"He's been practicing for three weeks now. Now he's been cleared. So we're going to try to get him some reps because we're getting down to where we only have maybe five guys that have much experience at the position," UA coach Nick Saban said. "We still feel good about the guys that we have. We just need to get more guys ready to play so that they can complement each other." Saban had previously suggested it wouldn't make much sense to play Black this year, as it would cost him what would otherwise be a redshirt season. But that was before a season-ending injury to Kenny Bell, who broke his leg against Auburn. Receiver DeAndrew White was lost for the season earlier in the year with a knee injury. It remains to be seen whether Black is ready to play Saturday against Georgia, but receiver Kevin Norwood believes the freshman is up for the challenge, despite not having played all season.. "It's going to be very difficult, being that he really hasn't played all season, but he's been out there practicing a little bit. It's going to be real tough," Norwood said. "With his mentality, I'm pretty sure he can come away with something."
This certainly isn’t a new problem for Alabama, which had already seen two receivers lost for the season and many others limp through practices before Bell’s leg was crunched during Saturday’s second quarter. It’s just one that comes with a few variables, none of which are as ideal as going back in time and preventing Bell from getting hurt in the first place. "You'd like to be able to roll guys in and out at that position," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday. "Guys get a little winded at times, especially when they run a lot of deep routes or when you go two-minute or something. "We definitely need to get more guys ready to play."
Since the third game of the season, Norwood has struggled with a leg injury he said he doesn’t know precisely how he hurt. But in the week leading up to Saturday’s win over Auburn, he was able to work out every day. On Saturday, he caught five passes for 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Tigers. "I couldn’t feel any better," Norwood said Monday before practice, as No. 2-ranked Alabama (11-1) prepares to face No. 3 Georgia (11-1) in the SEC Championship Game. Bell provided Alabama’s best deep threat, averaging 25.4 yards a reception. He played backup at the "Z" receiver position to Norwood, who starts and averages 15.2 a catch. However, Norwood has missed one game and played sparingly in two others because of the leg injuries. In some cases, he played even though he didn’t practice full speed during the week. "I’ve been dealing with injuries ever since I’ve been here," he said. "It’s basically a mental thing for me. I basically push it aside and worry about what I have to do for the team. Injuries don’t affect me as much as everybody thinks they do. I really just block it out."
With the regular season coming to a close and plenty of jobs opening up, plenty of speculation has centered on Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, but Nick Saban said nobody has called to ask to interview one of his staff members. "But if they do, I always talk to the person and let them know that somebody’s expressed interest," Saban said. Saban said he has a policy about staff members moving on to better jobs. "We want our assistant coaches to be able to fulfill the goals and aspirations that they have," he said. "The reason that they do a good job for you is so that they may create an opportunity for themselves to be a head coach, unless somebody just doesn’t want to be a head coach. I was that way when I was an assistant."
Alabama meets Georgia in SEC championship game in Atlanta on Saturday. The winner of that game is presumed to be the opponent for undefeated Notre Dame in the BCS championship game on Jan. 7 in Miami. "If you're an Alabama fan, don't book your tickets just yet to Miami," Savage said, "because Georgia is a formidable opponent. "In most cases, Georgia and Alabama can out-talent the teams that they play. This time, that won't be the case." Each team comes into the SEC title game with one loss. Savage said Alabama would do well to follow South Carolina's example pinning that one loss on Georgia. The Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs 35-7 on Oct. 6 in a game in which the Georgia offensive line "got destroyed." "That's the one matchup where Alabama has a pretty significant advantage - their defensive line vs. Georgia's offensive line," Savage said.
"I’ve been hearing about him all season," offensive lineman Chance Warmack said. "I’ve heard he’s an excellent pass rusher and a good defensive player. I watched him a few times on TV. He’s a tremendous athlete, a monster inside." Jones has put up other-worldly statistics all season with 71 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and an interception. "You certainly have to have a plan to try and help the players that have to block him, so hopefully he can’t just get in one-on-one situation where it’s a difficult circumstance for somebody," head coach Nick Saban said. "There have been games this year where he has made a phenomenal amount of plays, like sacks causing fumbles. The guy is probably one of the best defensive players in the country in terms of his playmaking ability."
Commings was asked if he believes some teams have lost to Alabama even before a game starts. "I definitely think that’s the case," he said. "They have a history of being great, and they are a great team. "But at the end of the day, here at Georgia, we realize those guys were recruited here and we were recruited there. We’re all great athletes. We're both great football teams. We both have great coaches. We see them as everybody else we’ve played this season. It’s just another game for us." This is an opportunity for the Bulldogs to make a big statement, Commings said. "It’s been awhile since Georgia has won an SEC championship," he said. "For us to go take out a team like Alabama would be a big statement to the world. I think we would get more respect in the college football world. It’s definitely a big game."
"What we try to do in our recruiting is do a really good job in a five-hour radius of our Tuscaloosa area," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "We obviously want to do a great job in our own state. It just happens that a large part of Georgia where there's a lot of population, a lot of good football players and programs, fall into that sort of circumference." Georgia head coach Mark Richt was asked if there have been more recruiting battles with Alabama the past few years. "I think there is," Richt said. "There certainly has been lately. More so maybe in the last few years."
