ATHENS – Georgia and Alabama don't play every year, but there's no lack of familiarity between the…
Saban Sees Strengths In This Week's Opponent
"We have had a couple of good work days," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said following Wednesday's practice. "Obviously they have a lot of weapons. They are very good defensively, very challenging for us for up front, lots of speed on defense. It's difficult to block some of their pressures and blitzes. The players have done a good job of paying attention to detail.
"It's the same thing on offense. They've got a great back, great quarterback and great wide outs. The rest of it really doesn't matter that much because trying to stop the runners and trying to stop the receivers is always pretty challenging. The quarterback does an outstanding job of getting them in the right play all the time. They are an excellent screen team. They hurt us with screens last year in the game, especially on third down. We've got out our work cut out in a lot of different ways, in terms of preparation and what we need to do to go over there and play winning football."
Coach Saban also noted that sophomore Tide tight end Preston Dial (knee) has not practiced this week. He said an old high school injury might require arthroscopic surgery.
The Alabama-Georgia game will kick off at 6:45 p.m. (CDT) Saturday, Sept. 27, in Athens. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN, with Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst) and Holly Rowe (sideline reporter) calling the action.
Saban pointed to Georgia's many strengths. He called the Bulldogs' tailback, Knowshon Morino, "great," and said Morino "might be as good a back as there is in the country." He also described Morino as a player with "an unbelievable competitive spirit."
Saban also praised Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford for his physical skills, but was particularly impressed with Stafford's ability to put the Bulldogs in the correct play.
He added compliments for Georgia's receiving corps, the offensive line, and the speed of the defense.
Saban said, "It's not a problem to figure out what they do. The problem is in stopping it because they execute so well."
Coach Saban also participated in the SEC Head Coaches Teleconference on Wednesday morning and here are some of his comments:
On success on the road, despite being a young team:
"I think it's the maturity and the leadership on the team. The older guys on the team have really been supportive and helped the younger guys, and the younger guys have been able to stay focused, even though when you have younger guys they can go up and down on you a little bit. The guys that we are playing with have been able to stay focused, and I think that's a real tribute to leadership on our team that's helped support those guys and that has helped them tremendously."
On difference in playing a Top 10 team on the road:
"I think the biggest difference is the quality of their team. They've got an outstanding defensive team and probably the finest quarterback and a great running back. They do a great job on offense. They play well on special teams. They have a lot of good athletes, and they are very well coached. Mark (Richt) has done a fantastic job in the years he has been there and they have built one of the dominant programs in the country. To me, that is the challenge."
On play of offensive line and leadership of Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell:
"I don't think there is any question that our offensive line has been a real catalyst for our football team. When we haven't been able to do some things well, we have been able to run the ball fairly effectively and control the line of scrimmage and that will certainly be the challenge against a quality defense in our league. They have a lot of great players and a lot of great speed. Our guys have kind of taken the bull by the horns up front and they are the real catalyst for our team; Antoine (Caldwell), Smitty (Andre Smith) and Mike Johnson, really the whole bunch of them and I think that's helped our team."
Saban said that Johnson had done a good job at right tackle last year, but that he is better as a guard and it helps to have him playing next to Smith. He also cited the progress of right tackle Drew Davis.
Saban also reminded reporters that Alabama's offensive line had been good last year before the Tide lost a couple of men, some suspended for improper acceptance of textbooks, some with injury. "Let's be sure we're comparing apples to apples," he said.