College Football Notebook
TUSCALOOSA — Who would have thought that Alabama linebacker Prince Hall would need an injury to a teammate to work his way into the starting lineup?
A 2007 preseason second-team All-SEC selection, Hall was suspended for Alabama’s season opener against Western Carolina. With Hall gone, freshman Rolando McClain of Decatur entrenched himself into Hall’s spot.
Hall played sparingly against Vanderbilt and Arkansas, but a shoulder injury suffered by Darren Mustin thrust Hall into a starting role for Saturday’s 26-23 overtime loss to Georgia. He led the team with 12 tackles.
“I look at the game like I look at every game — to try to go out there and give my best to achieve the No. 1 goal, which is to win the game as a defense and show our identity,” Hall said.
Hall said he knew Mustin would be out with a shoulder injury since the beginning of that week’s practice, and described his role on Saturday as “filling in until he gets healthy.”
The fourth quarter of Alabama’s loss against Georgia saw the emergence of backup running backs Glen Coffee and Roy Upchurch. The two combined for 11 of Alabama’s 15 rushing plays in the quarter and 47 of the Crimson Tide’s 61 rushing yards.
Coffee had 28 yards on nine carries in the quarter on his way to a team-high 16 attempts for 62 yards for the night. Upchurch had 19 yards on two carries in the final period, which accounted for all of his rushing attempts against Georgia.
So what happened to Terry GrantHe had two carries in the quarter for 13 yards and finished with 80 yards on 11 attempts.
Grant did not say why he got the ball so little down the stretch, but said it was not injury-related.
“I’m fine,” Grant said. “I guess that was part of the whole game plan.”
As expected, after the loss, the Crimson Tide dropped in both the USA Today coaches poll and The Associated Press poll.
Alabama is now ranked 22nd in the AP poll and 24th in the USA Today list. Last week, the Crimson Tide was No. 16 and No. 20 in the respective polls.
Those who don’t have cable television will be able to watch Alabama this week. CBS will carry Alabama’s game against Florida State in Jacksonville, Fla., at 4 p.m. WHNT-19 with have the local broadcast.
Daily Sports Writer
AUBURN — Safety Michael McNeil and linebacker Chris Evans joined Auburn’s growing injury list.
Head coach Tommy Tuberville said McNeil and Evans both suffered knee injuries during Saturday’s 55-20 win against New Mexico State. Both had MRI exams Sunday, but the results were not immediately available.
Running back Tristan Davis, who was expected to be Auburn’s third-string tailback this season before a preseason injury, will take a return trip to Birmingham on Monday for an X-ray. Davis, a junior, suffered a fracture to his toe in August.
Tuberville is hoping that Davis will get “the green light” to begin running. Davis said his goal is to return for the Vanderbilt game next week. Auburn is down to only two true tailbacks in Ben Tate and Mario Fannin. Suspended starter Brad Lester is cleared to return against Vanderbilt, ending a six-game suspension that dates back to the Cotton Bowl.
Tate collapsed in the third quarter Saturday night and remained down on the field for several minutes, but after an examination by trainers, he returned to Tuberville’s delight.
If Tate or Fannin were to be knocked out before Lester or Davis returns, Tuberville said that his emergency tailback would be fullback Danny Perry or receiver/punt returner Robert Dunn.
Auburn’s running back position is not the only part of the squad facing depth issues because of injuries. Starting linebacker Tray Blackmon (ankle) has missed the last three games, and linebacker Merrill Johnson (shoulder) has missed the last two.
Tuberville said Johnson is “a ways away” from returning. He is suffering from a rotator cuff injury. Johnson said Sunday that he is working to get the strength back in his shoulder.
Blackmon has been practicing for two weeks and dressed out the last two games. Tuberville listed his chances of playing Saturday against Florida as “probable.” Blackmon said he practiced Sunday and is feeling “90 to 95 percent” healthy.
Senior left tackle King Dunlap (elbow) and guard Leon Hart (shoulder) did not dress out Saturday. Tuberville said Hart will be “out a few weeks with a rotator cuff problem.” It was not clear if Dunlap would return this week.
Decatur High grad Jerraud Powers may get a crack at playing safety.
Because of the mounting injuries at the linebacker position, safety Eric Brock was moved to outside linebacker for Saturday’s game and could continue playing at that position.
Tuberville said Sunday that may cause a domino effect, which may include Powers playing some safety. Powers, normally the Tigers’ starting cornerback, said he played safety some last season and would do it again if called upon.
With Brock playing linebacker lately and McNeil being injured, Zac Etheridge and Aairon Savage most likely will be the starting safeties, but a third man is needed for the six-defensive back package.
Following each game, defensive coaches give players a certain number of points for their production in that week’s game. Powers’ points have ranged from 10 to 22, but he led the defense with 27 production points against New Mexico State.
Still, the 5-foot-8, 185-pounder said he wasn’t entirely pleased with the effort.
“I played decent. I tackled pretty good in the open field,” Powers said. “I had a couple of missed assignments that sort of hurt us a little bit.”
Powers finished the game with six tackles, including a bone-crushing hit in the first quarter that forced a fumble. Defensive end Pat Sims picked up the loose ball and returned it for a score.
Coaches announced their players of the game in Auburn’s 55-20 win over New Mexico State.
On offense quarterback Brandon Cox and receiver Rod Smith were selected, while Powers and safety Zac Etheridge won the defensive honors. Walk-on punter Patrick Tatum and Josh Hebert were selected as the special teams players of the game.
Auburn’s game against third-ranked Florida on Saturday has been slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff and will be televised on ESPN.
The Tigers will be making their first trip to Gainesville since 2002 when the Gators won 30-23 in overtime. The Tigers’ last victory in The Swamp came in 1994. Auburn won last year’s meeting 27-17 over eventual-national champion Florida.
Daily sports writer
KNOXVILLE — Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said he’s looking forward to having an open date before hosting No. 15 Georgia on Oct. 6.
“It couldn’t come at a better time for us with the physical schedule that we have played,” Fulmer said Sunday, a day after the Vols beat Arkansas State 48-27. “We have a chance to heal up in a lot of places, and, at the same time, it’s an opportunity to learn and improve.”
In terms of healing, it’s an extra week for Erik Ainge to allow the broken pinkie on his throwing hand to get better, as well as give punter Britton Colquitt more time to recoup his injured leg.
Cornerback Marsalous Johnson will also have time to heal after suffering a bruised sternum in the Arkansas State game. Fulmer said an X-ray of Johnson revealed no significant injury, and he expects him to be fine.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Steve Spurrier is at it again, shuffling quarterbacks at South Carolina until he finds someone who plays the ball coach’s game.
The latest demotee is Blake Mitchell, a fifth-year senior who only a week ago Spurrier declared would be the one to take the 16th-ranked Gamecocks (3-1) as far as they would go this season.
But after South Carolina’s undefeated start ended with No. 2 LSU’s 28-16 victory, Spurrier said freshman Chris Smelley would get the start when the Gamecocks return to action this week against Mississippi State (3-1).
It’s the second straight year Mitchell’s been benched early in the season.
“Blake’s had a lot of pressure on him” and that has led to erratic performances, Spurrier said. “So we’re going to give Chris Smelley a chance right now.”
The Associated Press
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