December 2, 2009

Notebook: Blitzing Arenas a real threat

TUSCALOOSA _ If the University of Alabama defense has a secret weapon, it's senior cornerback Javier Arenas.

But in this discussion we're not talking about his coverage abilities, which are good enough to get him to the next level and cause most opponents to throw the other way.

Check out his pass-rushing numbers. Arenas finished the regular season with five sacks and tied linebackers Rolando McClain and Eryk Anders for the team lead in tackles for a loss with 12, and tied for fourth in the Southeastern Conference.

"I think the knowledge and experience has gotten him better and better and better," Coach Nick Saban said. "He understands the system and doesn't make a lot of mental errors. He is a great competitor and he has done a really good job as a defensive back.

"We have had to play so much nickel this year, which he is really good at, because it puts him on the slot guy and that's where a lot of his production comes and he becomes an effective blitzer and he uses his speed and his quickness to his advantage to make a lot of plays."

Against Auburn last week Arenas was credited with seven tackles and one sack, although every time he blitzed something big happened for Alabama. Both Anders' sack and fumble forced and recovered and McClain's sack to set up the Tide's final drive occurred one of the four times Arenas blitzed.

More than once a Tigers blocker looked up to see Arenas and another player coming at him and either made the wrong decision or froze.

"Just did my job, if I didn't get the sack the next guy did," said Arenas, who's also gotten better at disguising his blitzes.

For the season he's second in team tackles with 64 and has two interceptions to go with four passes broken up and four hurries, which caused Florida quarterback Tim Tebow to say earlier this week that "you have to be aware of him."

"It can be very, very, very fun," Arenas said. "Sometimes it's something that people overlook. They think, 'Oh we have to go cover good receivers, it's going to be tough.' Yeah, but if you make an interception you're going to feel that much better about yourself.

"I think that's the best part about it, helping out your team."

Ingram named Walter Camp finalist
Sophomore running back Mark Ingram was named one of five finalists for the Walter Camp Award, which honors the player of the year.

He's the lone running back, joining last year's winner Colt McCoy of Texas, Tebow, Houston quarterback Case Keenum and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Ingram is already a finalist for the Maxwell Award and is on the short list for Heisman Trophy consideration.

The Walter Camp Award is voted on by the Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches and sports information directors. McClain was among the semifinalists who did not advance.

Here's the Alabama awards rundown:
Heisman Trophy: Finalists announced Dec. 9.

Maxwell Award (outstanding player): Mark Ingram, finalist along with Tim Tebow (Florida) and Colt McCoy (Texas): Winner announced Dec. 10.

Walter Camp Award (Player of the year): Ingram, finalist with Tebow, McCoy, Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska) and Case Keenum (Houston). Winner announced Dec. 10.

Butkus Award (linebacker): Rolando McClain, finalist along with Sam Kindle (Texas), Eric Norwood (South Carolina), Brandon Spikes (Florida) and Sean Witherspoon (Missouri). Winner announced Dec. 8.

Bednarik Award (defensive player): Terrence Cody, finalist along with Spikes and Suh. Winner announced Dec. 10.

Doak Walker Award (running back): Ingram, finalist along with Toby Gerhart (Stanford) and C.J. Spiller (Clemson). Winner named Dec. 10.

Lou Groza Award (kicker): Leigh Tiffin, finalist along with Kai Forbath (UCLA) and Blair Walsh (Georgia). Winner named Dec. 10.

Bronko Nagurski Award (defensive player): Cody, finalist along with Pat Angerer (Iowa), Eric Berry (Tennessee), Jerry Hughes (TCU) and Suh. Winner announced Dec. 7.

Rotary Lombardi Award (lineman): Cody, finalist along with Hughes, Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) and Suh. Winner announced Dec. 9.

Lott Trophy (defensive impact player): McClain, finalist along with Hughes, Berry and Suh.

Rimington Trophy (center): Finalists were scheduled to be announced last week.

Eddie Robinson Award (coach): Finalists announced Dec. 9.

Broyles Award (assistant coach): Kirby Smart, finalist along with Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn, Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, and TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas. Winner announced Dec. 8.

Practice report
The team worked out again Wednesday inside the Hank Crisp Facility, mostly because of the poor weather conditions. A number of Super 6 officials were at practice with the high school championships this week at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"Mark Ingram practiced today, he was fine," Saban said. "Cory Reamer practiced, he was fine. We have some nicks and bruises, but everybody's fine and everybody was able to practice today."

Ingram sustained a bruised hip at Auburn and Reamer was limited by a sore hamstring.

"We decided not to try and do too much and be ready to go this week, and it's worked out," Reamer said. "I haven't had to sit out, I've done all the drills and all the practices. I feel good and I'll be definitely be ready to go Saturday."

On special teams, Reamer expects to only do punt coverage. It was at his spot where Auburn kicked the quick onside attempt and recovered.

Sophomore end Marcell Dareus' left arm was pretty well wrapped up for practice after he sustained a non-serious injury against Auburn.

When the defense was in dime during the viewing period sophomore safety Robby Green was on the field. There's been no sign of senior safety Ali Sharrief lining up like a linebacker like he did the previous two weeks.

Tide-bits
Saban was named the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Region II Coach of the Year on Wednesday. Region II is comprised of the 12 teams from the Southeastern Conference and nine teams from the Sun Belt Conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Other region winners were Cincinnati's Brian Kelley (Region I), Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (Region III), Texas' Mack Brown (Region IV) and TCU's Gary Patterson (Region V). Houston Nutt of Ole Miss was the Region II winner last year.

The suspension of Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap appears to have had little impact on Alabama's game plan. "I don't think it changes it much at all because they have a lot of good players," Saban said. "They've played together for so long and have so much depth on the team that someone will step in and do a very, very good job for them."

Saban was asked for reaction to Bobby Bowden's departure from Florida State and again told the story about when he was a general assistant and getting a call from the then-West Virginia coach after his father died. Bowden offered him a job if he wanted to be closer to home and his mother. "How many people would do that?" Saban said. "There's nobody else I have more respect for, personally, professionally and in significance of their accomplishments than Coach Bowden. I'm also happy for Jimbo Fisher."

Don't look for Alabama's defensive players to wear wristbands like in the 2008 game to help with Florida's diverse scheme. "I've never been much of a wristband guy and it sure didn't help us last year," Saban said.

Reamer on if this is a revenge game: "We're disappointed in what happened last year and this is just another big game for us. This is what we worked for, this is what we said all through the offseason, everything we did was to prepare for Florida because they're setting the bar right now. We're excited to get a second chance at them."



 

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