December 17, 2006

Bowl Notebook: Tide trusts in Kines

There's plenty of uncertainty to go around in the Alabama football program but one thing the Crimson Tide players have no doubts about is the leadership of their current acting head coach Joe Kines.

"The guy breathes and sleeps football," said junior defensive end Wallace Gilberry. "It may be hard to him but he doesn't let it show. He has enough confidence in us and in his playcalling that he knows we'll get the job done."

Kines' lively attitude and colorful language has endeared him to both players and the media alike.

"He's a normal guy, he just has a unique way of getting his point across," Gilberry said. "I believe I'll write a book about him once I'm done here. It should be a best-seller."

But it's Kines' demeanor on the field that makes him such a strong leader, according to the Tide players.

"He can do a lot of things in one week to prepare us for some of the best teams in college football. Giving him a month is even better," said senior linebacker Juwan Simpson. "He gets in there and watches film and comes up with some great game plans. It's just up to us to execute them. Giving him a month is more than enough time."

Kines has spent the last several weeks ignoring questions about the ongoing coaching search and focusing completely on the high-powered Oklahoma State offense his team will be facing on December 28th.

"They're a very tough offense," Simpson said. "They're a lot better than their record shows. Their O-line is very aggressive and very fast, the quarterback is young and playing great ball, their receivers are big playmakers. They average a lot of points and as a defense we just have to go out and play sound football."

"It's a challenge," said Gilberry. "The option is something we haven't really seen. These guys are an option and zone team so it's going to be a challenge trying to fit up the option and the zone. I know Coach Kines will have us ready for whatever they throw at us.

The option is something the Tide defense hasn't seen much of but the players remain confident that with discipline and sound play they can handle the attack of mobile quarterback Bobby Reid..

"It's really not difficult, it just takes discipline," said Gilberry. "You get out there and get caught up in the moment trying to make a play instead of just doing your job. That hasn't been a problem for us. We play team defense and if we can all stay disciplined we can handle it."

"We haven't really played anybody that versatile," Simpson said. "Nickson from Vanderbilt could run but Reid can throw better. We don't play against the option so we're relying on Coach Kines to gives us a great game plan."

Gilberry said that although he is confident the Tide can contain the Cowboys' offense, he understands that it will take a team effort to get the job done.

"They're good at what they do," Gilberry said. "I'm not going to sit here and say we can hold those guys to 10 yards rushing but I can tell you I'm going to play at 100 miles an hour and so are the other 10 guys on my side."

Tide offense could focus more on ground

With offensive coordinator Dave Rader left to run the offense on his own, some have speculated that the Tide could open up the playbook a bit more for the Independence Bowl. Senior running back Kenneth Darby believes if the Tide offense makes any change, it will be putting a heavier emphasis on the running game.

"I think we're going to run a lot more than what we've been doing this whole season," Darby said. "Of course we'll still pass the ball but I think we've added a little more running to our offensive scheme."

The Tide offense struggled on the ground all season but the Tide players believe it was simply a matter of execution and opportunity that held the Tide's rushing attack back.

"We can run the ball as effectively as we want to," said left tackle Andre Smith. "It's up to us to go out there and execute the plays and drive our man into the ground. We're a lot better than we were two months ago. We've learned from our mistakes and we've worked hard in practice."

"We could have run effectively all season but we really didn't get enough opportunities," Darby said. "We can run the ball effectively and it's going to show on the 28th."

Draft day looming for seniors

With the end of their college careers approaching, the Tide seniors have already begun to think about the upcoming NFL Draft and what their chances might be at getting a shot at the pros.

"You have to kind of have it in your head already," Simpson said. "Once the bowl game is done, I'll be done with college football. I'm sad to say it because it's been a lot of fun. That's when serious business comes. I'll start training and then whatever happens happens. Right now it's hard but I have to stay focused on this final game."

Simpson said that although the prospect of a pro career is something he always dreamed of, he never truly believed it could be possible for him until the start of his junior season.

"I never really thought about it until the beginning of last year. DeMeco and Freddie were so highly rated and I was just that third guy. I felt like all I had to do was go out and perform along with those guys. Then after the great season, everybody started asking me if I was going to stay. Of course I was staying, but that kind of gave me a little hope of playing in the NFL."

Though his future may lie in the NFL, Simpson said he remains focused on the bowl game to try and give his college career a more satisfying ending.

"I'll always look back and think about all the close games. Every game we lost we played tough and could have won. That always hurts to think your record could be better than it is. That's why I want to take this bowl game seriously and finish on a good note to be able to say at least we finished strong."

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