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October 12, 2009
Notebook: Tide to focus on red zone this week
TUSCALOOSA _ A major focus of practice for the University of Alabama offense this week will be red-zone play.
The Crimson Tide had the ball within the 20 six times at Ole Miss on Saturday and didn't score a single touchdown. Instead, it had to settle for five field goals.
Most upsetting to Coach Nick Saban were the self-inflicted problems including a false start at the Ole Miss 3 on a play he thought would result in a touchdown and a botched snap that was recovered, not to mention a rare lost fumble.
"They were changing it up at the snap," junior quarterback Greg McElroy said about the Rebels' coverage. "We just stopped ourselves so many times."
By having the defensive backs walk up and back before the snap, especially the cornerbacks, Ole Miss was better able to disguise its coverage in the secondary. Consequently, McElroy frequently threw to his first option when someone else may have been a better choice.
"I have to do a better job of reading the safeties," he said. "The safeties usually tip off the coverage before anyone else."
McElroy completed just one of eight passes in the red zone, although had a touchdown throw dropped.
"We made some errors that were untimely and unfortunately," sophomore guard Barrett Jones said. "It's something that we have to work on, but I think it's something we're going to focus on and get it cleaned up.
"It was mostly mistakes that we made."
Players of the week
Although a number of other players put up some impressive numbers, sophomore center William Vlachos was the only one to receive a Southeastern Conference award as the offensive lineman of the week.
Sophomore running back Mark Ingram (172 rushing yards on 28 carries and a touchdown) and junior linebacker Rolando McClain (7½ tackles and an interception) were honorable-mention selections for the offensive and defensive honors.
Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton (20-of-27, 310 yards, four touchdowns) won the offensive award, Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes (11 tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery) took him the defensive honor, while the special-teams award went to Dennis Johnson of Arkansas (three kickoff returns for 145 yards).
Neither senior Cory Reamer, who had a blocked punt to go with a forced fumble and recovery, nor senior kicker Leigh Tiffin, five-for-five on field goals, received SEC consideration, although Tiffin was among those named "Star of Stars" by Lou Groza Award officials.
Ingram, Vlachos and Jones shared the coaching staff's offensive player of the game award, with McClain and junior cornerback Kareem Jackson the defensive winners, and Reamer, Tiffin and true freshman Nico Johnson splitting the special-teams honors.
Freshman safety Rod Woodson sustained a patella tendon injury Saturday and will be out for at least a week. It's not expected to require surgery. He's played in all six games, primarily on special teams, and has four tackles.
Reamer lost a small part of his left ear during Saturday's game, but doesn't know when it happened.
"Everyone was making fun of me on the sideline, 'You got Mike Tyson-ed.'"
CBS has picked up next week's Tennessee at Alabama game for the 2:30 p.m. slot.
Other televised SEC games that weekend will be Arkansas at Mississippi (11:21 a.m. SEC Network), Vanderbilt at South Carolina (6 p.m. ESPNU), and Louisiana-Monroe at Kentucky (6 p.m. FSN). ESPN and ESPN2 have yet to decide between Auburn at LSU and Florida at Mississippi State, both at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday's game against South Carolina will be at 6:45 p.m. on ESPN.
Alabama practiced inside the Hank Crisp Facility on Monday. Woodson was among those riding an exercise bike during practice along with sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee), who was not pedaling just using the arms extensions.
McElroy on the dropped passes this season: "Drops happen. One of the best receivers in the NFL a couple years ago, and believe me I know this stat, was Terrell Owens, led the entire NFL in drops. He's a fantastic receiver. I tell them 'Shake it off, I'm going to come right back to you.' That's part of it. . They make me look a lot better than I them. They help me out a lot."
Senior Javier Arenas didn't hesitate when asked which defensive player hits the hardest, McClain. "You watch those NFL games where the guy is (wearing a microphone), and the sound effects when a guy gets hit? That's the only way I can explain it. You black out for a second and try and figure out which truck hit you. You see him walking away and you know it was him."
Although Saban says McClain is like having a coach on the field, the linebacker has no interest in someday doing that for a job. "Nah, I don't want to coach," McClain said. "When I'm away from football, outside of practice and games, I don't even want to watch football. So I know I don't want to coach, or at least I'm not giving it any thought right now. I'll do a regular job or something, whatever that is."