Alabama Football: Both teams need key players healthy for SEC Championship

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football: The biggest question marks about the SEC Championship game are injury recoveries by key players on both teams.

Which players recover to compete for Alabama Football and the Florida Gators on Saturday will impact the game. As Dan Mullen stated Thursday, the Gators are a “banged-up team.”

Dan admitted being ‘banged-up’ is normal for this time in a season. The Alabama Crimson Tide has players for whom the description fits. Plus, Nick Saban has key components, Jaylen Waddle and Trey Sanders who definitely will not play.

Late season rosters are filled with players who are hurt. That is not the same as being injured. You can play while having varying degrees of hurt. Players having been injured must be released for play by a program’s training and medical team. All coaches are coy about the injury status of their players. Calling a player “questionable” does not mean he is as unlikely to play as he is likely. Players at even 90 percent recovery, will be labeled “questionable.” No coaches want to give an opponent an advantage in preparation. There is rarely full disclosure unless a player will definitely miss the remainder of a season.

Florid Gators Injury Update for Saturday

  • OUT: Sophomore linebacker David Reese (3 tackles on the season)
  • Expected to play: Freshman, Running back, Na’Quan Wright (158 yards rushing); Linebacker, Ty’Ron Hopper (nine tackles); Defensive lineman, Marlon Dunlap (11 tackles)
  • Questionable to play: Senior, Linebacker, Jeremiah Moon (14 tackles); Senior, Defensive back, Shawn Davis (42 tackles and two interceptions);  Freshman, Wide receiver, Trent Whittemore (eight receptions).; Sophomore, Defensive lineman, Jaelin Humphries (no stats).

Moon and Davis may not be fully healthy but Alabama football should be prepared for them to play Saturday.

One other player on the Florida Gators roster is listed as questionable. It is their super-tight end, Kyle Pitts. Dan Mullen admitted Pitts has looked good in practice this week. It is highly unlikely Pitts will miss the SEC Championship game.

Alabama Football Injury Update for Saturday

  • OUT: Jaylen Waddle and Trey Sanders
  • Expected to Play: Sophomore, Right tackle, Evan Neal has been out with an undisclosed injury. Alabama football insiders expect him back on Saturday.
  • Questionable: Sophomore, Inside linebacker, Christian Harris is recovering from a shoulder injury and might be a game-time decision; Junior, Defensive lineman, LaBryan Ray has, according to Nick Saban “struggled a little bit with his elbow injury.”

The main issue with Harris appears to not be, can he play. Rather it is, can he perform well enough given the shoulder injury. An inside linebacker, who can perhaps only arm tackle on one side of his body, is less than ideal.

Asked to comment on the injury risk of using DeVonta Smith as a punt returner, Saban said,

"(we) can’t be too conservative and worry about injuries when deciding who plays on special teams.My opinion isn’t always correct, it’s just the only one that counts."

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Players will need little or no encouragement to ‘play hurt’ Saturday. There are a couple of championships riding on the outcome.