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August 24, 2010

Notebook: Tide tries some faces in new places

TUSCALOOSA _ The University of Alabama football team returned to the practice field Tuesday afternoon, but some of the players may have needed a scorecard to keep up with where they were supposed to line up.

With the Crimson Tide not installing the game plan for San Jose State until next week, and using part of this week to get a jump on unusual things this season's opponents will do, coaches are using the rest of the time to experiment and get some players experience at another position.

For example, junior Alfred McCullough spent part of Tuesday at right guard with sophomore Barrett Jones sliding over to right tackle. The second unit had true freshman Arie Kouandijo getting his first looks at left tackle, and redshirt freshman D.J. Fluker at right tackle.

Numerous players were moving around with each drill.

"Sometimes you have to go through the ugly part," Coach Nick Saban said about players learning multiple roles. "We want to get the best guys on the field."

Similar to Friday, junior linebacker Jerrell Harris was again working with the interior linebackers, on the second unit with C.J. Mosley, while sophomore Nico Johnson was at strongside linebacker.

"It's just a day-to-day thing, trying to see who can do what," said Saban, adding that none of the moves were permanent. "We'll evaluate it and see what we do with it tomorrow."

Stallings honored at Florida game

Gene Stallings, set be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in the Class of 2010, will be honored Oct. 2 when Alabama hosts Florida.

The on-campus salute will include an on-field ceremony when a commemorative plaque will be presented to the university.

"From his years as a young assistant coach under Coach Bryant through his head coaching days here at Alabama, Coach Stallings produced a career that is richly deserving of this recognition," University of Alabama Director of Athletics Mal Moore said. "Coach Stallings was more than just a head coach at Alabama - his manner of doing things, his leadership and his passion took our entire program to another level."

Injury report

Sophomore cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick suited up but didn't go through ay team drills Tuesday due to an undisclosed injury. Without him, sophomore B.J. Scott worked at left corner with junior DeQuan Menzie at right corner, sophomore Robert Lester and junior Will Lowery were at the safety spots and junior Mark Barron lined up at star.

The second nickel package had true freshman John Fulton and junior Kyle Pennington at the corners, true freshmen Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams at the safeties and junior Phelon Jones at star.

Freshman cornerback DeMarcus Milliner (ankle) was the only player wearing black and spent part of practice jogging on an adjoining field.

Multi-purpose player Blake Sims (foot) was back with the running backs, while sophomore defensive end Undra Billingsley (ankle) and senior tight end Preston Dial were back in their usual spots after not doing much during individual drills prior to Saturday's scrimmage, along with junior nose tackle Josh Chapman (thigh) and sophomore running back Trent Richardson (shoulder).

Junior running back Demetrius Goode, who has had a hamstring injury, didn't seem to be doing much during individual drills.

Kendall Kelly (heat-related issues) has yet to be cleared by the medical staff. Because he's already so far behind the redshirt freshman isn't expected to contribute this season.

Hightower set at Mike

Consider sophomore Dont'a Hightower excited for both the season opener and playing middle linebacker, which wasn't always the case.

"Coming into the spring I was kind of hoping to still play the weakside linebacker and plug in Chris Jordan or Nico Johnson to play the Mike, but Coach Saban had a different thought," Hightower said. "It's worked out great.

"He knows it's kind of a tough duty trying to replace Rolando because he was such a great player, he knew the defense so perfect. It's been a tough journey, but I feel so comfortable in it now."

Despite coming off a major knee injury Hightower has taken over the signal-calling duties of last year's Butkus Award winner for linebacker of the year.

"It's always difficult when you come back from an injury, when you're off for a long time, getting yourself back in the shape you're used to being in," Saban said. "He's really done a good job of sustaining, and continually improving that. He's got his weight down so where he has his speed and explosiveness back."

Hightower said he's moving faster now than before he got hurt, and is down to 260 pounds. He declined to give his weight during the spring.

Tide-sports

Saban on Saturday's scrimmage: "I think there was a lot of improvement made by a lot of players. I think more guys played with the kind of intensity, sense of urgency that you need, intelligence, made less errors, but at the same time we had more penalties. We need to improve on that. We didn't make as many explosive plays on offense, but we did move the ball well and execute it very well. I think there's still a lot of room for improvement. I think the focus this week is on the players taking ownership of what they need to do."

Hightower on Chapman: "He's made a lot of improvement in the pass rush. He's always kind of been known as a run-stopper, but he's worked hard in third-down situations. You see Mark (Ingram) or Trent (Richardson) break out and you wouldn't guess that Josh Chapman would be right on their heels."

"Nick Saban: Gamechanger" was set to premiere Tuesday night in Birmingham with widespread release later this week, but the coach didn't attend. "I haven't heard about it," said junior running back Mark Ingram, who has yet to see the ESPN all-access shows and doubts the coaching staff will show the documentary during any team movie nights.

Although it was hot out with the temperature 93 degrees at the start of practice, players caught a break with just 37 percent humidity, 62 dew point and 94 heat index. The team will practice again Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. All practices are closed to the public.


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