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Saban said Belue, who was forced to sit out the entire second half against Ole Miss because of an injured shoulder, was "doing fine" and had taken all of his repetitions at practice throughout the week. On Monday, Saban said Belue, who did not practice much during the bye week, would face limited contact at practice this week. It's unclear how much he faced, but he was full go during the non-contact sessions reporters were able to watch.
We had our eyes on cornerback Deion Belue (shoulder) for much of the viewing period. This is a big day for him, as coach Nick Saban typically makes his decisions about whether players will be available for the upcoming game based on what they can do at Wednesday's practice. He looked fine during the two periods we were able to watch, but the big test will be whether he's able to sustain much contact during the rest of today's practice. Belue worked with the first-team defense at left cornerback while it worked through its nickel and dime formations.
"Some teams are going to load the box, play man, make you throw the ball vertically and beat them," McCarron said. "Some teams are going to play zone. They can have the outside linebackers stacked in, closer to the box, so they’re able to guard the pass in zone and play the run at the same time." And it isn’t like Alabama is getting a break this week against the run. Missouri ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing defense, and the four teams ahead of the Tigers have a combined one loss: Alabama, South Carolina, LSU and Florida. "They’re a little more run-first oriented as a defense," McCarron said. "So they’re going to give you different looks, you just got to take what they give you and go from there."
The Crimson Tide is braced for another no-huddle attack from Missouri this Saturday. "Once again, you've just got to adapt. You've got to come out and set the tone no matter what they're trying to do as an offense," said defensive end Damion Square. "Your objective is to come in and se the tone. If you can do that, you control the outcome of the game." Asked if the Ole Miss experience will help his defense adjust more effectively to Missouri's use of the no-huddle offense this weekend, UA coach Nick Saban said reaching a comfort level defending the no-huddle offense is an ongoing process. "We play against no-huddle all the time. I think it's just a part of the world we live in now. I think the more you play against it, the more your players develop a conscious awareness of how they need to focus and what they need to do to play that pace in the game," Saban said. "Certainly, playing against a team that was no-huddle should be of benefit to our players when we play the next no-huddle team. I think we're going to see it a few more times before it's all over, too."
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron’s longest completion in the Sept. 29th win over Ole Miss covered only 17 yards. That’s fine with McCarron, a strong-armed junior who had completions of 26, 28 and 51 yards against Michigan in the season opener. "We just take what the defense gives us," McCarron said. "Everybody keeps talking about the vertical passing game, but if they’re going to give us the vertical passing game then we’re not going to take it. "Teams have been giving us underneath and that’s what we’re going to take. We’re not going to force things."
Alabama hasn’t faced a team ranked higher than 42nd in total offense, but it’s also a defense that rendered Michigan and Denard Robinson helpless in the opener. The Crimson Tide are allowing just 3.3 yards per play, which leads the SEC. And when you start talking about tradition on defense, the Tide have allowed more than 14 points in a game only once in their past 19 outings going back to the end of the 2010 season.
After suffering a turf toe injury last season and other minor setbacks since then, Lacy has had to figure out the right attitude to cope with spending so much time on the trainer's table -- suck it up, make it better and move on. "At first you're injured, and you can't perform or do the things you want to do, so you get down on yourself," he said, "but there's nothing you can do but rehab and get better. So when I learned that, everything started to move faster for me."
The University of Alabama offensive line will face one of its tougher challenges of the season Saturday in blocking Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. But it's not just Richardson that will make things difficult, center Barrett Jones said, it's the Tigers' defensive scheme as well. "They've been able to create a lot of negative plays this year. I think the big reason is because of how much movement they do up front," Jones said. "They really have created confusion in their prior games. They're a really hard team to game-plan for. We've really had to work hard this week mentally, watch a lot of film and prepare."
"They're competitors. They're frustrated and angry, and they should be," said Pinkel following the Vanderbilt loss. "They want to win and be successful. This is not the fun part of playing or coaching. How we handle it will be the most important thing. We're going to get back to work. A lot of guys are frustrated and that's good. We're going to wipe ourselves off and get going. I've been here. We're not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves."
Outside of the South Carolina game, Missouri’s defense has exceeded expectations and actually provides Alabama with its biggest test to date on the ground. Missouri ranks 20th nationally in run defense, allowing 107 yards per game and under three yards per carry. Alabama’s ground game averages 189 yards per game, and the Tigers must force the Crimson Tide to become as one-dimensional as possible. The Tigers have gone more traditional up front, keeping its defensive linemen in three-point stances and doing away with much shifting in the group. That back-to-the-basics approach might help against a smash-mouth team like Alabama. The onus is once again on Missouri’s defense to give the offense a fighting shot to keep this game close.
So now the Tigers are preparing for a team that is better than Vanderbilt. What is their frame of mind? "For you guys, they’re the No. 1 team in the nation … but from a player’s standpoint, I just think of it as another football team coming in here," Fisher said. "They want to win as bad as we do. "Sometimes guys may not think we want to win … but all of these guys want to win bad. We work our butts off to go out there and perform on Saturdays, and sometimes it doesn’t always come up our way, but we work every week to make it come out a win for the Tigers."
"Preparing to be ready is not the same thing as preparing to be a starter," said junior guard Max Copeland, a former walk-on-turned-starter. "I know because I’ve been in that role before." No matter how ready Berkstresser is, his teammates know he’ll need some help — especially from the Tigers’ offensive line, which struggled in blitz pickup last week, and their receiving corps, which made a bad situation worse by dropping several passes. It’s tempting to say that Missouri would have to play a perfect game to spring an upset. "Nobody’s ever played a perfect game," Moe said. "But we sure have to play a lot better than we have this year."