Monday afternoon brought the usual press conference from Nick Saban, and not surprisingly he openly discussed a variety of topics on the agenda for this week. The high points:
Marcell Dareus will not play against Penn State, as UA has decided not to appeal his two-game suspension by the NCAA. To be more specific, Saban said that the legal research team did not find sufficient precedent that they felt would support a successful appeal, so the UA administration effectively chose not to waste everyone's time. That's a bit disheartening, but in no way does it come as a surprise, and as I wrote last week it really did not matter whether UA chose to appeal or not because the appeal was almost certainly to be denied. At this point, the thinking is probably that you may as well dismiss all hope of Dareus returning for this game on a last-second appeal and use that to help get those who will be called on to fill his shoes more mentally prepared for the task at hand in five days.
Mark Ingram, on the other hand, is still up in the air, but to be clear Saban sounded a bit bearish on the prospects of him returning this week. His exact quote was that he was "not anticipating" Ingram to be ready to play this weekend, but did note that Ingram will start "dry land" rehab today, i.e. he will no longer be rehabbing in the pool. Regardless, though, even if Ingram does play, expect it to be a situation where he comes on the field Saturday in pre-game warm-ups, and then get cleared to play in a last-second gametime decision. Truth be told, even if Ingram were definitely going to play this weekend, that is likely how Saban and company would go about releasing it. Again, Saban has no reason whatsoever to disclose that information before hand and every reason to conceal it as long as he possibly can.
For what it's worth, I tend to think Ingram is much closer to returning than UA is letting on at the moment. By all accounts there was no significant structural damage to the knee, and Saban himself said last week that the training staff was very encouraged by the lack of post-surgery swelling, always the biggest impediment to a quick return after surgery. With Ingram having five days to work before returning, if this were an absolute must-play game I think the odds are that Ingram would play. In the end, I think two major obstacles stand in his way: (1) UA will want to be extremely cautious with him, and (2) given the ability of Richardson and Lacy, even if Ingram can play at say 85% or so, it's probably more advantageous for 'Bama to have Richardson and Lacy on the field. Regardless, I don't necessarily think anyone should be overly shocked if we see a bit of Ingram this weekend.
Finally, Saban did lay the groundwork for the return of Courtney Upshaw and D.J. Fluker. Saban said that Upshaw would definitely miss practice today but that hopefully he would return tomorrow, while Fluker would be somewhat limited today but would hopefully be good-to-go moving forward. I expect that Fluker will probably be back in the swing of things mid-week, but keep your eye on Upshaw. He will probably get a light week, and we clearly need him to be ready against Penn State. With Penn State probably looking to establish the run early and protect their young quarterback -- especially with the loss of Cody and Jerrell Harris playing inside -- it should be noted that Upshaw is our best Jack linebacker against the run, and we'll need him at full strength come Saturday as we try to shut down the Penn State running game.