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October 20, 2009

Notebook: Johnson, King ready to step in again

TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama senior defensive back Marquis Johnson would like to say "thank you" to South Carolina for helping him become part of Crimson Tide history.

His six pass breakups Saturday tied the UA single-game record, set twice by John Mangum in 1989 (against Vanderbilt and SW Louisiana).

"I'm proud of that," Johnson said.

Johnson and senior Tyrone King Jr. saw extended playing time after senior Javier Arenas was unable to play due to bruised ribs. For Johnson, it only meant an extra 10-15 snaps at cornerback, where he plays in nickel and dime formations, but King handled the "star" duties covering the slot receiver.

"Keep studying and do what the coach tells you to do, you should be ready," said King, who tallied seven tackles and 1 sacks. "Just get the butterflies out of the way first.

"They were pretty big, but they went away after the first play."

The Gamecocks threw in Johnson's direction 10 times, with one completion (a one-handed sideline catch) and drew a pass-interference penalty on the flea-flicker that caught the secondary by surprise. Most notable, though, were the three consecutive fade passes into the end zone with no completions.

"Let's go," Johnson said was his attitude because that kind of play-calling usually that means the offense believes there's a mismatch it can exploit.

"No matter who I play, it could be Randy Moss, he catches two passes on me I want to knock down at least one. He catches four passes I want to knock down at least two."

Johnson said a perfect example by a teammate came against Ole Miss when the Rebels had receiver Shay Hodge run the same route against Arenas. The first was for a completion, but Arenas took the second away for an interception.

Although Arenas practiced both Monday and Tuesday, both Johnson and Kind are preparing as if he won't be ready to play Tennessee on Saturday.

"I prepare every week like that," Johnson said. "You never know what's going to happen and that's how we practice."

"It could happen again," King said. "I'm ready when they call me."

Tampa cover-two

Although the Alabama and Florida defenses are getting the most attention in the SEC this season, Tennessee is right behind them statistically in total defense.

The Tide has given up 226.6 yards per game ahead of the Gators' 228.3, with the Volunteers under new coordinator Monte Kiffin coming in at 272.0.

"Well he actually gained fortune and fame as a very good defensive coordinator in college for many, many years and probably made some innovations in the game, relative to coordinating fronts and coverages and doing some things that nobody had done before," Saban said. "I remember going to visit him when he was at Arkansas and this was in the 1970s.

"In pro football, he sort of developed what's called "Tampa Two," a coverage and way to play that was effective for a long time. Right now at Tennessee, they probably do a combination of both of those things. He's just a really good teacher, a really good coach and has a lot of knowledge and experience and has done a really good job this year helping their defense develop."

The "Tampa Two" was a two-deep zone with the middle linebacker usually dropping back to essentially make it a three-deep zone. What really gave opposing teams problems was that Kiffin had rangy Derrick Brooks at middle linebacker and John Lynch at safety.

Kiffin has another great safety at Tennessee with Eric Berry.

"We've seen the look on numerous occasions," junior quarterback Greg McElroy said. "It's a very popular defense, especially at the college level. It's just a good way to develop things and disguise. It's something that we'll be ready for and something we'll spend a lot of time looking at this week. It's something we've been around. Our defense plays quite a bit of it, so we've had some looks against it."

Injury/practice report
All four players who were described as day-to-day practiced in their usual spots Tuesday: Arenas, sophomore nose tackle Josh Chapman (abdominal strain), freshman receiver Michael Bowman (patella tendon strain), and freshman cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (back spasms).

Freshman linebacker Nico Johnson was working at weakside linebacker in nickel formation. Senior Cory Reamer had been sliding over from strongside linebacker on passing downs.

Sophomore Alfred McCullough, who has been the backup left tackle all season, was getting in some work at right tackle. Redshirt freshman Tyler Love was working at left tackle with the second unit.

Sophomore linebacker Jerrell Harris wore jersey No. 10 with senior cornerback Chris Rogers in No. 1. Both changes may be for special teams, so Harris and senior Roy Upchurch can both be on the field at the same time, along with Rogers and sophomore Julio Jones.

Tide-bits
Tennessee made a request to wear its home orange jerseys Saturday, which was turned down by Alabama. Coach Lane Kiffin told reporters in Knoxville that the Southeastern Conference had approved the request. The Volunteers could still wear orange, but take a 15-yard penalty after the opening kickoff. "We're not good enough to do that," he said.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has asked the conference to look into Alabama using a piece of tape to mark where the ball should go on field goals and extra points. "Their holder on extra points and field goals had a little piece of white tape," The State quoted the coach from his weekly press conference. "And he put (the tape) down and that was their spot. And the guy kicked it, and occasionally he'd go way over there and grab it (after the kick). I'd never seen that before. So I think we've gotta call the head of officials to see if that's legal." Rule 6-3(d) states that "any device or material used to mark the spot of a scrimmage place kick or elevate the ball makes the kick illegal." However, teams doing so isn't that unusual, including Florida in the SEC Championship Game last year.

South Carolina receiver Moe Brown, who sustained a severe concussion against Alabama, will miss Saturday's game against Vanderbilt but might be ready to return next week against Tennessee.

King on kickoff coverage: "We just have to do better. We're working at it in practice."


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