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November 20, 2012

Receivers overcoming nagging injuries

TUSCALOOSA | First it was Amari Cooper. Then it was Kevin Norwood, and eventually Christion Jones and Kenny Bell pulled up a bit lame.

Then, it was Cooper and Norwood once again.

The University of Alabama wide receivers have had a rough season from a health standpoint, with at least one receiver being limited or unavailable virtually every game this season. As the Crimson Tide (10-1) prepares to play host to rival Auburn Saturday, the latest concern is for Norwood, who did not play Saturday against Western Carolina. UA coach Nick Saban has said he expects Norwood to be back this weekend.

The effect of those nagging injuries has been compounded by loss of two receivers -- Chris Black (shoulder) and DeAndrew White (knee) -- for the entire season with far more serious injuries.

"It has been a difficulty at times because we've lost a couple of guys at the receiver position. We're playing a couple of freshmen," Saban said. "Some of them are playing really well, sometimes not as well as we'd like. They've been productive at times."

Sophomore Christion Jones, who plays the slot position, said the ability of several receivers to play more than one wide receiver position has helped them cover for each other's practice and game absences.

"That's one thing that's going to happen in this game. It's a very physical game. But we fight through those things," said Jones, who was bothered by ankle pain for UA's road win over Missouri. "Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell and myself, Cyrus Jones, we've done a good job with the transition of what you've got to do when someone goes down. We're focusing on right now learning multiple positions for those areas that we have with injuries."

The freshman Cooper has led the team with 40 catches for 658 yards and six touchdowns despite dealing with minor injuries of his own, including a foot injury to begin the season. Freshman Cyrus Jones has played more of late, as has redshirt freshman Marvin Shinn.

Saban said veteran leadership is crucial at that position.

"We'd also like to get the guys who have a little more experience helping them out so they can go out there and prepare for the game properly, practice like they need to practice so we can get a little more continuity in what we're trying to do," Saban said.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was named the American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year Tuesday. It was the second time Smart has won the honor since 2009. ... Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley was named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award Tuesday as the nation's top player at his position. Other finalists include Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, LSU's Kevin Minter, Georgia's Jarvis Jones and Oregon's Dion Jordan. ... Also Tuesday, Barrett Jones was named a Lombardi Award finalist along with Jarvis Jones, Te'o, and South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney. The Lombardi Award goes to the nation's top lineman or linebacker.

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

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