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November 30, 2009

Notebook: Ingram says he'll be ready for title game

TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama running back Mark Ingram practiced Monday afternoon after sustaining a hip pointer against Auburn.

"It feels good," he said earlier Monday afternoon. "I kind of bruised it in the game, but it feels better. So I'll be ready for Saturday, most definitely."

Although Nick Saban indicated that Ingram and a few other players might be kept from contact, no one was wearing the corresponding black jersey when the team worked out inside the Hank Crisp Facility. Junior running back Terry Grant (abdominal strain) was also in uniform, but didn't appear to be doing much.

The coach gave the team an extra day off during the weekend, which Ingram called "huge."

The Crimson Tide's other injury concern is at linebacker, where senior Cory Reamer aggravated a hamstring strain against Chattanooga and wasn't able to practice much last week.

"We thought he would be ok," Saban said. "But he wasn't able to practice a lot, so (safety) Ali (Sharrief) ended up taking a lot of the snaps in the nickel. So when we got to the game, Cory thought he was ok, but we had to make a decision of how do we manage the guy to get through the game."

Reamer only played in the base defense and was held off of special teams, with senior fullback Barron Huber replacing him on punt coverage.

"That's a thing you don't want to push a guy and lose him," Saban said. "Hopefully he'll be better this week."

Smart named Broyles finalist
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was named a finalist for the Broyles Award for assistant coach of the year.

The other finalists are Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn, Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, and TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas.

Strong is only the second third-time finalist in the award's history.

Here's the Alabama rundown:

Heisman Trophy: Finalists announced Dec. 7.

Maxwell Award (outstanding player): Mark Ingram, finalist along with Tim Tebow (Florida) and Colt McCoy (Texas): Winner announced Dec. 10.

Walter Camp Award (Player of the year): Ingram, Rolando McClain semifinalists. Finalists announced Dec. 2.

Butkus Award (linebacker): Rolando McClain, finalist along with Sam Kindle (Texas), Eric Norwood (South Carolina), Brandon Spikes (Florida) and Sean Witherspoon (Missouri). Winner announced Dec. 8.

Bednarik Award (defensive player): Terrence Cody, finalist along with Spikes and Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska). Winner announced Dec. 10.

Doak Walker Award (running back): Ingram, finalist along with Toby Gerhart (Stanford) and C.J. Spiller (Clemson). Winner named Dec. 10.

Lou Groza Award (kicker): Leigh Tiffin, finalist along with Kai Forbath (UCLA) and Blair Walsh (Georgia). Winner named Dec. 10.

Bronko Nagurski Award (defensive player): Cody, finalist along with Pat Angerer (Iowa), Eric Berry (Tennessee), Jerry Hughes (TCU) and Suh. Winner announced Dec. 7.

Rotary Lombardi Award (lineman): Cody, finalist along with Hughes, Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) and Suh. Winner announced Dec. 9.

Lott Trophy (defensive impact player): McClain, finalist along with Hughes, Berry and Suh.

Rimington Trophy (center): Finalists were scheduled to be announced last week.
Eddie Robinson Award (coach): Finalists announced Dec. 9.

Broyles Award (assistant coach): Kirby Smart, finalist along with Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn, Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, and TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas. Winner announced Dec. 8.

No longer in the running: Davey O'Brien Award (quarterback); Unitas Golden Arm (senior quarterback); Fred Biletnikoff Award (wide receiver); John Mackey Award (tight end); Ray Guy Award (punter); Walter Campbell Trophy (scholar-athlete, formerly known as the Draddy Trophy); Outland Trophy (interior lineman); Jim Thorpe Award (defensive back); George Munger Award (coach); Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end).

Weekly awards
Although junior linebacker Rolando McClain was named the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the week on Monday, he seemed more pleased to be able to finally talk about Saturday's No.1 vs. No. 2 rematch with Florida.

"Florida put us out of our run for the national championship," McClain said. "It was always in the back of my mind. I know it was in the back of the other guys' minds. But we did a good job, with the help of Coach Saban, forcing us to stay focused. We stay focused and we just have to stay focused because, I mean, if we didn't beat those guys, those other 12 teams, we wouldn't even be in this circumstance right now. So we just have to stay focused and do your job and keep your mind on what's important, and those games were important then.

