October 11, 2006

Notebook: Tide works on staying focused

After a disappointing first half performance against Duke last week, the Tide offense came into the week knowing it had some serious work to do.

"I think we've all come together as a team and said we need to play our football and not just play to the level of our opponents," said quarterback John Parker Wilson.

One of the Tide's top talking points this week has been the idea of focusing on every play, something that the offense has failed to do a number of times in the red zone this season.

"I think there's been bright spots in every game but there's also always a couple guys who make mistakes or miss an assignment," Wilson said. "We have to work on all 11 guys doing their job on every down."

"What makes a guy like Tiger Woods so great is that he can concentrate 68 times in a round," said offensive coordinator Dave Rader. "If you lose focus on your approach shot, you aren't going to make the birdie. We have to focus on every player focusing on every play."

One thing that should help the Tide offense this week is the fact that they'll face a more conventional defense and one that they'll be more familiar with when Saturday comes around.

"The Ole Miss defense is actually really similar to ours which is good because it's what we've practice against all spring and summer," Wilson said. "It's still tough but at least we know what we're doing."

"They are a solid defense. The biggest thing is that they're coached well, they're always in the right spot and they rarely miss an assignment."

"Their defense is set up to stop the run and in this conference, we believe you have to run the ball to have success," Rader said. "We have to find a way to run the ball, some way, somehow."

It took a last second field goal to beat the Rebels last season and the Tide don't expect a much easier game against Ole Miss this year either.

"The thing I've noticed every year I've been here is that everybody seems to play their best game of the year against Alabama," Rader said. "We certainly got Mississippi's best game last year and I don't expect any less this year."

Tide keying on Willis

Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis leads the SEC and ranks 13th in the country with 10.33 tackles per game and is without a doubt the heart and soul of the Rebel defense. That's why Rader and the offense have put plenty of emphasis this week on trying to contain the spectacular playmaker.

"Willis is so impressive to watch," Rader said. "You see him making plays on his own but he's also a tremendous leader and he makes those around him play better."

"There's no denying that kid's good," said Wilson. "He flies to the ball, he runs and hits hard. He really stands out on tape."

Brown and Hall are powerful duo
Six games into the season, junior wide outs Keith Brown and DJ Hall have become something many never expected to see on an Alabama team: one of the nation's top receiver duos.

With a combined 987 total receiving yards this season, Brown and Hall are second in the entire nation behind Tennessee's Robert Meachum and Jayson Swain and will likely take over that top spot this weekend since the Vols will have a bye week.

"They've been better than I expected," said Wilson. "I've always thought highly of both of them but this season they really seem to always step up and make plays when we need them. It's tough for defenses to handle two guys that good."

Brown and Hall, who are on pace to shatter the school record for a receiving duo, have perhaps become the staple of a Tide offense that has struggled in the running game all season.

"Defenses know they can't double up on either of us because if they do, it leaves a 100-yard receiver open," Hall said.

"I think every week those guys continue to have success it gets us closer to being able to open up in the running game," said fullback Tim Castille. "Sooner or later teams are going to see how dangerous those guys are and be forced to take some people out of the box."

"Keith came in the summer before his freshman year and really impressed all of us. Then when DJ came in, we knew we had something special because from day one he worked as hard as anyone on the team."

When all is said and done, Brown and Hall may end up the highlight of the 2006 Crimson Tide, establishing themselves as two of the best to ever play the position at the Capstone.

"They are one of the best duos I've ever been around in college football," Rader said. "The scary thing is, they are both still improving."

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