Sep 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide center Barrett Jones (75) and guard Chance Warmack (65) prior to the snap against the Michigan Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
"Offensively we've scored touchdowns. We'd like to score them 100 percent of the time. That's probably not realistic, but we have come away with points," said UA coach Nick Saban. "We've made some improvement, but that's going to be much more challenging as we get into our league play."
Alabama guard Chance Warmack has an interesting theory on why the Crimson Tide's offense is hot in the red zone, and it involves a particular emphasis by Tide offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. "The mindset is just when you get in the red area, it’s a different attitude. Coach says you have to set your hair on fire," Warmack said. "When we get in the red zone, we're all looking to score." Back up a minute: Set your hair on fire? Warmack grinned, nodded once and said firmly, "Got to set your hair on fire."
Although it may seem easy to adopt, the process focus mentality is actually quite difficult to maintain. The noise of results can become so blinding at times that it feels impossible to remain disciplined toward the process. I advise all of my athlete and businesspeople clients to write down their three most important process goals and keep them posted in a place where they can be easily revisited. Doing this makes it more likely to remember what is important. Success is then determined by whether or not you will choose to take action or not. Always remember, process guarantees results.
After missing all of last season with an injury, Arkansas running back is averaging 3.9 yards per carry for the Razorbacks through two games this year (34 for 132). Saban said he sees a healthy back in the early 2012 film available of Davis. "I certainly think he's playing extremely well right now," Saban said. "He hasn't had maybe quite as many opportunities, but when he has had the ball, he looks very effective, healthy, fast, quick, strong."
Goodness knows, good isn’t good enough for AJ McCarron. Great is better, but the Alabama quarterback wants to be the best. And then he still wouldn’t be satisfied. He’s the first to admit he’s hard on himself and the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s offense. "That’s the way I was raised, always trying to be perfect, the way Coach (Nick) Saban’s always coached," McCarron said. "So when you play and you get a ‘W,’ that’s all great and dandy, but it’s really not as good as you can play. So you really can’t be that happy at the end of the day."
The Razorbacks will test Alabama's defense with a stellar passing attack that is netting 340.5 yards per game through two outings. All-American candidate Tyler Wilson is one of the nation's premier signal-callers and has played like it, completing 63.8 percent of his throws, for 563 yards and five TDs against just one INT. Tight end Chris Gragg has emerged as Wilson's top target, leading the team in receptions (14), receiving yards (193) and TD catches (2). The ground game has been subdued thus far, averaging just 130.0 yards per game, but tailback Knile Davis (66.0 ypg) is as good as it gets in the SEC and will get better as the season wears on, coming off a lost 2011 due to injury.
"I have really been pleased with the way our guys have practiced this week," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "We have had really positive energy, and we are trying to work hard in areas that we have shown some deficiencies in as well as get prepared for a very good Arkansas team."
"We actually asked some of their coaches on their staff if they had any clues on us, and they said they didn’t," Saban said. "I don’t know. I hadn’t heard that." Saban paused when he was informed that Western Kentucky was picking up signals from Fluker. "Good to know," Saban said. Center Barrett Jones said Alabama’s staff regularly addresses those kinds of tendencies. "It goes far beyond what we’re tipping also," Jones said. "Say we have a certain formation that we’ve only passed out of or only run out of, we’ll run the opposite play out of that just to make sure we’re not tipping off anything.
Junior quarterback AJ McCarron said, more than anything, Arkansas’ loss would only serve to make the team angry. "Yeah, definitely," McCarron said. "They still got a chance to win the SEC. They’re definitely going to throw everything in the book at us. We’re going to have to be ready for the things they’ve shown us on film, things that they haven’t and things they’re going to come up with."