"We won them, and we're glad for them, but now it's back. We want that rematch, and like I said, they put us out of our run for the national championship last year, and we haven't forgotten, it's been in the back of our mind. We're going to try to step up and play our best game."

McClain had a team-high 12 tackles with one sack, another half-tackle for loss and a pass deflection against the Tigers. The sack ended an Auburn drive at midfield to set up Alabama's game-winning drive.

Senior Javier Arenas was honorable mention for SEC special-teams player of the week.

McClain was also named one of the defensive players of the week by the coaching staff along with Arenas and senior linebacker Eryk Anders. Sophomore receiver Julio Jones and senior tight end Colin Peek shared the offensive honors, with Arenas, senior punter P.J. Fitzgerald and Sharrief on special teams.

Domination unlikely
Even though Alabama is the first SEC team to finish back-to-back regular seasons undefeated in 35 years, and Florida's senior class has already won two national championships, neither head coach thinks the SEC title game will be dominated by the two schools like they did in the early 1990s.

"I think it's so close in the SEC that I don't see it that way," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "I think a lot of people might, but I don't. I just know it shows up every day on the doorstep when we go play in this conference, a bunch of great football players and some very good teams. So I can see where people think that, but I think it's just more balanced than that."

Alabama and Florida played in the first three SEC title games, 1992-96, and in its 18-year history this is the seventh time they've met for the championship.

"I can't remember where I was in '92 to '96," Saban said. "But they have a great football team. Urban's done a great job there and they've certainly dominated the last two out of the last three championships, national championships."

Offensive problems against Auburn
Although Auburn's extra time to prepare obviously helped its offense get out to a 14-0 lead Friday, the Tide feels Tigers' defense benefited as well.

"Their coaching staff did a great job of game-planning," Ingram said. "They had eight men up in the box, all throughout the day.

"Couldn't get any room, couldn't get any space, just couldn't get anything going. They controlled the line of scrimmage so we couldn't get too much of a push. That's a credit to them."

Ingram was limited to 30 rushing yards and admitted he was frustrated by his ability to break free.

"I got frustrated, which is out of my character," he said. "I probably shouldn't have done that, let the emotions of the game get the better of me.

"When you get frustrated, it's never good, it affects how you play."

Teammates said that Auburn gave Alabama a number of different looks, some unorthodox, but successfully executed its game plan.

"It seemed like every time they had a safety come up he was right in the hole we were running to, or it seemed they were always where we were going," senior guard Mike Johnson said. "There's nothing more I can say about that. We did a pretty good job of getting a hat on a hat, but they always seemed to have a guy in the right place at the right time."

Tide-bits
Johnson won't be looking for payback on the player who gave him a blindside shot to the head late in last year's game. "I can't remember who it was," he recently said. "I think it was either Carlos Dunlap or Brandon Spikes. It wasn't on the film, it wasn't on TV. It wasn't a big deal. Whomever it was, they got away with it."

Peek, who hails from the Jacksonville area, is already getting a lot of messages about Saturday's game. His grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, three uncles, three aunts and eight first cousins all went to Florida, some of whom were athletic stars. "Yeah, I'm getting some trash-talking already," he said. "This is a big game for everyone on the team, but I was joking around, "Last week was for your state pride, this week for my state pride. I'm looking forward to hopefully having a great game, but helping our team have a great game."

Saban was asked once again about his offseason visit with Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who faced Florida in last year's national championships. The two have known each other for years. "We just got together, we did talk a little bit of ball, nothing specific," he said. "We're both defensive guys, we enjoy talking defensive football. (Texas defensive coordinator Will) Muschamp is my good friend too, we usually get together at the lake once every summer, but more often than not we sort of gravitate to taking about ball at some point in time.

McElroy admitted to reporters that the offense has a few new wrinkles left to show, which the team has been practicing for a "few weeks." He also called Ingram's pass attempt last week "Low and outside"

The SEC has issued a warning for fans to beware of possible counterfeit or stolen tickets. The Georgia Dome will have a ticket validation window at the main box office beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Walk-on Thomas Darrah was wearing a white No. 15 jersey during practice, which really stood out because the quarterbacks usually wear black. That's Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's number.


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