October 10, 2007

UA-Ole Miss: 5 on the spot

The Alabama football team plays a road game at Ole Miss Saturday. Here are five players to watch against the Cougars:

1.] John Parker Wilson

Wilson has become a fixture on BOL's "5 on the spot" feature, and he'll stay there until his game returns to the form he showed against Arkansas. At this point, Wilson has probably played himself into a weekly defensive game plan that will commit to stopping the run and force him to win the game through the air. Although Ole Miss' defense is the league's worst, a step forward for Wilson in any SEC road game would be more impressive than whatever strides were made in last week's non-conference home game. And with a key game against Tennessee lurking a week ahead, Wilson could use a big day from a confidence standpoint.

2.] Marcus Carter
Ole Miss wide receiver Mike Wallace averages more than 20 yards per catch and gives the Rebels a deep threat not seen in Oxford in years. With Rashad Johnson being so active in run support, Carter will need to play one of his best games against Ole Miss' play-action package. That means keeping a close eye on Wallace. Against the Rebels' standard I-formation/pro-set offense, Alabama will spend a lot of time in its base 3-4 scheme. That means less nickelback help for Carter.

3.] Terry Grant
Grant's role in the offense has fallen by the week since a 173-yard performance against Vanderbilt. Last week's season-lows of three carries and 12 yards can't get any worse, so look for something of a rebound this week. Even if Glen Coffee handles the bulk of the rushing load, Grant can still get 10 touches a game (including receptions) and make an impact with them. Maintaining even that much of a role, however, will require Grant to hold onto the ball, something that's been a problem the last two games.

4.] Javier Arenas
Alabama's explosive kickoff and punt returner hasn't broken a long runback since the Arkansas game. In the three games since he has been quieted, the team has lost twice. Fair catches and directional kicks have kept his average afloat at 13.3 yards (3rd-SEC). Even elite return men can't be expected to break a long runback in every game, but the timing couldn't be better for Arenas to make another loud noise. Think Tennessee would be better timing? Maybe, but revisit the question if Arenas fields an Ole Miss punt in a 10-10 fourth-quarter tie.

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