September 20, 2006

Practice Report: Bring in the noise

As promised, head coach Mike Shula pumped in artificial crowd noise for Wednesday's practice to get his team used to playing in front of a hostile away crowd. The shorts-and-shoulderpads practice was quite productive for the Tide, according to Shula.

"I thought we did okay with the crowd noise," Shula said. "It's going to be a lot louder on Saturday. We talked to our players about how important it is to do all the little things right. They've got to concentrate and communicate better than they ever have."

Improving tackling was a priority for the defense and the coaches decided the best way for the defense to do that would be some work against the first team offense.

"We've worked hard in our individual drills," Shula said. "We practiced the first defense against the first offense a little. Their offense is more like our offense than any other team we've played so it gives our defense a chance to get a good feel for things."

Linebacker Terrence Jones missed practice with a shoulder injury, according to Shula, but has not been ruled out to play in Saturday's game.

"He didn't practice the last two days but we're not ruling him out," Shula said. "We'll see how he looks tomorrow and we'll give him an opportunity to go play."

Placekicker Jamie Christensen is also questionable for field goal duty on Saturday but Shula was optimistic about Christensen's recovery.

"Jamie's been kicking the last few days. If we were playing today, he'd be at least doing kickoffs and potentially kicking field goals as well."

Tide focused on stopping the run

In devising their defensive game plan, Shula and his coaches are determined to find a way to stop Arkansas' dangerous duo of backs, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

"Their running backs are our primary concerns," Shula said. "They are two of the best running backs in the country and they run behind a big offensive line. They've also got a big receiver in Marcus Monk that is much taller than any of our corners."

The Tide's linebackers will have to perform well to stop the Razorback running attack and despite losing All-American DeMeco Ryans, Shula believes his current crop can get the job done.

"I think Terrence Jones has done a nice job of filling in for DeMeco," Shula said. "Of the younger guys, down the road we think that Prince Hall, if he continues to improve, has got that kind of ability. We don't have anyone as flashy as DeMeco but they've all done a nice job of playing their role in the defense."

The running game's effectiveness has allowed for true freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain to have more time to develop as an SEC quarterback and Shula has been impressed with what he's seen of the young signal caller.

"We saw him on tape when we recruited him but never saw him in person," Shula said. "His arm strength is really good, he's got a quick release and he's got great accuracy."

"I think Coach Nutt is doing a real good job with him. They're brining him along and giving him more and more each week. Their running game really ties in well with it and that helps him to get comfortable on the field."

Nutt impressed with Tide

After a slow start to the season, Nutt has been feeling some pressure to produce and with a tough matchup against the Tide this weekend, he's happy to have at least one element in his favor.

"Anytime you play at home, we feel like we've got an advantage and we've got to use that 12th man to help us," Nutt said.

Nutt believes his team will need that "12th man" assistance against a Tide team that he believes has plenty strengths on both sides of the ball.

"The most impressive thing about Alabama is when you look at their time of possession, they're keeping the ball and they're not turning the ball over," Nutt said. "Joe Kines also plays very sound defense. He's one of the best in the country and he's got plenty of experience."

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