Practice Going Well for SEC Opener

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

Sept. 23, 2009

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Alabama football team practiced for two hours in full pads Wednesday afternoon at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility as preparations continue for Saturday’s Southeastern Conference opener against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

“Well, everything you do all year long, whether it’s off-season program, spring practice or summer conditioning, is trying to get ready for your conference play,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Arkansas certainly has an outstanding team. Bobby (Petrino) has done a fantastic job of improving their team in every way.  They’re probably one of the best passing teams in the country, systematically, as well as the players that they have. Ryan Mallett has done a fantastic job for them and their defense is much improved. They’ve got good team speed and play well on special teams.  This is going to be a challenging game for us and the first game in our division as well as our conference.”

Alabama and Arkansas will meet Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (CDT) on CBS Sports, with Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson calling the action to a national audience. The game can also be heard on the Crimson Tide Sports Network with Eli Gold, Phil Savage and Barry Krauss describing the action.

ANTWAN ODOM HONOERD: Former Alabama defensive lineman Antwan Odom was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week by the NFL on Wednesday. Odom tied a franchise record at Green Bay this past Sunday with five sacks, helping to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to a 31-24 win at Lambeau Field.  The Bengals, who have compiled individual sack records since 1976, had seen such a performance only once previously, when Eddie Edwards logged five sacks vs. Cleveland on Dec. 21, 1980. 

Odom produced 31 yards in losses with his five sacks of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Two of his first three sacks helped push the Packers out of field-goal range, forcing punting situations, and midway through the fourth quarter, he pushed the Packers into a third-and-15 situation at their 28, with a punt the result of that drive. 

Odom also recorded two sacks against Denver in the season opener and his seven-sack total leads by three in the NFL sacks race. Odom and Edwards now share the Bengals record for most sacks over any two-game span, as Edwards had seven over the last two games of 1980.  According to Elias Sports Bureau reports this week that since 1982, when individual sacks became an official NFL statistic, no player has matched that total for the first two games of a season. The previous record for Games 1-2 of a season was 6.5 sacks by Detroit defensive end William Gay in 1983 (Gay finished ’83 with 13.5).

Coach Saban participated in the SEC Head Coaches Teleconference on Wednesday morning and here are some of those comments:

On progress of your defense after three games:
“I think we’ve got a lot of areas to improve on.  I think we’ve played the run fairly well for the most part.  We’ve probably given up more big plays than we like and we’ve got to be more consistent on third down.  We need to improve in our ability to get turnovers.  We’ve done a lot of good things.  I just think we want to continue to improve in every phase of it.  We are going to be much more challenged in so many more ways in some of the games we have coming up, including this game with Arkansas. It will be interesting to see how we respond.”

On importance of third-down conversions in this game:
“You always have to do a good job on third down. They have a lot of capabilities. They are a very good passing team and I think some of your third-down conversion rate is how well you do on the other downs and what third-down situation you’re in. If you end up getting a lot of third-and-longs, then you’re going to have more difficulty, probably converting on third down.  There is no reason that the way they throw the ball and the capability they have from the skill standpoint and the quarterback standpoint; we definitely respect what their ability would be on third down.”

On strength of SEC Western Division with three teams ranked in AP top-7:
“I think it speaks volumes for the quality of our division.  Obviously, Ole Miss and LSU are getting that recognition, but I think everybody on our side has played well.  Auburn is undefeated.  Arkansas is, we feel, as good as anybody, in terms of what they might be able to accomplish this year with the numbers they have put up, especially in how they’ve been able to score points and I think they are much improved on defense. I think from top to bottom, our division is really strong.”

On Arkansas’ defense:
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for their capabilities and I think they have improved dramatically defensively. I think their players understand what they are doing and I think they improved through the course of last year as we watched later in the year last year.  We have a tremendous amount of respect of the capabilities of Arkansas’ defense and sometimes the style of the game dictates a lot of big plays in the game.  I think they are much improved and played very well in the first game and are very capable of being a very good defensive team.”

On Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett:
“I think he understands their system.  He is throwing the ball to the right place.  He throwing it on time and he gets it out of his hand and he seems to do a good job of executing their offense overall, whether they have some check with me’s, he gets them in the right play. I think he has done a good job all the way around. It seems like the players believe in him and he is a good leader for them.  I think he is an outstanding quarterback and he certainly has a lot of arm talent, has been accurate and has made a tremendous amount of plays in the first two games.”