshirt freshman Dee Hart.
On Saturday, the Tide will likely continue to feel its way through the carry distribution at the running back spot. Head coach Nick Saban noted after the game against Michigan that it is possible that all four running backs could be key contributors in the backfield this season.
With junior running back Eddie Lacy coming off an ankle injury that caused the coaching staff to spot play him against Michigan, the Tide could find a way to use its younger players in a heightened role against the Hilltoppers.
Freshman Kenyan Drake even tallied a carry towards the end of the game, and if the opportunity presents itself, he is a player that has a chance to work his way into the rotation by the end of the year. Saturday’s game is a great chance to build on that opportunity.
If Yeldon’s performance against Michigan showed the world anything, it’s that he is going to be a mainstay in the Alabama backfield this season. He became the first freshman running back at Alabama to surpass the 100-yard mark in his collegiate debut, and Saturday’s game will be a chance for him to gain more valuable game experience.
Will the injured play?
Earlier in the week, head coach Nick Saban noted that true freshman Reggie Ragland was the most questionable injured player in terms of status for Saturday’s game. Ragland’s ankle injury kept him hobbled and in a black, non-contact jersey for much of practice throughout the week.
Safety Robert Lester’s shoulder stinger did not appear to be too much of a problem during the media observation periods of practice. Lester appeared to be moving around smoothly throughout the week, but should the coaching staff and medical staff decide it is in his best interest to rest, Nick Perry is a capable replacement. Perry came in for Lester and did a stupendous job during the second half of the Tide’s season opener.
Sophomore linebacker Trey DePriest rolled his ankle during the game against Michigan, but he also did not appear to be too hampered by his injury. With a full week of treatment and rest, DePriest should be good to go. DePriest started for the Tide against Michigan and barring any setbacks leading up to kickoff, based on how he looked in drills during the media viewing periods this week, he should be fine to perform.
Senior nose guard Jesse Williams suffered a mild concussion after running into Robert Lester’s shoulder against Michigan. Williams ran through drills with the rest of the team during practice this week, but he was held out of sled drills at times and didn’t look to be 100 percent healthy. Given the precautions that the world of football has taken when it comes to concussions, it will be interesting to see if Brandon Ivory takes the field instead of Williams.
Ivory much improved
Brandon Ivory was called upon to replace Jesse Williams when the senior went down with a mild concussion against Michigan. Ivory immediately made an impact on the game and displayed quickness off the ball that came as a surprise to many. Ivory’s ability to burst out of his stance, shed his block and meet the ball carrier on a couple occasions was something that caught the attention of many, including his teammates.
“I’d say he might be the most improved defensive player in camp that I saw,” Barrett Jones said on Monday. “He’s gotten a lot better. He’s really starting to understand the defense, what he’s doing and how to use his body. Actually, he’s really quick,which is something people might not know.”
Saturday’s game will take place inside Bryant-Denny Stadium at 2:39 p.m. The game is slated to be televised on the SEC Network.
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