TUSCALOOSA _ When the University of Alabama hosted Arkansas last year, the Razorbacks' top priority was to stop running back Mark Ingram.
At that, Arkansas was press successful. It stacked the box and limited him to 50 rushing yards on 17 carries with one touchdown. However, the Razorbacks couldn't stop anyone else.
Quarterback Greg McElroy completed 17 of 24 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns, and running back Trent Richardson had an epic 52-yard touchdown run in which he broke four tackles (combined weight of the players 910 pounds).
Arkansas may have to use the same strategy again because, well, it really doesn't have much of a choice. In his first game back from a knee injury, the Heisman Trophy winner torched Duke last week for 151 rushing yards on just nine carries.
"Their guys have a lot more experience, they're playing faster on that side of the ball," Ingram said. "Its' definitely going to be a challenge for us, but we're going to be ready for them. If they stack the box we'll be able to pass the ball, we just have to work on our game plan this week and give ourselves the best opportunity to do well."
Alabama averaged just 3.3 yards per carry during the 2009 game, 2.05 without Richardson's run. Arkansas will head into Saturday ranked fifth the in the SEC in rushing defense (111.3 average), but second in total defense (255.7) and tied for second in scoring defense (11.3 points).
"Whatever they do, it's not about what they do it's about what we do," sophomore guard Chance Warmack said. "It's all about us."
Tide in the wildcat
Alabama's most successful play out of the wildcat formation to date was last year's 50-yard touchdown pass against Arkansas.
The Tide lined up with Julio Jones wide alongside McElroy, who stepped back as if to avoid the play coming toward them. Instead, Terry Grant flipped the ball back to McElroy, who connected with Jones for a touchdown. Not only was it his first reception since sustaining a bruised knee against Florida International, but snapped his 11-game scoring drought.
"He was so wide open I was scared to death I was going to miss him," McElroy said at the time.
Alabama has run nine plays out of the wildcat this season for 53 yards, for a 5.9 average. When not in the formation the Tide averages 6.9 yards per carry.
Alabama practiced outside in pads while it was 97 degrees and sunny.
Sophomore Nico Johnson continued to practice alongside Dont'a Hightower at weakside linebacker, with Jerrell Harris still at strongside.
Senior defensive end Luther Davis (knee and ankle) practiced again behind sophomore Damion Square. Junior Courtney Upshaw (ankle) also practiced, but went through individual drills behind the other Jack linebackers.
Tuesday's dime package included cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and DeMarcus Milliner; safeties Will Lowery and Robert Lester; DeQuan Menzie at star; Mark Barron at money and Chris Jordan at linebacker. The second unit had cornerbacks B.J. Scott and John Fulton; safeties Nick Perry and Wesley Neighbors; Phelon Jones at star; Jarrick Williams at money and linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Alabama's opponents are off to a 23-13 start, with three of the losses obviously against the Tide. The Tide is slated to still play five ranked opponents, all in the top 17, tied with LSU for the most of any team in the country. The Tigers host No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday, and later play at No. 9 Florida, at No. 17 Auburn, host No. 1 Alabama and No. 10 Arkansas in Little Rock.
Although Arkansas isn't known for its pass-rushing, the Razorbacks lead the SEC with 12 sacks. "Looking at film they appear to be a very aggressive team," Warmack said. "I think they're very explosive."
In conjunction with the hot weather conditionion has a point of emphasis this week. "Everyone's trying to get better conditioning," Hightower said. "That was one of the things that happened to us last game, especially on the defensive side. Guys are downstairs right now, Marcell Dareus and a couple of other linemen on the treadmill right now. Everyone's trying to anticipate that Arkansas might try and high-tempo us. So we're working on that and trying to be one step ahead of them." Saturday's forecast in Fayetteville is for scattered thunderstorms with highs in the low 80s.
Warmack on going from three penalties against Penn State to co-offensive player of the week: "You make mistakes you can't look back, you have to focus on what you need and disciple."
Arkansas has called for a "Red Out." "Our football team, Coach Petrino and our student body want a Razorback Red Out this weekend so let's join together to give them one," Director of Athletics Jeff Long said in a statement. "We are asking all our fans to wear Razorback red as they cheer on the Hogs. This is a great opportunity for people around the nation to see the tremendous passion of the Razorback fans. I have no doubt that our fans will be here in full force, dressed in Razorback red and extra loud in helping provide our football team a tremendous home field advantage." Of course, that didn't work so well for Georgia during its "Black Out" two years ago, when Alabama jumped out to a 31-0 lead and cruised to a 41-30 victory.