Saban said he has seen an improvement from Mosley on the field and a determination off of it. Where Mosley was once reserved in previous seasons, he has become more of a leader. "He doesn't say much, but if you just watch his intensity and watch the way he does things, I think his leadership is effective as well," Saban said. Said safety Robert Lester: "He's a guy who is a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident. Last year he was kind of timid and not really after it, but he's a guy who has really taken charge of the defense. He knows what is going on. He wants to go out there and make plays, and that's what he has been doing."
Some of Alabama’s veterans need only point to what happened at this point two years ago. That’s when a 5-0, defending national champion Tide team stumbled badly in a loss at South Carolina. That team lost two more games, too. Tide safety Robert Lester said this group is different. "There’s a lot more leadership," Lester said. "And there’s a lot more guys that don’t want those feelings to come back as we had in 2010. Leaving South Carolina after a loss, it was horrible. I knew what it felt like and a lot more guys knew what it felt like. We don’t want our younger guys to go through that and we definitely don’t want to go through it again. So we’re doing as much as we can to keep that from happening again."
Saban spent his bye weekend at an undisclosed location -- and he said he was busy breaking down film of practice an prospective recruits -- but he wasn't totally removed from a Saturday full of surprising results in college football. Three of the country's top five teams -- according to the Associated Press and coaches' polls -- went down in three very different styles of upsets. No. 3 Florida State lost to North Carolina State, 17-16, thanks to a late Wolfpack touchdown. No. 4 LSU lost a hard-fought, defensive battle at Florida. No. 5 Georgia barely kept it competitive in a 35-7 blowout defeat at South Carolina. "There's a lot of parity in college football," Saban said. "The only thing predictable about college football is its unpredictability."
"There's a lot of parity in college football. The teams that most of you in this room make head and shoulders above other teams, obviously shows you this last weekend how badly you can be mistaken," Saban said. "I know I can be mistaken and get criticized, but you guys are badly mistaken when you make teams that are like so much better than everybody else. This weekend kind of proved that your predictability is not very good. I think what it proved is the only thing predictable about college football is its unpredictability."
Lacy and true freshmen T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake are the only three healthy running backs that started the season at that position. Saban said quarterback Blake Sims and H-back Brent Calloway will get looks at running back as well. "When somebody gets hurt at any position, it’s something that we don’t like, but the guys who are left – me, T.J. and Drake – we just gotta pick up the load," Lacy said. "It’s a position [Calloway and Sims have] played before, so they already know what to expect coming into it if that’s what they have to do."
Pinkel was asked if he’s losing sleep thinking about a depleted offensive line going up against Alabama’s defensive line. "I never sleep well during a season," he said. "Ever. I don’t care who we’re playing. We’re just playing a great football team. We’ll try to help them out scheme-wise as much as we can. You can’t avoid it. The line of scrimmage and how you play on both sides of the football is hugely important. We’ve just got to shuffle players in there that are young and inexperienced. We’ll work hard and compete."
Head coach Nick Saban said the players who were banged up and limited last week were all scheduled to practice Monday, including cornerback Deion Belue, who injured his shoulder in the Ole Miss game. "We’re going to limit his contact for a few more days but he can practice today," Saban said before the Tide’s 90-minute workout in shells. "Kevin Norwood can practice today. Brent Calloway can practice today. Everybody that didn’t practice last week can practice today."
Strength in numbers was a good way to sum up the Alabama wide receiving corps during the preseason. The number of players capable of making an impact during the season had seemingly never been so high during the Nick Saban era. That kind of depth was going to be the trademark of a unit that didn't have a superstar, big-name target among its ranks. Now, that depth is being tested.
"We've played the run fairly well on defense at times, and a couple times we've given up some runs that, whether it's misalignment or missed execution. We see a lot of stuff, though. And in a lot of cases, we didn't adjust properly, but didn't adjust properly to things we hadn't seen much before. Offensively, I think inconsistency has been probably the biggest thing on the line of scrimmage in terms of not getting a hat on a hat, where people have given us bad plays at times, not maybe executing in pass protection or the quarterback getting the ball out of his hand quickly enough. We've been a little consistent. Both things are areas we can continue to improve on."
Taking advantage of top-ranked Alabama's bye last week, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, remarkably enough, left town for a day and evidently at least considered "being able to chill out a little bit." But those words sounded foreign and hollow coming from the legendarily obsessive Saban, whose team (5-0 overall, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) with the straitjacketing defense, which has surrendered 35 points all season, plays Saturday at reeling Mizzou (2-3, 0-3). "I don't think that you can ever just forget about what you're doing, all right?" Saban said Monday. "So to say you're going to go take a mental break, I don't care where you go, where you stay, that's not going to happen. "I leave town for a day, but I take everything with me."
''This year, there's so much hype being in the SEC, and you've got all the outside voices telling you that you (stink) and you're not worthy,'' senior offensive tackle Elvis Fisher said. ''We know what we do here. We work our butts off. And then it's devastating to go out there and not put on your best performance.''
After the Vandy loss, missing Franklin would be worrying no matter who the Tigers' upcoming opponent was. Here's the kicker: Faurot Field will be hosting reigning national champion and No. 1 Alabama in this week's SEC on CBS spotlight game. The Tide will come to Columbia with the nation's No. 1 defense in both total defense and yards-per-play allowed. That's not good news at all for Berkstresser, who completed just nine of 30 passes against the Commodores and posted a QB rating of just 93.92. That was still a higher rating than his performance vs. the Sun Devils -- though the redshirt freshman completed 21-of-41, he averaged just 4.8 yards an attempt and didn't throw a touchdown.
The season is not lost, but it's about to be put on life support if the O-line claims another victim in Corbin Berkstresser. Berkstresser is clearly not better than Franklin. He struggled with getting the ball to his receivers and let's not forget, he's a freshman. But for now he's the Tigers' only option and hopefully, he can scratch out a win in Franklin's absence.
If recent history is any indicator, then the Mizzou Tigers hope history repeats itself this Saturday. Of late, Mizzou has proven very resilient, and shown a key ability to avoid losing streaks. The Tigers have won five straight times (and 7 out of the last 8 times dating back to the 2010 season) following a defeat. That ability to get quickly back in the winners circle played a huge role in Mizzou's 8-5 season a year ago, as the Tigers rebounded to post wins four times after suffering a defeat. The only time they fell in 2011 on consecutive weeks was in two straight road games at #1 Oklahoma (38-28) and at #20 Kansas State (24-17).
So with the frustration from the loss still fresh — and the next game still several days away — Copeland, a junior guard, says he and several teammates took their frustration out the best way they know how: in the weight room. "There were dudes putting hours in the weight room, myself included, getting that frustration out," said Copeland, who noted that several Tigers stayed longer than they were required to during the mandatory session. "There’s a lot of dudes that weren’t happy, but there’s no (death) in anyone’s eyes. There was fire."