Alabama Football Update:
Arkansas game is an important SEC West contest
By Hunter Ford
In a brief Wednesday afternoon press conference, Nick Saban said his team practiced “a little bit better today.” The Tide coach emphasized having the right “mindset” to battle what he believes will be a “tough, physical” Razorback running game.
Saban said the Tide is not used to playing against a two-back “downhill” running attack, and said it will be just as hard to adjust to that style of play as it is “an empty backfield.”
Stressing the importance of a contest with an SEC West foe, Saban said he doesn’t believe his team, or any individual player has played at the highest level.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best game,” he said. “Nobody on this team has played their best game yet.”
Comparisons to last year’s game, which Alabama won 52-0 at Arkansas, and last week’s 52-7 win by South Carolina over the Razorbacks, also at Arkansas, haven’t sat well with Saban.
“I’ve been asked too many times already about last year’s game, about last week’s game…their game, our game,” he said. Saban said the only thing that matters now, “is how we play Saturday.”
Saban said that “sometimes good is the enemy of great.” He used a golf analogy to emphasize his point. He said the difference between the top ranked pro golfer and the eighth ranked golfer was only a half a stroke. But the difference in prize money for the top ranked golfer was tremendous.
Starting center Ryan Kelly, who was hurt in the first half of the Ole Miss game, has been cleared to play against Arkansas. Offensive lineman Chad Lindsay played two full games in Kelly’s absence, and seems likely to share duties with Kelly against Arkansas.
Saban said Kelly played well before his injury, and Lindsay also played well when he was called on.
“I think it’s good to have the opportunity to play both guys,” Saban said. “The competition is probably good for both guys.”
Referencing back to Arkansas’ two-back running attack, Saban said it was a: “Huge advantage for them. Most teams aren’t used to playing against that.”
To effectively defend against it, Saban said the Tide defenders will need to “be physical, strike blockers, and fill gaps.”
He said “bad stunts” could lead defenders out of plays, but noted “it’s all execution.” “If you don’t strike blockers up front, you have no chance.”
Saban said his own tandem of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake has been playing well. Saban noted his concern for ball security, which was a problem in the Kentucky game. But he said he had “a lot of confidence” not only in Yeldon and Drake, but with several younger backs including Dee Hart, and two freshmen, not named by Saban.
Arkansas will visit Tuscaloosa with a 3-4 record and a four-game losing streak. Arkansas has not defeated Alabama since a 24-23 double-overtime victory in 2006 at Fayettville.
Saban is 6-0 against Arkansas as the Alabama head coach.