Alabama, Auburn Football Notebook
Fewer than 30 minutes after beating Vanderbilt 24-10, Alabama had its attention on its next opponent, No. 16-ranked Arkansas.
The Crimson Tide players already were chatting up Saturday’s matchup and looking forward to the opportunity to get some revenge on the Razorbacks after last year’s 24-23 loss.
“It’s just guys are hungry,” Alabama wide receiver DJ Hall said. “We aren’t satisfied one bit. You’re never satisfied. We’re already looking to play Arkansas.”
Even though Alabama coach Nick Saban spent last season in the NFL, he said he watched Arkansas coach Houston Nutt and thought he did one of the best coaching jobs in the Southeastern Conference.
“Those guys are fantastic players,” said Saban, who was 3-2 at LSU against Nutt. “They run the ball as well as anybody in the country. Statistically, they are far and away the best rushing team in the country. They make plays in a lot of ways and they’re well coached.”
Not only does Alabama’s defense want an identity of hitting hard; players say they want a reputation of causing turnovers, too.
Alabama created three fumbles against Vanderbilt, but didn’t recover any of them. The only turnover the Tide forced was an interception by safety Rashad Johnson at the end of the first quarter.
Alabama had a chance in the third quarter when cornerback Kareem Jackson knocked the ball out of wide receiver Earl Bennett’s hands. Tide safety Marcus Carter went for the ball, but Vanderbilt wide receiver Sean Walker recovered the ball.
“We definitely need to create more turnovers,” Tide cornerback Simeon Castille said. “I try to pride myself on creating turnovers, and I have to do a better job. We’re getting them in practice and that will help us get them in the game.”
Daily Sports Writer
AUBURN — Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Sunday he will shuffle players around on special teams to give a break to defensive starters.
“We’ve been trying to play our better guys on special teams, but it’s taken too much of a strain on a defense that’s having to play too many snaps,” Tuberville said Sunday.
One of those defensive players who played nearly 100 snaps in Saturday’s 26-23 loss to South Florida was Decatur High grad Jerraud Powers. A starting cornerback, Powers had six tackles, including one for lost yardage.
Like most of the starters on defense, Powers has played on special teams.
“We’ll be changing a lot of special teams personnel,” Tuberville said. “Young guys are going to have to go in and play. If they make mistakes, they make mistakes.”
Punter Ryan Shoemaker dislocated his elbow when he collided with a teammate following his second punt Saturday night. Tuberville said Sunday that Shoemaker is “probable” for this week’s Southeastern Conference opener against Mississippi State.
Shoemaker, who had punts of 52 and 53 yards before the injury, was told Saturday he would not be able to return until at least 10 days. He will be out a maximum of three weeks. But he was given good news Sunday when doctors looked at the elbow, which was wrapped in a sling.
“They were expecting it to be all black and blue,” he said. “It’s not.”
Shoemaker, who said his left elbow was dislocated near his triceps, said “there is a possibility” he can return this week, but next week would be more realistic.
Walk-on true freshman Patrick Tatum punted in Shoemaker’s place. He averaged 38 yards on three punts with a long of 40. His first punt of the game pinned South Florida inside its own 1-yard line.
“He did a heck of a job,” Shoemaker said. “It had to be tough coming in there all of a sudden.”
Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite hurt his hamstring early during Saturday’s game. Tuberville said the senior “will be out” this week. Wilhite’s likely replacement will be Pat Lee or Zach Gilbert.
Safety Aairon Savage, who suffered an ankle injury in the season opener, did not play Saturday. Tuberville said Savage “again will be doubtful for this game,” but defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is expecting Savage to play this week, along with linebacker Tray Blackmon.
Blackmon twisted an ankle in the season opener and did not play against South Florida. Both Blackmon and Savage practiced Sunday, Muschamp said.
Starting linebacker Merrill Johnson suffered a bruised shoulder Saturday. Tuberville said an MRI revealed that “everything’s fine.” He expects to know more by Tuesday.
Linebacker Chris Evans filled in for the injured middle linebacker Tray Blackmon during Saturday’s game, gaining the most production points from coaches.
Evans’ 14 tackles were the most by an Auburn player since Karlos Dansby had 14 in 2002 against Florida. Evans, who is 6-foot-0 and 221 pounds, had 19 tackles for his career before Saturday.
“I was nervous, had butterflies,” said Evans, a junior from Prichard. “You just hope you don’t go down there and don’t let the team down.”
“There are some more talented guys out there, but I don’t know that there’s a lot who play harder than (Evans) does,” Muschamp said. “I was impressed with his effort what he was able to do.”
Evans may find himself playing outside linebacker this week against Mississippi State. With Blackmon expected to return to the starting lineup, Evans may have to fill in for Johnson, the Tigers’ injured outside linebacker. Evans said he played the outside linebacker position during his first couple of years at Auburn.
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