TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama junior defensive end Marcell Dareus practiced Wednesday and appears to be on target to play against Florida.
"He didn't have any issues," Coach Nick Saban said. "He probably wasn't a hundred percent, but I think he made enough progress to think he'll be better tomorrow and have a pretty good chance to play in the game."
Dareus sustained a sprained ankle at Arkansas and was on the sideline during the Razorbacks' final possession. He clarified that the injury isn't as problematic as the sprain linebacker Courtney Upshaw had, and said his recovery was "coming together."
"The Sunday after the game I couldn't push off at all," Dareus said. "I was doing treatment and treatment and treatment and there was a point I couldn't push off, but it's not even a question now. I can push off it pretty good now.
"Courtney had a high ankle sprain and it's hard to come back from those, but he's doing pretty well. I don't have a high-ankle sprain at all, just a little sprain outside."
Dareus sustained the injury when he and teammate Damion Square collided, but seemed a lot more upset about the subsequent chop block to the back of his leg by guard Wayne Grayson on a screen pass.
"When he did it I looked down and was 'Are you trying to take me out of the game? You can obviously see that I'm hurt,'" Dareus said. "He just looked at me like 'Are you crazy?' like he didn't care.
"That's how some players play. It doesn't really bother me. Some players when they see a person down they'll still try and kick him when there's no reason to."
Dareus said he lifted his leg up just before the hit, which helped minimize the damage.
"I knew what type of player he was before the game started," he continued.
The injury is the latest setback for Dareus, who missed the first game after being suspended, and is using his frustration as motivation to get back on the field.
"I'm just so excited to be out there instead of the sideline," he said.
Dareus also disclosed that he was a lot more beat up during the national championship game, where he was the defensive MVP, than anyone knew.
"I rolled my right ankle during the game," he said. "I had a deep thigh bruise, my right thigh. I hyper-extended my left knee and I can't remember what it's called I kind of hyperextended my elbow and did something else to my elbow. That was pretty much it.
"Coach is always telling you can't coach toughness. You can be the most athletic player, the fastest player out there, but it comes to you being hurt and still fighting through the pain it's a mind thing. If you think you can play, you can play. If you can block out the pain, you can still go out there at the best of your ability. Play the best way you can and everything will fall into place."
Run, run away
Junior running back Mark Ingram's 157 rushing yards at No. 10 Arkansas continued a trend of big-time performances against top opponents.
Last season he averaged 156.8 rushing yards against top 25 teams and scored nine touchdowns.
"I think that's pretty remarkable from a running back position," senior quarterback McElroy said. "A lot of those running backs you just don't see them spend so much time in the film room, taking extra time to go over looks and the extra routes. Mark's preparation when it comes to these games is unmatched."
Ingram and sophomore Trent Richardson have already combined to make 15 explosive plays this season (a run of 13 yards or more or a pass of 17 yards or more).
"Really, really good players is what you see," Florida coach Urban Meyer said during the weekly SEC coaches conference call. "Obviously well-coached, but really good players. Fundamentally sounds and they play hard."
Lester snares another award
Sophomore safety Robert Lester won his second national award in as many days when he was named the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week.
He was named the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski national defensive player of the week after notching two interceptions and seven tackles at Arkansas.
Saban announced that freshman safety Jarrick Williams sustained a shoulder subluxation (partial dislocation) that will probably require offseason surgery. He wore black during Wednesday's practice, signaling not contact.
Richardson disclosed that he's been wearing a protective boot because someone stepped on his foot.
"It's nothing," he said.
Not quite a rivalry
Even though the recent games against Florida have been the SEC's marquee matchup of late, no one's ready to promote the rivalry over Alabama vs. Auburn.
"No, you can't replace that rivalry," linebacker Nico Johnson said. "I don't think it's that type of a rivalry. It's just a school that we have to play that we have to beat."
Both coaches echoed the point, with Meyer not including Alabama on the board in the UF football building where the regular rivalries are posted. However he did have an interesting comment when asked which team was more talented:
"I think the thing they have over every other team in the country at this point is talent and experience, so they would plus us in experience right now. But as far as talent, I kind of like where our team's headed."
Saban commented on last week's Wall Street Journal article that questioned Alabama's use of medicals to create needed roster space: "We don't make the decisions about medicals, I have nothing to do with that. Those are medical decisions made by the medical staff. I think we have one of the finest medical staffs in the country. I don't have any question about the fact that every player that we have given a medical to it's because of the medical opinion of the staff that those guys should not continue to play football because it would put their future at tremendous risk. Those decisions are always made in the best interest of the player. Whether the player agrees with that or not I can't control, but I don't make the decision, they don't make the decision as players, that's why we have a medical staff. Just like how a doctor would determine what your treatment should be if you have an illness, and I think our guys have done a tremendous job with that."
Meyer said that Jeffrey Demps (ankle) is out of is protective boot. "I'd say it's probable he'll play."
Alabama is treating Florida using five defensive linemen in certain situations as nothing new, and no big deal: "If they do we'll adjust," senior tight end Preston Dial said. "Florida's good at what they do. ... They have a new coordinator but they have a lot of the same schemes and tendencies they did last year. We're focusing on last year's film, noticing where they made corrections, and the teams they played so far, and how we can better ourselves."
The intensity has noticeably picked up around the team: "I think everyone needs to understand the kind of intensity that you need to have so that you can improve," Saban said. "I don't care what it is that you're trying to do, you have to have intensity. Intensity to an athlete as like water to the rest of us, you can't survive without it."
Center William Vlachos on not having to face Brandon Spikes any more: "I'm glad he's not there. He was the heart-and-soul of that defense."