October 26, 2006

Notebook: Defense still improving

When the 2006 season began, defensive coordinator Joe Kines knew he wasn't entering this season with the same group of seasoned veterans he had in 2005. Kines believed that if his 2006 team could try and use each week to improve, the season would have been worthwhile and so far, Kines has been satisfied.

"We said at the start of the season that if we can just improve every single week, that would be as good a goal as we can have," Kines said. "They've tried to do that and I think we're getting better. We just have to keep working. You do not have time to feel sorry for yourself, you just have to keep on working and they're doing that."

Kines was particularly pleased with his unit's effort last Saturday against Tennessee.

"I think if you look at the tape, we played hard the whole night but we made some mistakes that cost us the game. I don't think there was a youngster out there that didn't lay it on the line."

Individually, there are several players who have impressed Kines with their improvement from week to week this season, most notably freshman linebacker Prince Hall.

"He is growing and growing. He had so much to learn early on," Kines said. "Matt Collins did a good job holding us in there until Prince could get his feet in there. I think sometimes that goes overlooked. Prince wasn't ready to play early in the there. Once he got his feet in there, Prince has grown by leaps and bounds. We pay our dues sometimes when he makes a freshman mistake that he won't make down the line. It is going to happen to a linebacker. He is going to be a good player down the road and he gives you a chance to make a big play. He is working hard and is trying to learn."

Another player Kines feels has excelled is cornerback Simeon Castille, whose improvement has been as strong off the field as it has in the game.

One thing he's doing is growing as a leader. Practice is where he's really making the most difference right now. When you see him going in practice the way he does it really motivates everybody to work harder. I've really been impressed with how he works and concentrates. We're really getting a lot out of him right now.

The Tide players feel that they have improved over the course of the season but they know they can't afford to stop pushing.

"What we've got to do this week is focus on getting better, both for this weekend and for the long time," said linebacker Matt Collins. "We've got to use what we've done wrong so far and correct those things."

Tide refuses to overlook FIU

Facing an 0-7 team on homecoming week isn't usually cause for much worry but the with the way the Tide has performed against lesser opponents this season, no one is taking any chances this week against the hapless Panthers of Florida International.

"This team is just like every other team. They're going to come out and try to win," said defensive tackle Jeremy Clark. "These guys are hungry for something great to happen to them and this weekend, they've got an opportunity. They are going to try and make the best of it. On film, this is not a bad team. They've got pretty good talent all across the field and this is not a game to overlook."

With so many players out due to suspensions stemming from a brawl with Miami two weeks ago, Kines said preparing for FIU is like preparing for a team you've never seen play a game before.

"The approach this week is like a season opening game," Kines said. "What we do in practice this week is going to be important because we're coming out of a tough situation and going into another tough situation. It's going to take a lot of concentration and leadership is going to be very important this week."

Kines said that despite the missing starters, the Panthers have shown on tape that they are capable of pulling off an upset.

"If you look at the numbers, they've lost seven games but they lost five of them by less than a touchdown. They really had a chance to beat Maryland right to the very end."

"They've got a quarterback who really understands their system now. If you look at them from the first game to the last game, they've been real consistent with what they're trying to do so they've got a good plan. They aren't harem scarem, they've really organized in what they're doing and they've got a good feel for how to move the ball. We've got to approach it like a big game because we don't want to make a mistake against these guys."

Before the brawl between FIU and Miami two weeks ago, all most Tide players knew about FIU was that they were on the Tide's schedule.

"That's the first time I've ever seen them, I didn't know what their mascot was or their uniform," Clark said. "My friend called me and said 'Man, the team y'all are playing two weeks from now is fighting!' It wasn't because it was them, it was just a fight period. I'd never seen that in college football. It just so happens we play them. We're not going to treat them any different. We're going to go out and try to win a football game just like they've got a few a guys suspended they want to come out here and beat us. That's just the game of football."

Injury bug starting to bite

Eight weeks into the season, the Tide defense is beginning to feel the effects of a season in the SEC without a bye week. Though no major injuries have ravaged the defense thus far, several players are starting to show some wear and tear.

"I think everybody is in the same boat," Kines said. "If you look across the country, just about everybody has got some nicks and bruises this time of year. It's tough to go out there against SEC teams, week in and week out without getting scraped up a little bit."

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