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December 28, 2013
Insider Report: DePriest to stay for senior season
NEW ORLEANS | There had been some minor speculation that junior inside linebacker Trey DePriest might forego his senior season to declare for the National Football League Draft in May.
DePriest ended that talk Saturday afternoon.
"Nah, I'm coming back," DePriest told a gathering of reporters following Saturday's practice at the Superdome.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley may have inadvertently started the speculation when he was asked which player could step up and lead the defense in 2015.
"If he stays, it will be him," Mosley said. "He doesn't get a lot of credit, but he's a pretty good linebacker."
DePriest's 58 total tackles is third on the team.
Brown could start
Junior Leon Brown, who spent the entire season as a reserve tackle, could see his first career start at right guard in place of the injured Anthony Steen.
Brown moved inside during bowl practice and has worked with the first-team offensive line during the last week, including during Saturday's practice.
"We'll probably make a decision at the end of the week as to what we do...," UA coach Nick Saban said. "Leon is probably a guy, if he continues to develop and progress, has a good chance to do it. He's not played guard all year, but he is a very good offensive lineman. If he can make the adjustments and get the things that we need done I think he's got a good chance to do it."
If Landon Collins wasn't going to get a trip to play for a national championship in Pasadena, this is where he wants to be.
Collins, a former five-star prospect and Alabama's current starting strong safety, is one of four Crimson Tide starters that hail from the state of Louisiana. Collins is from Geismar, La., about 60 miles west of the Superdome. Punter Cody Mandell is from Lafayette, La., receiver Kenny Bell is from Rayville, La. while linebacker Denzel Devall is from Bastrop, La.
"To even practice in the dome, it's crazy," said Collins, who had at least 20 ticket requests from family and friends. "In your home state, I always dreamed in high school to play in there, now I'm playing in the Sugar (Bowl), a bigger event. So this is amazing to me."
For Mandell, the homecoming will be a fitting end to his college career.
"It's great to finish my college career in this stadium," he said. "Played in two state championships here in high school. Won a national championship. Now I get to finish my college career here. I mean, it's a blessing."
Henry steps up
Derrick Henry could see more carries in the Sugar Bowl if he continues his upward progression.
The freshman running back has been practicing behind T.J. Yeldon and ahead of Kenyan Drake during the last few practices. He played in 11 of 12 games during the regular season, rushing for 282 yards and 10.4 yards a carry with two touchdowns.
"Derrick's done really, really well, and we have a lot of confidence in him. I think it's the same thing with him: A lot of uncertainty sometimes about what I'm supposed to exactly. When you go start back over, when you have bowl practice I think those guys re-learn things and have a lot more confidence because it's like going through four or five days of camp. He's really played well during this time.
Alabama is staying at the Hilton Riverside for the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma is staying at the New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street.
If recent history is indication, give the team hotel advantage to the Sooners.
The team staying at the Marriott for major bowl games in New Orleans has won the last four games and five of the last six, according to Sugar Bowl officials.
Louisville, which upset Florida in last year's Sugar Bowl, stayed at the Marriott while Florida stayed at the Hilton. Alabama stayed in the Marriott for the Jan. 9, 2012, BCS National Championship Game, and defeated LSU. Michigan won the Sugar Bowl six days earlier after staying in the Marriott and Ohio State defeated Arkansas the year before. Florida's win over Cincinnati on Jan. 1, 2010, was the last time a team staying in the Marriott won.
Alabama stayed in the Hilton for the Jan. 2, 2009, Sugar Bowl, and lost to Utah, which stayed at the Marriott.
Alabama had first choice of practice facilities and choose to work out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the game will be played. Oklahoma could have chosen to also practice at the dome but would have had to work around UA's practice schedule and opted instead for the New Orleans Saints' practice in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie.
Alabama's Sunday practice will take place at the Saints' practice facility because the Saints have a home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to close out the regular season.
Breaking the huddle
The New Orleans Saints have ties to both Alabama and Oklahoma. Safety Roman Harper and running back Mark Ingram played at Alabama, and both linebacker Curtis Lofton and rookie receiver Kenny Stills are Oklahoma alums.
With the Saints finishing up practice Saturday just as Oklahoma was arriving to begin drills at the Saints' practice facility, Stills got to interact with his former Sooners teammates.
"Kenny came and broke the huddle down for us," said OU wideout Sterling Shepard. "It was good to see him."
Shepard's late father, Derrick Shepard, played at Oklahoma and spent part of a season with the Saints in an NFL career that also saw him play for the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Derrick Shepard died from a heart attack at age 35.
"I think about him a lot, and when I get to the end zone I pray," Sterling Shepard said.
Sterling Shepard has surpassed his father's OU career totals in receptions with 89 and touchdowns with nine, and has 1,161 receiving yards in his sophomore season. Derrick Shepard aught 76 passes for 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns at Oklahoma.
Tommy Deas contributed to this report.
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.