December 7, 2007

BOL notebook: Tide benefits from rest

Getting five players back from a four-game suspension went a long way toward making Alabama's football team whole again, but roughly three weeks off between the Iron Bowl and the beginning of Independence Bowl practices should make an impact as well.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said he is still unsure if Javier Arenas, one of the nation's top punt returners, will be available. But nevertheless, he expects the time off to benefit the team.

"There's going to be some guys that will be healthier, so we're going to be able to do some things that we weren't able to do at the end of the season," Saban said. "We may experiment with some things for a couple of days in practice."

Saban and his staff have spent the last week recruiting, hence he had no recent update on Arenas' high-ankle sprain. But he did say Arenas' initial prognosis makes his return for the bowl game a possibility.

And Arenas' isn't alone on the mending list.

"Even in the last game when we had some guys back, Justin Britt was really beat up, injured, struggling, and people say 'Why didn't he play in the game?' That's why - because he was hurt," Saban said. "I think this rest will do him a lot of good. If we can get him healthy, we may be able to get back to a similar situation as we started the season."

Saban said B.J. Stabler[db]'s chronic knee pain will also benefit from rest.

SURPRISED CAPTAINS - Permanent team captains [db]Rashad Johnson and Darren Mustin, recently elected by the players, both expressed surprise in their selection.

"I was shocked. ... I guess the team saw something," said Mustin. "... My dad was proud of me. It's something you can show your kids. I voted for Wallace, Rashad and Antoine. I wasn't expecting an award, I just wanted to play this year."

Said Johnson: "When we got in the meeting to vote, a couple of guys asked if everyone had to be seniors, and some guys made some nominees of some juniors. ... It means a lot to me. I tried to be a responsible person on the team and do the right things."

SMITH ON THE SEC - Offensive tackle Andre Smith was asked Thursday about the toughest defensive linemen he faced this season, and not surprisingly, the first name he mentioned was LSU's Glenn Dorsey.

"He's very strong," said Smith. "I couldn't cut him for some reason - I guess he uses his hands well. Also, No. 95 from Georgia was very, very good."

Defensive tackle Jeff Owens wears No. 95 for the Bulldogs.

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