The senior safety grabbed a deflected Jonathan Wallace pass near midfield and raced 31 yards toward the end zone during Alabama's 28-point second quarter. It wasn't meant to be, though, as he was dropped at the 29-yard line. "It would have been my first touchdown ever playing football," Lester said Monday. "I tried, but it wasn't happening." As talented and athletic as he is, Lester didn't even play on the offensive side of the ball at Foley High. A certain former Alabama star receiver didn't need Lester's assistance. "We had Julio," Lester said with a smile. "There was no need."
Q. This defense has played lights out since the Florida game. What was it that really clicked? The whole Shawn Williams thing (the Georgia safety said the Bulldogs have a "soft defense") was a big part of the Florida game. But how have you been able to stay so consistent since then?
A. I think everybody just locked in and understood why we're here and what we're doing this for. Obviously, we made some goals early on at the beginning to come back and get to the point where we are today. I think South Carolina did a great job of reminding us and humbling us and got us on the right path. And you know, Shawn's stepped up and been the big leader that he is. That was a turning point for us of getting guys to see that we've got to work harder and we've got to improve every day. Then the guys just locked into it. We've been focused and we've been disciplined and very coachable. That got us to the point where we are today.
Q. Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown went down, both of them. Did the receivers come together and have a meeting and rededicate themselves into stepping up? It looks like they've done that down the stretch. It seemed like a really good balance. Maybe no superstar, but a great band of receivers working together. Get your comments on that?
A. We know when those two guys went down and when Marlon went down, I sent Chris Conley and Justin Scott-Wesley and Taylor Bradberry a text, and I said the time's now for you guys to step up. I knew they were going to be getting more opportunities. So I sent them a text, I said the time's now for you guys to shine. They've done a great job thus far. We've always prided ourselves on having depth at our position. Any guy making a play at any time. I still believe that holds to be true.
"They are very similar," Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said. "They both run really hard. When I look at Todd, I just see lower body. You know, people try to hit him high a lot of times, and he just keeps churning his legs and gets those extra yards and makes a lot of people miss. "What I’ve seen of Yeldon, he has the speed to get around the edge. He turns up a lot on people that don’t think he’s as fast as he really is. You’ve got to hold the edge of the defense or else he’s gone. I think Todd has speed as well. Obviously looking at Yeldon, he looks a little bit faster, but I would say Todd’s a little bit bigger and more of a bruiser."
There’s a military acronym — RHIP. It stands for, "Rank has its privileges." Ranking matters in college football, where two-thirds of the BCS standings consist of human polls, and privilege has tangible benefits. The benefit of being Alabama is that you never have to explain yourself. You’re Bama. ‘Nuff said. On Nov. 5, 2011, second-ranked Alabama lost at home to No. 1 LSU. The Crimson Tide dropped one spot in the BCS standings. Two weeks later, Bama was back at No. 2, a position that enabled it to win the BCS title without taking its division or conference. On Nov. 10, 2012, top-ranked Alabama lost at home to No. 15 Texas A&M. The Tide slid to No. 4, trailing three unbeaten teams. A week later, Bama was back at No. 2. Contrast this with Oregon, which was ranked No. 2 but lost at home to No. 13 Stanford. The Ducks dropped No. 5, behind three once-beaten teams. Mortals pay for losing. Alabama never falls far or stays down long. Alone among collegiate programs, it comes equipped with an aura. But you know what? The halo fits. When you get as good as Alabama has gotten, you’ve earned the benefit of every doubt — not that there’s much cause for doubting. This is the premier program in the only conference that matters, and it keeps re-staking the claim.
By utterly dominating its reeling archrival, Alabama not only reclaimed the top spot in the UPS Team Performance Index for the first time in six weeks, it moved into prime position to defend its national title. Neither of the two teams standing in the way of the Crimson Tide raising the BCS trophy measure up in overall balance. Using an advanced proprietary formula featuring offensive yards per play, defensive yards allowed per play, various special teams statistics and a microindex of miscues that rewards disciplined teams, UPS has teamed with STATS LLC to normalize those numbers across 120 FBS schools. From there, balance is measured for all of a team's individual units, with the final index weighted toward excellence in those areas and overall winning percentage.
Fans going to Atlanta are reminded by the SEC to be careful when purchasing championship game tickets on the secondary market. As usual, the title game at the Georgia Dome is a sellout. Counterfeit tickets are out there and will not be honored. When buying tickets on the secondary market, fans are advised to look for the authentic SEC holographic foil on several locations of the tickets. Two strips of the foil are located at the top of the ticket. The championship game logo in the middle of the ticket also contains the foil. Within the foil, the SEC circle logo and the words "Southeastern Conference" should be visible to the human eye when rotating the ticket back and forth. The SEC and Georgia Dome are offering a "Ticket Validation Window" at the main box office beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday.