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October 25, 2011

Notebook: McCullough ever-valuable

TUSCALOOSA | Just how valuable is Alfred McCullough to the University of Alabama's offensive line?

As the Crimson Tide line navigates the return of an interior starter (Anthony Steen) and the loss of freshman left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, the answer to that question becomes more obvious: very valuable. McCullough is capable of playing both guard positions and both tackle positions, providing much-needed versatility.

"When you have guys like that, especially in the offensive line, it makes it so much easier to be able to get your best guys out there," said UA coach Nick Saban. "... But now, Alfred really is helpful because he can play so many places."

The fifth-year senior filled in so effectively at right guard for Steen in a 37-6 win over Tennessee that he was named one of UA's players of the week. Steen has now been cleared to return, but with a knee injury ending Kouandjio's season, McCullough could be called on for his experience at tackle as well. Kouandjio had been a backup to starting left tackle Barrett Jones.

"Alfred's a guy who has been around a long time. He's extremely intelligent," said Jones. "He can play four positions pretty well. He's extremely important, especially when we get banged up a little in the middle of the year, his value will continue to increase."

Saban said Kouandjio and McCullough provided UA with two reserves who could play with the same effectiveness as the starting five.

"McCullough has played tackle for us, started in games for us at tackle here before," Saban said. "We will get him some work at tackle so that he can be a backup tackle as well."

Saban said Tyler Love and Austin Shepherd are other backup options at tackle on the left and right side, respectively.

Atchison out
Reserve linebacker Jonathan Atchison is out of action due to upcoming surgery on his biceps, Saban said Tuesday. The third-year sophomore from Atlanta plays the Sam (strong side) position.

Did you know?
Alabama is 9-3 since 2001 after an idle week. How did Alabama play after 12 idle weeks over just 10 seasons? The Crimson Tide has been idle more than once in the same year in three of those seasons, most recently in 2008. In 2006, UA did not have an idle date.

Alabama players got consecutive days off on Sunday and Monday for the second time in four weeks. The team also got extra rest the week before playing Vanderbilt. ... Linebacker Alex Watkins participated in individual drills Tuesday during the media viewing period, but his arm was casted and he was in a black jersey, signifying non-contact status. Saban has said Watkins will miss two to three weeks with a broken arm.

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

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