Target on their backs

Nick Saban

Notebook: Alabama is the nation's No. 1 team and heads into new SEC territory this weekend in Columbia, Mo. where a motivated Tigers team awaits.

Wouldn't it be something if a 3-3 (0-3 SEC) Missouri team took out No. 1 Alabama this weekend?

The Tigers will be without several offensive linemen and their starting quarterback James Franklin due to injuries, but Faurot Field will be rockin' in honor of the nation's top-ranked squad coming to town, not to mention the weather forecast predicts cold and rainy conditions—and anything can happen when that's the case.

Crimson Tide defensive end Damion Square understands that Mizzou might have some extra motivation despite all the negative variables that have affected that team so far this season.

"You've got that target on your back," Square said. "Go play anybody. They want to have a great big victory against you that could start a lot of good things [for them]. That could change the destiny of your season. We know who we are and we know guys are going to come out and play at another level to beat The University of Alabama.

"That's how we approach the game. You've got to play superb if you're going to be the superb."

Classmates, teammates & coachmates

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel go way back. Back to college in the 1970s at Kent State where the two played together and then became graduate assistants under Don James.

Since Saban and Pinkel were both GA's at Kent State in ‘74 and since the Tide plays the Tigers this week, the Alabama coach was asked Wednesday what he looks for in a GA and how involved he is in helping them find their first jobs.

"I know how difficult it is to get started in this profession and I appreciated all the people who helped me get my first job, and all those through the years who have helped me get other jobs and other opportunities," Saban said. "I've been able to learn from each and every one of those.

"We're looking for the same things as a character, quality standpoint, work-ethic what kind of person they are, how important to them it is in terms of what they want to accomplish and what they want to do, and their willingness to put in sort of the quality work it takes for you to really learn, grow and develop.

"We've had some really good guys here, and a lot of guys who have gotten jobs. When a guy stays here for a year or two and really works hard, for relatively little compensation, we try and do everything we can to help them get to where they want to go. We've had lots of guys get opportunities and hopefully they'll continue to get opportunities."

Making adjustments

Barrett Jones' transition from left tackle to center this season has appeared seamless. Once he's finished up at Alabama, he'll have played just about every position on the offensive line, which takes a tremendous amount of athleticism and smarts.

"He plays the game in his mind," said Square. "He's not a real, real physical guy, but he's a guy that's so hard to beat because he's always in the right spot at the right time.

"He changes up his set from center to tackle. That's a very hard thing to do, to move from offensive tackle to center in the spring and come and play in the SEC every week and do that. All the accolades Barrett has, he deserves them and more."

Jones said that he had to make a ton of adjustments with the move, like learning to snap the ball, but the biggest was getting a feel for being on the ball.

"The other two positions, you're about two yards off the ball, but at center, you're right there with a guy, especially against our defense that plays a lot of 3-4 that are right there in your face," he said. "That's definitely one of them. One of many."


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