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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2007
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Capps eager to redeem himself

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Almost a year ago, Alabama offensive lineman Chris Capps sat in front of his computer, still with fresh memories of Quentin Groves.

The Auburn defensive end had burned Capps in Alabama's Iron Bowl loss, blowing by him to sack quarterback John Parker Wilson twice, causing two fumbles that led to 14 Auburn points.

The 6-foot-6, 298-pound Capps had turned into the face of an Alabama team that had lost its fifth straight game to Auburn. Fans on Internet message boards screamed for the Tide to bench him. Reporters wrote stories about those two plays as the turning point in the game that contributed to former coach Mike Shula's ouster.

As Capps checked his e-mail, he noticed a letter from his high school football coach Wayne Brantley, which included a quote from former President Theodore Roosevelt:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings."

The note didn't cure everything. It helped as 10 games into his senior season, through both suspension and injury, Capps has returned to his spot in the lineup.

"It's easy for people who are not out there to criticize, but those people have no idea the hours you spent in the weight room, or the hours you spent in practice, working on your technique and conditioning and watching film and all those types of things," Brantley said to Capps after the Iron Bowl. "If they knew who you were as a person and all the effort you put into this, nobody would criticize you."

For Capps, the term "roller coaster" might fit his Alabama career.

In 2005, he started all 12 games at the all-important left-tackle position, then was moved to right tackle to make room for Andre Smith in 2006.

But near the end of last season, Capps lost his way.
He made mistakes, and the game-changing defensive plays they caused only magnified his troubles.

In Mississippi State's win over Alabama last season, Bulldogs defensive end Titus Brown had what he called the best game of his career after going against Capps.

Then the Iron Bowl happened. After those two fumbles, the Alabama coaching staff removed Capps and put in Kyle Tatum at right tackle for some plays. On others, they shifted center Antoine Caldwell to right tackle and inserted Evan Cardwell at center.

It took Capps a few days, but he moved past that game and into the next season.

"I put it behind me," Capps said. "I can't really think about it."

When the 2007 season started, for the first time since he was a freshman, Capps began the year on the bench.

His first major action came in the final minutes of a win over Ole Miss on Oct. 13, and according to the Tide coaching staff, he kept practicing hard so he could be as prepared as possible when his opportunity came.

It came Saturday against Mississippi State, when Capps made his first start of the season. Caldwell and Marlon Davis sat out because of suspensions in the Tide's textbook scandal.

Right guard B.J. Stabler struggled with his knees, which forced starting right tackle Mike Johnson to shift to right guard.

Capps moved back to his old position.

Before the game, Capps knew he would face Brown for the third straight year and wanted to make sure that this year the Bulldogs' top pass rusher wouldn't get the best of him. According to Brantley, Capps delved into his preparation and practice. Brown had one near-meaningless sack that came with time expiring.

When Brown pressured Wilson to throw the second-quarter interception that MSU returned for a touchdown, he had lined up against someone other than Capps.

"You can't always create your opportunities in life, but you always can be ready to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes by working and preparing all along," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "Just because you do that doesn't mean you are going to get an opportunity, but it does mean you will be able to take advantage of it when it comes. I think Chris has done that all year long."

Capps has practiced with the first team this week at right tackle. But even if he doesn't start Saturday against Louisiana Monroe, he can prepare himself for when his chance comes.

"You got to prepare like you're starter, even if you're not," Capps said.

"That's kind of a goal for everybody anyway. Prepare like you're starting, then be ready, because somebody could get hurt on the first play. Somebody could get hurt on the last play."

Louisiana Monroe
at Alabama

Saturday
1:30 p.m
.

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