Tide's Upchurch Remains Upbeat

Roy Upchurch

The weather forecast for Alabama's game at Kentucky Saturday includes a sunny sky. If, perchance, a cloud appears, it wouldn't be a surprise for it to be over the head of Alabama tailback Roy Upchurch.



Alabama goes to Lexington this weekend to meet the Kentucky Wildcats in a Southeastern Conference game. Bama is 4-0 and ranked third in the nation and 1-0 in SEC games. Kentucky is 2-1 and 0-1 in conference play after being hammered by Florida, 41-7, last week. Saturday's game will be regionally televised on the SEC network with kickoff shortly after noon EDT (11:21 a.m. central time).

The Crimson Tide is expected to start Mark Ingram at tailback. He's Bama's leading rusher. Behind him is freshman Trent Richardson, second to Ingram in rushing this year. Terry Grant is the only other tailback to have played in all four Tide games.

Ingram has been the starting tailback in three games, including one when he opened as the Wildcat (Virginia Tech) and last week against Arkansas.

The other Alabama starting tailback this year was Roy Upchurch. The 6-0, 201-pound senior got the start against Florida International in Bama's second game of the season. He didn't last long. In the first quarter he suffered a high ankle sprain. He didn't play the next week against North Texas. Last week he saw action against Arkansas, but the only way he touched the football was as a pass receiver, catching three passes for 30 yards.

Upchurch said this week that his ankle "is better, about 80 per cent. I'm working, trying to get my step back." Upchurch said someone fell on his ankle. "I've rehabbed a lot," he said. "I'm practically sleeping in the training room and working to get back."

Upchurch is no stranger to rehabilitation. There was a reasonable expectation that he would not return for his senior season after suffering an injury to his neck last fall. He was having a solid season last year with 350 yards rushing and four touchdowns and nine receptions for 101 yards through nine games. He played in only one game after that, a brief appearance as Alabama routed Auburn, 36-0. After the season he had surgery to repair the neck problem.

Although Alabama Coach Nick Saban said Upchurch could have taken part in spring practice, he was held out of contact in those drills as a precaution.

Upchurch said the tailbacks "all have different talents. I'm straight ahead, Mark is more side-to-side, and Trent is power."

Thus far this season, Upchurch has 11 carries for 107 yards, a gaudy 9.7 yards per carry average. He scored on a 19-yard run against Virginia Tech.

Upchurch knows that Kentucky's rushing defense ranks last in the SEC, but he pointed out, "Last year they had the best rushing defense. They look good on film."

Upchurch has an upbeat attitude, his injury history notwithstanding. He expects to have good injury luck. "It's coming," he said. "And when it does, I'll be there to capitalize on it."

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