November 2, 2006

Notebook: Wilson back to full strength

After going down with what looked to be a severe ankle sprain, quarterback John Parker Wilson's quick recovery this week has brought a sigh of relief to the heart of every Tide fan. Offensive coordinator Dave Rader said he being cautious but believes Wilson will be back to full speed for the Mississippi State game.

"It's evident that throughout the season when we've been in difficult situations and receivers have been covered, he's been able to pull it down and run and make a play for us," Rader said. "We still want that to be able to happen so we'll be concerned if he's not full speed. He looked good Sunday night and he still thinks he's able to make plays. It'll be a challenge for our whole unit to make sure he doesn't get hit unless it's necessary. The thing about John Parker is that once the game is going, his adrenaline gets flowing and he makes things happen."

Rader said Wilson has not let the nagging ankle injury affect him in practice, which can often be the most damaging part of an injury.

"Since he first hurt his ankle, I thought he'd been mobile and did a nice job of not letting it affect his mobility. When he first hurt it, it was affecting his throwing. I made it clear to him that you can't change your throwing motion or it will cause your arm to be sore. Since then, he's been pretty much able to set up and throw and we haven't seen a whole lot of difference."

Just to be on the safe side, backup quarterback Jimmy Barnes may take a few extra snaps with the first team this week in case he needs to be prepared in an emergency.

"He may get a few more in practice this week, based on how John Parker feels," Rader said. "We'll try to approach this as a normal game week right now because we believe our starter will be ready for Saturday."

Meanwhile, the Tide have learned their lesson from last year's game against Mississippi State when the Tide offense was held without an offensive touchdown. This year, the Tide offense plans on taking the Bulldogs seriously.

"They're a good secondary. They've got eight guys coming back from last year and they're a good team," Wilson said. "They're going to play good against us and we're prepared for that."

"We know they're offense is going to put up points but our defense is playing great right now and they aren't giving up much. They've got some momentum and we expect them to continue to play strong."

Running back Kenneth Darby includes the MSU game in what he considers to be a huge group of games to end his senior season. Darby doesn't intend on taking the next three weeks lightly.

"I'm looking at every game from here on out as my last game," Darby said. "Even though I've got more to come, I'm going to go into the Mississippi State, LSU and Auburn games like they are the last games I'm ever going to play. As far as I know, these are the last times I know for sure that I'm going to play football so that's how I'm approaching it."

Offensive line

One area of the Tide offense that Mike Shula and his staff have focused on this week is the offensive line, who rated less than satisfactory against Florida International last week.

"Coach (Bob) Connolly took us through and showed us 15 missed assignments we had against Florida International," said right tackle Chris Capps. "We went through each one and he talked about how we have to correct it this week."

"It was subpar performance but we always can do things better," said left tackle Andre Smith. "Nobody's ever been perfect besides Jesus. We just have to keep going out there and working hard."

Offense set for Brown's return

After missing the last two games with a knee injury suffered against Ole Miss, wide receiver Keith Brown is set to return to action this weekend against the Bulldogs and the Tide offense is ready to welcome him back.

"Keith is one of our playmakers," Rader said. "When you have him back there the whole game, you have another big weapon at your disposal. When he's not there, that's a great playmaker you are missing from your game. He can mean a great deal to our offense."

"To get him back in the lineup is going to mean a lot," Wilson said. "It's going to be a lot for defenses to have to worry about and it adds another weapon for us. Will has come along really well in the meantime and that just means we have even more guys that can make plays for us."

Brown's receiving partner DJ Hall believes that several younger receivers did an admirable job filling in for Brown during the absence but that having Brown back will make the entire offense that much more effective.

"Will Oakley and Nikita Stover have stepped up big but it's going to definitely be a big difference when Keith is back out there," Hall said. "I'm excited to see him get back in the groove and see what he's going to do."

"Keith's a big part of this offense. He's a big play guy and he makes a lot of things happen when he's in the game. I've always thought we were a good enough unit but we didn't start to see a lot of double coverage until about halfway through the season, once Keith and me started to put up big numbers. I've always know the other guys were capable of stepping up and they have."

Johns could see expanded role this weekend

Sophomore running back Jimmy Johns saw a considerable amount of action under center last week following Wilson's injury leading some to believe his infamous quarterback package could be expanding this weekend.

"We put Jimmy Johns out there last week and he'll have more opportunities to do that this week," Rader said. "I think it's very difficult for Jimmy Barnes to come in and out of there a lot. If you talked to him, he would tell you he would not want to go in the game because of an injury, he would want to go in because it's his time to play quarterback. The way I see it right now on Tuesday, John Parker will go until he can't go anymore. Jimmy Johns will do some things every now and then and possibly even some things that we haven't shown yet."

Rader was also impressed with the way Johns handled coming in at quarterback immediately following Wilson's injury.

"Jimmy Johns did a nice job in the plays that we had for him to run. We didn't get a chance to run through all the plays that we had ready. We'll practice them all again this week. I think we made a good decision in deciding to run the ball and make sure no one else got hurt."

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