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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2007
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Ole Miss 'huge, must win' game for Alabama

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Ronald Steele may not play against Ole Miss in Alabama's final home game Wednesday at 7 p.m.

What else is new?

Steele has not practiced the last couple of days, and Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said Steele is listed as doubtful but that the team will see where he is on game day.

"I think everybody knows where we are," Gottfried said. "Our players know. They understand. But what we can control is from today forward. Part of it will be making a determination with Ron. With our team, it's tough to have a player of that caliber and then some uncertainty as to whether he can play."

There is a different feeling from the Tide camp. It can only be described as a nervous sense of urgency.

Just a week ago, the team was a little more relaxed. It had just beaten Kentucky and possibly solidified an NCAA tournament berth.

Players joked with one another and smiles were obvious on many of their faces.

The load of not having a quality win had been lifted from the team's shoulders and Steele was healthy.

Fast forward to Tuesday. No laughs, just stern looks. There was a sense of focus.

When asked to describe the importance the team's upcoming game, Athens High graduate Richard Hendrix simply said, "huge, must win."

"You know you have to step up your game and bring what it takes to win," Hendrix added. "It's tough, (not having Steele) but you just have to fight through it."

Alabama (19-9, 6-8) does have history to fall back on though. Starting forward Chuck Davis was lost for the remainder of the season with a torn knee ligament in last season's SEC opener.

But Davis was an athletic wing player, not a dynamic point guard like Steele who gets everyone involved in the team's offense. Kind of like the
marquee position in another sport.

"Put Joe Montana in the game and all of a sudden at wide receiver he's going to put it to me right where I want it
and I'm going to be a better player," Gottfried said. "Not only am I going to be a better player, I know I am going to be a better player because of him. With a guy of Ron's caliber, there is a level of confidence you bring in.
"

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