Alabama opened up Tennessee Hate Week with Nick Saban’s Monday press conference, and the biggest news was confirmation of the unfortunate news most Alabama fans suspected.
Safety Vinnie Sunseri will be lost for the year as he undergoes season-ending knee surgery on Tuesday. Sunseri left the game early on against Arkansas with a knee injury and was unable to return. Saban wouldn’t say exactly what the injury was other than that Sunseri would definitely miss the rest of the season and there was “ligament damage.” Saban praised Sunseri and his leadership and he said that this is the tough part of the game.
Landon Collins will start in place of Sunseri at strong safety, which is his natural position, now that HaHa Clinton-Dix is back in the lineup after his suspension was lifted. Saban said that Landon Collins has been very effective at whatever he’s been asked to do and strong safety is his natural position. He said the biggest changes will be in dime defense because Landon usually plays the money (dime) position. Jarrick Williams, who is the star (nickel back), will have to move over to money and Geno Smith will come in and take over at star. He said moving players around hurts continuity which is the biggest challenge in this case.
Saban praised the consistency, effort, toughness and intensity the team played with against Arkansas, as well as the focus which led to no turnovers or penalties in the game. He said this isn’t the time to be satisfied because they need to focus on continuing to improve so they the team can be the best it can be.
Bradley Sylve suffered a sprained ankle against Arkansas and will be “day to day” this week as will running back Altee Tenpenny who injured his toe.
Saban talked about the Tennessee rivalry and called it one of the “best rivalries in college football,” and talked about how Tennessee seems to be emerging as a top team in the SEC. He said that when a team improves like Tennessee has this season, it’s a sign of good coaching. He pointed out that their running game and offensive line were extremely good so far this year.
Saban said that a win like the one Tennessee had over South Carolina this past weekend is big for a team’s confidence in a “transition year” and it means a huge amount to their program. In regards to all of the upsets in the SEC this weekend Saban said that it says a lot about the quality of all of the programs in the SEC and it wasn’t a surprise to him, and he said these are some of the reasons why he thinks there needs to be a 9-game SEC schedule. He feels like it’s very important that games like Alabama-Tennessee, rivalries, stick around but also that players get to play every SEC team at least once during their career.
Ryan Kelly will be a “full go” this week, according to Saban, though he didn’t play against Arkansas and that as the week progresses they will decide how much he will play, but the team has full confidence in both he and Chad Lindsay.
AJ McCarron spoke to the media before practice and he revealed that he doesn’t treat the Tennessee game as anything more than “another game.” He said that he treats all games the same and prepares the same way. He did smile when asked about the 2009 game in which Terrence Cody blocked two field goals to preserve an Alabama win. McCarron said that he was standing on a bench on the sidelines trying to see and when he heard the fans scream he figured something good must have happened because he couldn’t see it.
Alabama kicked off preparation for Tennessee on Monday afternoon as they returned to the practice field.
Cornerback Bradley Sylve, who is “day to day”, after suffering an ankle injury against Arkansas did not participate in practice today. He wore a black, non-contact jersey and rode a stationary bike off to the side.
Freshman tailback Altee Tenpenny was the only other player wearing a black, non-contact jersey as he recovers from turf toe. He also rode a stationary bike off to the side during practice.
Freshmen quarterbacks Luke Del Rio, Parker McLeod, and Cooper Bateman will be playing the role of Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley on the scout team this week.
The players of the week for the Arkansas game were running back Kenyan Drake, right tackle Austin Shepherd, and quarterback AJ McCarron on offense. Drake had his second straight 100 yard rushing game and McCarron was once again deadly accurate and had 3 more TDs. Shepherd had one of his most productive days as a blocker as well and didn’t allow a single sack along with the rest of the line. On defense linebacker CJ Mosley, free safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, safety Jarrick Williams, and strong safety Landon Collins each were named the defensive players of the week. Mosley has been one of the defensive players of the week for every single game this season. DeAndrew White, Dee Hart, and Eddie Jackson were the special teams players of the week.