TUSCALOOSA _ The University of Alabama football team got back to work after having the weekend off and practiced for two hours Monday afternoon.
"It helped a lot," junior nose tackle Josh Chapman said about the break. "We had a lot of little things that we had to go back and work on, like tackling and running to the ball, and then you have your rest to help your body also.
"We did (need it), but that's football."
As for the mental break, the Crimson Tide did some self-evaluation and advance before many players took off for home or did some serious lounging. Nick Saban spent some time at his Georgia lake house, but spent a good part of his birthday Sunday at the office.
"I was really pleased with the work that we got done last week in terms of the bye week," the coach said. "I thought that the players had pretty good focus, practiced hard and hopefully addressed some issues and problems that we can improve on.
"You never know how your team is going to respond to a bye week, relative to how they're going to come out and play, but I think it's important they get back in the routine for this week and prepare for this game."
Physically, everyone was at practice, although defensive lineman Kerry Murphy was a little limited by knee soreness. D.J. Fluker (groin) went through drills, but during the observation period appeared to be working behind Alfred McCullough a right tackle.
Safety Wesley Neighbors (foot) and cornerback DeQuan Menzie (groin) were both back in their regular spots after being held out last week to hopefully prevent their nagging injuries from getting worse, while coaches hope that players like linebacker Courtney Upshaw and Marcell Dareus, who both have ankle injuries, continue to improve.
"I think that's getting better as we go," Saban said about Dareus. "I think he has played better of late, and hopefully he'll continue to improve and feel more confident as we play. We need for him to be a very good player. I think he's a guy that can inspire other people with is positive energy, attitude and performance. We're not displeased with the way he's played at all, but he is capable of being a significant player for us and we'd love to help him do that."
Junior wide receiver Julio Jones said his surgically-repaired hand was "good" and that it's no longer getting regular treatment. He described his Saturday as "ate and sleep." Junior running back Mark Ingram believes his knee, which underwent an arthroscopic procedure the first week of the season, benefitted from the downtime.
"My knee feels great, especially after the bye week," Ingram said. "Sometimes throughout the week it will swell up a little bit but you just ice it and you get treatment on it and you take care of it the best way you can. But right now it feels great. I have a lot of confidence in my knee and my ability to make cuts as well, so yes I would say my knee is one-hundred percent."
McElroy still on Rhodes path
Senior quarterback Greg McElroy has been notified that he's a finalist to become a Rhodes Scholar.
He'll attend a special dinner in Birmingham on Friday, Nov. 19, and his final interview will be the following day. Because the game against Georgia State has been moved up to Thursday, the Crimson Tide is off.
"It would have been a tough decision," he said. "I'm very pleased and honored and looking forward to giving it my best shot."
At 21-1 (.955), McElroy is on pace to have the best winning percentage in SEC history (minimum 22 starts), ahead of Jay Barker's 35-2-1 (.934).
Kickoff times set
The SEC announced television times for next week's games, with Mississippi State at Alabama to kick off at 6:15 p.m. on either ESPN or ESPN2 (to be determined after this week's games) which solidified the Crimson Tide's schedule for the rest of the regular season:
Nov. 6 at LSU, 2:30 p.m., CBS Nov. 13 Mississippi State, 6:15 p.m., ESPN/2 Nov. 18 Georgia State, 6:30 p.m., ESPNU Nov. 26 Auburn, 1:30 p.m., CBS
ESPN will have an interesting choice between two high-profile games on Nov. 13 with CBS airing a double-header of Ole Miss at Tennessee and Georgia at Auburn. Here's the full rundown:
Ole Miss at Tennessee, 11 a.m., CBS Vanderbilt at Kentucky, 11:21 a.m., SEC Network Georgia at Auburn, 2:30 p.m., CBS UTEP at Arkansas, 6 p.m., ESPNU Louisiana-Monroe at LSU, 6 p.m., pay-per-view South Carolina at Florida, 6:15 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2 Mississippi State at Alabama, 6:15 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Two days after the South Carolina loss, Alabama hosted Shades Mountain Elementary student James Strong during its Monday practice inside the Hank Crisp Facility. The 8-year-old third-grader who has hydrocephalus, when excess fluid builds around the brain due to drainage obstruction, got to meet players and coaches and was given a No. 1 jersey with his name on the back . "They treated James like a true VIP," his mother Kim told the Hoover City Schools newsletter.
LSU's Les Miles is 14-1 in games following a loss, the one occurring in 2008 when the Tigers lost to Ole Miss and Arkansas in consecutive weeks.
One of the themes to this week is avoiding another slow start on the road: "It's always important to get off to a good start in an away game because we know we are going into a hostile environment," Ingram said. "We know what this rivalry is like. We know how their fans are going to be, but we like that. That is exciting to me personally, just to be able to go into a hostile environment and play in that type of environment is something that you always dream of as an athlete and a competitor. But it is definitely important for us to get off to a fast start."