Alabama Football: Healthier Tide going into SEC Championship

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 22: Statue of Head Coach Nick Saban on campus before a game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 22, 2018 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 22: Statue of Head Coach Nick Saban on campus before a game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 22, 2018 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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Alabama football is the healthiest it has been in several weeks leading up to the SEC Championship game against Georgia this Saturday.

Alabama football and Georgia have several players, both hurt and injured, in various stages of rehab and recovery. This late in the season, playing hurt is just part of football. The issues with less than 100 percent health are re-injury or being too limited to be effective. Overall, the Crimson Tide appears to be the healthier team.

Alabama football fans became near giddy when Terrell Lewis returned to practice this week. The immensely gifted Lewis can be a game-changer. Without his overtime sack in the national championship game, the game’s outcome might have been different.

Terrell has been practicing all week – not in a black, non-contact jersey. Lewis is less than five months into recovery from an ACL injury, His current status is a tribute to the Alabama football medical and training staffs and his own determination and work ethic.

Excitement about Lewis abated Wednesday night when Nick Saban stated he is not medically cleared to play. According to Saban, the drills in practice are just another stage in Lewis’ recovery process.

None of the Tide’s ‘out-for-the-season’ guys: Chris Allen; Kedrick James; Daniel Wright and Trevon Diggs will return. But the guys playing hurt (Deonte Brown, Isaiah Buggs and Alex Leatherwood) are healing and not severely hampered. Tua, Damien Harris, Devonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III, even Jalen Hurts are at, or near 100 percent.

The Tide will lose Jared Mayden for a half due to targeting rather than an injury. Keaton Anderson is the likely sixth DB for the first half but the Tide will probably play mainly nickel anyway.

The Georgia Bulldogs are not quite as healthy as the Alabama Crimson Tide. Where the Bulldogs are most vulnerable is on defense. Bulldogs’ inside linebacker Monty Rice is one of Kirby’s top tacklers. He has a bad wheel. After missing two games, he returned to practice Tuesday but is a questionable contributor for Saturday. Defensive lineman, David Marshall has missed the last six weeks after a foot injury against Vanderbilt. Healthy he would be a key player in the Bulldogs defense but he is not expected to play Saturday.  Redshirt junior defensive linemen, Justin Young is also doubtful for Saturday.

The strong Georgia offensive line is not fully healthy either. Swing o-lineman, Kendall Baker is out for Saturday. Baker is key when Cade Mays is not healthy enough to play and Mays is questionable for this week. Ben Cleveland who broke his fibula against Missouri is expected to play. Georgia insiders report Cleveland has not returned to full speed. He did not play against Georgia Tech.

Next. Threats to the Tide against UGA. dark

The Georgia Bulldogs do not have as much depth as last season. Alabama football has an advantage in terms of important healthy players.