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October 17, 2012

Notebook: Advantage execution

TUSCALOOSA | Sal Sunseri knows plenty about the defensive personnel at the University of Alabama, and Lance Thompson knows the Tennessee defense as well. Sunseri coached at Alabama last year, Thompson was at Tennessee, and now they are at the opposite schools.

But that doesn't necessarily mean there is a big advantage to be gained for either staff.

"I don't know that there's an advantage or disadvantage. They probably know -- I coached with Derek (UT coach Dooley) for seven years -- I think they kindof know what we do," said UA coach Nick Saban. "We kind of conceived that they're doing a lot of the stuff we do, especially on defense. I don't know that there is an advantage or a disadvantage. The advantages are created by the players and their execution."

Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri joked earlier in the week that his father, Sal, "knows all my weaknesses." And while either coaching staff may or may not lean on a little extra knowledge of one assistant, it's execution, Saban said, that will ultimately decide the outcome of Saturday's rivalry renewal in Knoxville, Tenn.

"Even if you know what they do, you don't know when they're going to do it," Saban added. "So you have to respond and react properly on whichever side of the ball, or special teams, or whatever the circumstance or situation is in the game."

Sentimore sling
Former UA defensive end Darrington Sentimore, now playing at Tennessee, certainly did his part to stoke the rivalry's fire this week. Sentimore said he regretted ever signing with Alabama, and had this to say about Saban:

"It's his personality. It's like some players, he will see you like in the hallway and he will walk right past you like he don't even see you. I don't like stuff like that. ... I ain't going to lie to you. I want this game more than any other game because I want to beat Saban."

Sentimore had been suspended by Saban for a team rules violation prior to his transfer to junior college in 2011. He enrolled at UT after one year in the JuCo ranks.

Jones status
Wide receiver Christion Jones has been limited in practice this week with an ankle sprain sustained against Missouri. And while Saban did not say whether Jones would play against the Volunteers, he did indicate the sophomore's recovery has gone well.

"Christion Jones practiced today and ran around some," Saban said. " So, he looks to be making good progress."

Saban said he is comfortable with freshman Cyrus Jones, who filled in for Christion Jones as a punt returner after he was hurt against Missouri, handling that role again if necessary.

"Anytime you think something goes wrong you're going to be nervous for a minute. But I trust my trainers and team doctors. They made the right call. They know what's wrong with it and what happened. And I went back out there and played." - AJ McCarron on the bruised knee he sustained against Missouri.

Asked on the SEC teleconference if reserve defensive end LaMichael Fanning would make the trip to Knoxville, Saban would only say that Fanning was being "handled internally." Fanning drew a personal foul with a controversial tackle in the final minutes of the Missouri game, but was neither ejected nor suspended by the SEC. Fanning did write letters of apology to the player and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. ... UT coach Derek Dooley said he is still uncertain whether he will coach from the press box or the sideline due to his hip fracture, but said he would defer to the team doctor's advice. ... Alabama has won five consecutive games in its series with Tennessee, and six of the last seven. UA has not lost in Knoxville since former coach Mike Shula's last Alabama team in 2006. ... Freshman safety Eddie Williams is among the scout-team players wearing No. 84 in practice this week, the jersey number of standout UT receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

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

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