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August 30, 2010

Notebook: Few freshmen to make immediate impact

TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama junior Mark Ingram didn't see a copy of this year's initial depth chart until a reporter handed him one Monday, but didn't blink at having four players behind him at running back including true freshman Corey Grant.

"We have a lot of running backs that can contribute to the team in multiple ways, not only just running the ball, but contributing on special teams as well," Ingram said. "We have a lot of talented athletes in that group so it doesn't surprise me at all."

While the Crimson Tide is considered a young team the depth chart had three or fewer players listed at every other position except for one wide receiver spot, and included few true freshmen.

They were kicker Cade Foster, cornerback John Fulton, Grant, linebacker Adrian Hubbard, tackle Arie Kouandjio, cornerback Dequan Menzie, cornerback DeMarcus Milliner, linebacker C.J. Mosley, safety Nick Perry, quarterback Phillip Sims, safety Jarrick Williams and punter Jay Williams.

"C.J. is a very bright guy, he's very instinctive and he's a very, very good athlete," Coach Nick Saban said. "As young guys go he's been one of the guys who's shown the most maturity, being able to learn, grow develop and learn from their mistakes."

Although Alabama has as much depth at interior linebacker as anywhere else, Mosley is listed with sophomore Nico Johnson behind junior Jerrell Harris at the weakside or "Will," and was working with the second unit during Monday's viewing period.

"I see more of Rolando (McClain) in him than I do myself," Hightower said. "I was kind of one of the guys even if I didn't know anything I was going to try and take someone's head off. Even if I messed up they were, 'Well, you messed up but you went 100 percent.'

"It's kind of the same way with Mosley, but he's a lot smarter than I was when I was a freshman."

Alabama has started at least one true freshman in three of the last four openers, but just 11 since 1973. The closest this year appears to be on special teams, with Foster handling kickoffs and remains an option on field goals along with sophomore Jeremy Shelley. Jay Williams is still competing with freshman Cody Mandell.

Competing is the key word there because few of the reserve jobs appear set, like at left cornerback where the backup is junior Phelon Jones or Fulton.

"When you see the slashes on the depth chart we're still coaching those guys to compete at those positions, because when we lose a guy we're not going to be behind in terms of how we prepared guys to play even though they may not get an opportunity to play," Saban said, adding: "It doesn't mean they won't get redshirted if they're freshmen, it's that were it is right now."

Among those not listed on the depth chart were linebacker Jalston Fowler, tight end Brian Vogler and wide receiver DeAndrew White. Vogler and Fowler didn't appear to be on the scout team Monday.

Injury report

No one wore black, signaling no contact, during practice.

Saban announced that reserve safety Wesley Neighbors will be out for a week or two after having a knee scope.

Junior safety Mark Barron was excused from a recent practice due to personal reasons.

Senior tight end Preston Dial missed Monday's practice due to being ill.

An unusual anniversary

The Monday of last year's season opener was when defensive end Brandon Deaderick was shot in the arm during a botched carjacking.

"First things first, everybody just wanted to make sure he was okay," sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "At that point no one really knew, or really cared, what happened, just as long as he was okay. Once everyone found out he was one of the first guys who was like, 'Don't worry about it, I'm okay, I still want to play.'"

Deaderick, selected 247th overall by the New England Patriots in the seventh round of the NFL Draft, was getting out of his girlfriend's car at her apartment complex when they were approached by the assailant. He missed only a couple of practices and briefly played against Virginia Tech that Saturday, but later admitted that he didn't feel normal again until midseason.

"You don't really expect things like that happen, especially to a guy like Deaderick," Hightower said. "I don't know one person on this team, let alone this campus, that doesn't like Deaderick. He's a down-to-earth guy, he's real cool. He's pretty smooth about everything. To have something like that happen to a guy that's so great like that was shocking."

Tide-bits

Speaking of anniversaries, Saturday will be Hightower's first game in nearly a year after he took a helmet to the knee against Arkansas. "I'm looking forward to going out there," he said. "The scrimmage is supposed to be 100 percent but there are a couple of things you don't do, with offensive linemen cut blocks and defensive guys being able to knock over a pile but don't do it to keep guys safe. Saturday's kind of that point I can go out there and show everyone I'm going 110 percent every play."

Saban said he has still heard nothing from the NCAA on the eligibility status of junior defensive end Marcell Dareus.
San Jose State running back Brandon Rutley is a Tuscaloosa native and kicker Harrison Waid was born in Huntsville, but former coach Dick Tomey has a couple of strong ties as well. "I would have loved to have played their coach last year because Dick Tomey was my dad's coach in college (at Hawaii)," senior quarterback Greg McElroy said. "I kind of wish he stuck around for one more year, but I understand." Tomey retired after last year's 2-10 season, giving the former Arizona coach a 183-145-7 career record. His wife is novelist Nanci Kincaid, who used to be married to former Crimson tide assistant coach Al Kincaid (1974-75, 1989) and has set many of her books in Alabama even though last year's release was "Eat, Drink and Be From Mississippi."

Don't expect the offense to look a lot different Saturday: "Last year we were primarily two tight ends and two wide receivers as a base formation in regular, because that is what our personnel was best geared for," Saban said. "I would say that is pretty much the same now. We may go with some regular formations outside of that, playing three wide receivers and a tight end. We also used four wide outs last year with no tight end quite a bit. We will have multiple sets with all of those personnel groupings."

Defensive linemen have been using green handcuffs during drills to help with their technique. "We're trying to get guys to put their hands inside because inside hands win every time," senior nose tackle Josh Chapman said.

Ingram is listed third on the depth chart at kick returner, behind Trent Richardson and Julio Jones. "I returned kicks all throughout high school, and I've returned them in practice ever since I've been here," he said. "If I do have to go out and return a kick, it won't be anything surprising. I'll welcome it as more opportunity to get the ball and do something to help the team."

The Crimson Tide enjoyed its coolest weather since fall camp began nearly a month ago, 82 degree and cloudy skies, with an 86 heat index, 70 dew point and 66 percent humidity. Alabama will practice again Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. All practices are closed to the public.


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