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October 5, 2011

Notebook: Smith returns to home state

TUSCALOOSA | Mr. Football is coming home. To his home state, that is.

Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith, a Prattville, Ala., native, will get the only shot at his home-state school of his career Saturday when the Commodores visit the University of Alabama. And the former Mr. Football Award winner will come with perhaps the highest level of confidence he's had since he arrived at Vandy.

"Obviously, Larry does a good job of directing their offense. They're sort of a no-huddle (offense), lot of checks, looking at the sidelines coming back. He gets them in the right play," said UA coach Nick Saban.

Smith is also capable of hurting defenses as a runner. Vanderbilt has struggled to protect its passers this season, allowing an average of four sacks per game, which makes Smith's escapability all the more valuable. Smith has gained 100 rushing yards for the year, but sack yardage has his net total in the negative.

"Footwork and staying disciplined," linebacker Courtney Upshaw said when asked about handling Smith's ability to run. "You have to read your keys and execute your job."

Smith has completed 57 percent of his passes (50 of 87) this season to help the Commodores to a 3-1 start. Saban said the Vandy pass offense runs a lot of screen plays to complement what has been a solid rushing attack.

Smith and the Commodores also come off a bye week, allowing extra preparation for the Crimson Tide.

"We didn't play them (last year), so I didn't see him that much, but I think he's done a really, really good job this year executing at the quarterback position," Saban said.

Injury update
Saban said linebacker C.J. Mosley participated in practice Wednesday but was not involved in full contact. Mosley is recovering from an elbow injury sustained against Arkansas. ... The playing status of UA running back Eddie Lacy, Saban said, will likely be determined Thursday. Lacy was also injured against Arkansas, but played sparingly against Florida last week. ... Linebacker Chris Jordan, who has yet to play this season, underwent further testing Wednesday for recurring back pain. "We have to determine if this is something we can manage," Saban said.

Quotable
"He's a very powerful guy. He's continued to study every week very hard the game plan, and watch film of the opponent. He's actually playing very well. He's grading out very high and doing a good job." - Center William Vlachos on Anthony Steen, a first-year starter at right guard.

Did you know?
New Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has already won as many or more games in his first season (three) than Vandy's previous four head coaches did in their first year at the school. Robbie Caldwell, Bobby Johnson and Rod Dowhower won two each; Woody Widenhofer won three. The last to win more? Gerry DiNardo, who was 5-6 in his first year as Vandy's coach in 1991.

Tidebits
Alabama long snapper Carson Tinker has been nominated for the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl Courage Award. Requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship. Tinker was the most affected among UA players by the April 27 tornado in Tuscaloosa, which killed his girlfriend, Ashley Harrison. Tinker was injured in the storm and his residence was destroyed. ... Opposing offenses are averaging 7.2 three-and-out drives per game against the UA defense, the highest total in the nation. In UA's national title year of 2009, its defense led the NCAA in that category with 5.6 per game. Freshman Trey DePriest has made the most of his action as a special teams player and a reserve linebacker, amassing the team's third-highest tackle total (17) so far this season. ... Alabama has been ranked in 54 consecutive AP polls, the longest streak in the nation, dating back to the start of the 2008 season.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.


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