While Alabama has largely been fortunately enough to avoid a widespread rash of season-ending injuries, nevertheless eleven weeks of football have taken their toll on the Tide. The past two weekends in particular have seen somewhat depleted Crimson Tide squads trying to overcome various ailments, and moving into the Iron Bowl the specter of injuries continues to remain over Tuscaloosa.
Barrett Jones has missed the past two games against Mississippi State and Georgia Southern after suffering an ankle sprain against LSU, though he did dress out last weekend for the home finale in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Fortunately, Jones has practiced this week and by all accounts looks to be a go, though clearly there is some concern about how well he can sustain for sixty minutes and how well he can hold up in space against Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae.
In the meantime, Alfred McCullough has been spotted back at right guard this weekend in practice, where he is once again competing with Anthony Steen for the starting job. McCullough started in place of an apparently healthy Anthony Steen against LSU and it seems likely he will do the same this weekend against Auburn. With that said, however, if Barrett Jones has problems at tackle then we will likely see McCullough move back outside to left tackle with Steen being inserted back into the lineup at right guard.
Darius Hanks sprained an ankle on the opening series against Mississippi State, missing the remainder of that game and as well as all of last week against Georgia Southern. Hanks, too, has been back at practice and expects to play this weekend, and additionally he figures to play a key role. The Alabama receiver corps struggled to a degree without Hanks and DeAndrew White, and 'Bama will need to take advantage of a weak Auburn secondary. An ankle sprain, though, to a receiver who relies on his speed and athleticism figures to have a larger than normal effect on Hanks than on most players.
Eddie Lacy continues to be hampered by a turf toe injury, and while he will play no one really knows his status. He was reported to have been improving in recent weeks, or at least many perceived it as such with his eleven carries against Mississippi State, but he only saw six touches last weekend against Georgia Southern and in all honesty he has not received the carries the past couple of weeks that some expected. With Trent Richardson getting almost seventy touches the past two weeks combined, relying on him heavily once again this week could prove perilous, so hopefully Lacy can get back to the workload he had in September.
Jesse Williams has been banged up since the LSU game and suffered a shoulder injury against Mississippi State. Last weekend he was apparently hampered by a bout of food poisoning, and with that having subsided he is expected to play this Saturday. Having said that, however, he was favoring the shoulder earlier in the week in practice, so it's possible he may be somewhat limited again. Williams will play, but Quinton Dial may see increased snaps as he did against Mississippi State.
Will Lowery tore his ACL against Georgia Southern, and that has forced 'Bama to search for a sixth defensive back. Alabama is fortunate in the sense that Auburn has generally struggled to throw the football this season, but even so Lowery must be replaced and for the time being no one knows exactly who will be given those duties. In his press conference, Nick Saban referenced the possibility of either inserting Vinny Sunseri into Lowery's position, or sliding Mark Barron over to Lowery's spot and putting Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix into the spot currently held by Barron. The smart money seems to be on Vinny Sunseri getting the call because that would allow the staff to take full advantage of Barron's athleticism and prowess in run defense. Either way, a new face will be relied on as a meaningful contributor and they will have to cast aside any freshman mental mistakes in the face of Gus Malzahn's sleight of hand.
The good news for those who bleed crimson is that nearly all of the aforementioned players are expected to play this weekend, but their ultimate effectiveness remains to be seen. The Iron Bowl will almost always bring out just about anyone with a pulse on either side of the field, but playing at a high level and sustaining over the course of sixty minutes are different issues entirely. How much many of the injured players for the Tide are actually healthy and how many will be playing off raw emotion remains to be seen, but if all the injuries continue 'Bama will have a much tougher path to victory down on the Plains.