TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama junior safety Mark Barron is looking at three or four months of rehab and recovery after having surgery to repair his torn right pectoral muscle in early December.
"This is not an injury that is going to affect his future in any way," Coach Nick Saban said Saturday. "It is one that will require some down time to heal.
"He'll be able to start doing some things. I really didn't talk to the doctor about what he can do when. It's probably going to be four months before he can go out there and start doing everything that a football player does."
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That would make spring practices an option should the All-American decide to return for his final year of eligibility.
However, should he make the early jump to the NFL, Barron would probably at best probably be limited for the NFL Combine set for Feb. 23-March 1, and the injury could make improving his draft stock extremely difficult.
Barron led the Tide with 75 tackles to go with three interceptions, two sacks, nine passes defended and two quarterback hurries.
He sustained the injury while trying to swat the ball out of Emory Blake's hands on Auburn's first touchdown, the 36-yard reception with 5:08 remaining in the first half. Unable to lift his right arm he couldn't make the play on Terrell Zachery's 70-yard touchdown despite being in position for a potential interception or tackle.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare themselves eligible for the NFL Draft is Jan. 15.
Saban discusses JUCO additions
With their paperwork signed, sealed and delivered, Saban was able to talk more about the addition of three junior-college players who could challenge for immediate playing time.
The Crimson Tide received national letters of intent from Aaron Douglas and Jesse Williams from Arizona Western and former Alabama signee Quinton Dial from East Mississippi on Friday.
"Aaron's a left tackle," Saban said. "With James (Carpenter) leaving it's always good to have that experience where you have the other four starters coming back on the offensive line. Except for David Ross and Brian Motley most of the backup players will be back too. I think that will help us tremendously.
"He was a quality guy who played left tackle and has been a starter in this league before, and played right tackle at Tennessee."
Improving the defensive line was an obvious priority of this signing class, with the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Williams targeted for nose tackle.
"Jesse, even though he had a knee problem this year and missed a significant amount of time, he's a big physical guy inside that we could use probably at nose three or five technique," Saban said.
Rivals ranked Williams the top junior-college prospect in the nation, Dial 14th and Douglas 30th. All three will enroll in January and participate in both the offseason conditioning program and spring workouts.
"It's was all about getting adjusted to it," sophomore guard Chance Warmack said about enrolling early two years ago. "The faster I could get adjust the faster I could move and get to where everyone else is."
Junior center Williams Vlachos (sick) returned to practice and sophomore guard Barrett Jones (high ankle sprain) continued to do more work.
Barron, freshman linebacker Jonathan Atchison (bicep) and sophomore cornerback B.J. Scott (ankle) were all riding exercise bikes during the viewing period. They've been ruled out for the Capital One Bowl, and Scott is still using crutches.
Freshman linebacker Adrian Hubbard has been sidelined by back spasms.
Ohio State assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell was spotted on the Kent State campus Thursday and interviewed for the head coaching job. Texas wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy visited on Wednesday and Alabama wide receivers coach Curt Cignetti interviewed last weekend.
According to the Ravenna Record-Courier, Kent State athletic director Joel Nielsen may announce a new head coach early next week.
Alabama is set to make the transition from concentrating on fundamentals to preparing for Michigan State. "We've made quite a bit of progress in four practices over the last three days now," Saban said. "I always think that fourth practice, especially after practicing twice yesterday, is sort the hump day for everybody to get through psychologically. Tomorrow we will start working on some against Michigan State stuff, which I'm sure the players are looking forward to." Alabama will practice daily through Wednesday, then break for the Christmas holiday.
Warmack on having a two-a-day in December: "It's just like camp, but it's not as hot. It helps you get back into shape." Apparently no one got into a cold tub.
Sophomore running back Trent Richardson is looking forward to playing for the first time in his home state of Florida since he left high school. "I expect to have a big crowd," he said.
Because he's going to be stepping in for Barron in the base formation, junior Will Lowery will see less time on special teams against Michigan State. "Not as much because I'll be talking a lot more reps on defense," he said.
Senior Preston Dial and the other tight ends got a jump on watching film of Michigan State. "They're very impressive," he said. "They have a good linebacking corps. Typical of Northern teams they have three big, tough linebackers. Their D-line looks like an SEC line, they're big, they're quick. They have the good size and they play hard. That's the biggest thing, they play hard. I'm sure that's why they're 11-1."
Dial brought up during a position meeting that the last coach to win a bowl game at Michigan State was tight ends/special teams coach Bobby Williams. The Spartans defeated Fresno State 44-35 in the 2001 Silicon Valley Classic, and he was also coaching the team when it beat Florida 37-34 in the 1999 Citrus Bowl (years listed are for the season, not the actually date of the game). Williams laughed. "You could tell it's not about that for him," said Dial, implying that there doesn't appear to be any extra motivation for the coach.