Arkansas went through a great deal of adversity in the off-season with the dismissal of Bobby Petrino. Still, under John L. Smith's guidance and a full array of offensive weapons, the Razorbacks were considered a real threat in the SEC. The season-opener presented its own challenges however, as Arkansas defeated FCS foe Jacksonville State 49-24. That was followed by last weekend's stunning home loss to ULM (34-31 OT), dropping the Razorbacks from a top-10 ranking all the way out of the national polls. The loss doesn't change anything according to Smith in terms of Arkansas' goals. "It has to be a positive week. We have to go to the field. We have to practice that way. We are still undefeated in the league. We still have the same goals in front of us to win an SEC Championship. We just have to bounce back and get it done. We have to prepare well and play well. That's where we will start."
Alabama’s defense is 13th nationally against the run, allowing just 57.5 yards per game. In their past three games against Alabama, the Razorbacks have rushed 65 times for 144 yards, an average of 2.2 yards per carry and 48 yards per game. "I don’t know that we’re getting enough push," Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said. "We have to get more push on the line of scrimmage to begin with. "It was disappointing we’re not able to pound it like we would have liked, and it’s like we said all along from day one, there comes a point in the game where you have to be able to run it to win."
Davis is going to get the bulk of touches in this game and must be successful to keep Bama’s offense off the field. I expect Wilson will play, but the Arkansas offensive -line failed to keep him upright against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks and Louisiana-Monroe. Alabama’s defensive-line, a bigger demon. It’s the Bama line-backing core that Davis will be introduced to that should worry Arkansas fans. It’s lead by senior Nico Johnson and junior C.J. Mosley. Alabama breeds future NFL line-backers, and these two are certainly on their way to the league. Sophomore line-backers Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson will also be expected to take snaps in effort to contain the Arkansas running-back.
It was Allen's emergence during the summer and preseason camp that allowed Arkansas to move Mitchell to wide receiver. Allen struggled in his first extended playing time in last week's loss, finishing 6 of 20 for 85 yards as the Razorbacks blew a 21-point third-quarter lead. He was also victimized by several dropped passes against the Warhawks, one of which resulted in an interception. Allen didn't make any excuses for his performance, but he did say the Razorbacks had a false sense of security after his 13-yard third-quarter touchdown pass to Mekale McKay put them up 28-7. "Everyone's thinking, 'We've got this thing wrapped up,' and we kind of let off the pedal a little bit," Allen said. "And obviously that bit us in the butt, and they came back and we lost the game." This week, Smith has remained confident in Allen, who has long been thought of as the quarterback of the future with the Razorbacks. Facing Alabama is another matter altogether. "He knows he can play the game, we know he can play the game," Smith said. "It was kind of an unfair situation for him to be placed in at that point in time. By no means are we attaching any blame to his performance at all. He was OK; he needs other people around him to step up and play well as well and give him some help."
Who could steal the show: Arkansas: Chris Gragg. The 6-3 senior has caught 14 balls for 193 yards and two scores, and will be a safety valve for whoever starts at quarterback. Gragg is a team leader who graduated in May with a degree in sports management. Alabama: Dee Milliner. One of the SEC's top cover corners, the junior has five interceptions and 20 pass breakups in 27 games played. He missed last week's 35-0 win over Western Kentucky with a strained hip flexor but is good to go Saturday.
"He was out there on the field today leading like he should and throwing" Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said Wednesday night. "It’s not the end of the world. We’ve got to keep carrying on. Tuesday was as good a Tuesday practice as I can remember in a long time, from a mistake-free standpoint. It’s been a good week."
Asked about Morris' place in the battle at his post-practice press conference, Saban reaffirmed that it was a two-man race to be No. 2. "We’re really pleased and satisfied with Alec’s progress. He’s probably just not quite ready and the other two guys are a little further ahead," Saban said. "We’re going to continue to work those guys equally."
In 1925, the ever entrepreneurial Champ Pickens struck upon a brilliant idea to promote Alabama football and, in the process, inadvertently created a publishing phenomena. Following the conclusion of the 1924 season, Pickens created an eight-page photo pamphlet titled "Alabama" believed to be the first publication devoted to Crimson Tide football ever produced.