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September 10, 2012TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama running back Jalston Fowler is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, UA coach Nick Saban said Monday, and the junior from Prichard will undergo surgery to repair damage sustained in the fourth quarter of the Crimson Tide's 35-0 win over Western Kentucky Saturday.
Replacing Fowler, however, is apparently a job for many.
Fowler had been used in multiple roles through two games this season, from backup running back, to various special teams assignments, to the Crimson Tide's primary fullback as a lead blocker in the I-formation. Saban indicated Monday that such versatility can't be replaced by a single player.
"We have backups at every one of the positions and roles that he filled. There may not be one particular guy," Saban said. "I think on special teams, there's a different guy on each special team that would take his place now. At running back, Dee Hart, Kenyan Drake will have a little more opportunity. Kelly (Johnson) was his backup at fullback, which is where he plays anyway."
Of particular interest will be whether Alabama continues to use the I-formation to the extent that it did against Michigan Sept. 1, or to a lesser extent, as it did against WKU. As the lead blocker in that formation, Fowler helped pave the way for some of Alabama's best offensive plays agianst the Wolverines. Even while Fowler was healthy on Saturday, however, the 'I' wasn't called as much against the Hilltoppers.
UA linebacker Nico Johnson said Fowler's loss is a significant one.
"It's going to be real tough. He's more like a back like Trent (Richardson). He can run, catch out of the backfield, and he's tough to tackle," Johnson said. "So, it's going to be real tough, but we've got enough guys and depth for somebody to step in and fill his role."
Although Fowler had rushed just 11 times for 85 yards in two games for the Crimson Tide, he was on the field as much as any running back Alabama has.
"We are going to miss him. It's going to take a number of people to replace him in various roles that he played on our team," Saban added.
Saban looks for improvement
Based on Saban's opening remarks on Alabama's performance Saturday, consider the 35-0 final score not fully indicative of the way the Crimson Tide played.
"When you watch the film, there was a lot of lack of focus and attention to detail and doing little things correctly, which usually can bite you in the you-know-what," Saban said. "And it did, at times."
Pass protection was among the major problems for Alabama in the win, allowing six sacks to an aggressive Hilltoppers defense.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't take it personally," said guard Chance Warmack.
Arkansas star quarterback Tyler Wilson's status is uncertain for Saturday's home game against the Crimson Tide after the senior was knocked out of his team's upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe from a blow to the head. UA linebacker Nico Johnson said that won't make Wilson -- if he plays -- any more of a target than he already would have been.
"One aspect of our game is to affect the quarterback, make him feel less comfortable. That's what we tried to do with Denard (Robinson) the first week," Johnson said. "We're not going to go at (Wilson) just because he came off an injury, but we want to affect him in some type of way to create turnovers."
"(Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart) kept telling us we're one of the lowest teams, as far as ranking in fumbles (last year). So, to get three in one game, which hasn't happened since I've been here well, he may applaud us on it. I don't know. We'll take it either way it goes."
- C.J.Mosley on Alabama's three fumble recoveries against WKU.
Perry earns start
Junior safety Nick Perry earned his first career start in Alabama's regular 3-4 defensive set against WKU Saturday. The UA staff started Perry in looking to pair two safeties who better complemented one another's style.
"Robert (Lester) and Vinnie (Sunseri) are both kind of strong safety types and Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix) and Nick are both a little more free safety types," Saban said. "We've been playing Robert and Vinnie at the same time in regular. We felt like we needed more of a free safety type."
Alabama's players of the week from the WKU game were quarterback AJ McCarron and receiver Kevin Norwood on offense, linebackers C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson on defense, and kicker Cade Foster and defensive back John Fulton on special teams ... Saban said several players with minor injuries, including linebacker Reggie Ragland, cornerback Dee Milliner and nose guard Jesse Williams, will be ready for practice this week. ... Allstate donated $500 to Alabama's general scholarship fund after UA converted five extra points Saturday against Western Kentucky. UA is one of four new schools -- along with Ole Miss, Missouri and Southern Cal -- to participate in the Allstate Good Hands Field Goal Net program. Allstate will donate $300 for each Alabama field goal kicked at home this season, and $100 for each extra point. There are now 75 NCAA programs participating in the program.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.