TUSCALOOSA | If Duron Carter's time comes sooner rather than later, the timing couldn't be much better for the University of Alabama.
The Crimson Tide's transfer wide receiver isn't certain to play against Penn State Saturday, but it's clear enough he'll have the opportunity to prove himself worthy of the opportunity in practice this week. The circumstances under which Alabama will take on the Nittany Lions make the benefit of an added receiving threat obvious: A first-year starting quarterback will play at one of the nation's toughest road venues, and will do it without help from one of UA's two most proven receivers in Darius Hanks.
Although Carter hasn't been around the Alabama program very long, he can draw on a year of experience at Ohio State and another at the junior college level as he prepares to play as quickly as possible for UA.
"He's good. He's practiced six practices, really practiced hard, gave good effort," UA coach Nick Saban said. "I was pleased with the physical condition he was in, and he's been able to implement himself with some practice time in pads now. We're gonna see how he picks things up and see what kind of a contribution that he can make."
There is little question that Marquise Maze will be the wide receiver to draw the most attention from the Penn State defense Saturday when UA tries for a two-game series sweep against the fabled Nittany Lions. Maze pulled in eight passes in the Crimson Tide's season opener for a career high 118 yards against Kent State. Hanks, a fifth-year senior, will sit out the second of two games in compliance with the NCAA's rules regarding redshirting. Hanks is expected to make his season debut against North Texas Sept. 17, something to which Saban alluded in his post-game remarks Saturday.
"We obviously have two receivers we think can be significant contributors that didn't play in the game today," Saban said. "Hopefully we'll have maybe one of those guys to contribute next week and certainly, Hanks can be back after this next game. I think their knowledge, their experience, is going to help us tremendously offensively."
Whether Carter can crack the UA lineup quickly is unclear for the moment, but it's something he's done once at the major college level already.
"Duron was a tremendous player for us at Ohio State. He's a big figure. He ran very good routes, had strong hands, and was extremely intelligent for an incoming guy," Kent State coach Darrell Hazell, who was Carter's position coach at OSU when Carter was a freshman there in 2009. "That's why he was able to make the top three receivers when we were down at Ohio State."
There may have only been 11 players on Alabama's kickoff team on any given kick Saturday against Kent State, but a lot more than 11 took a turn on that unit over the course of the game. Saban indicated there is still an opportunity for some players to solidify roles on that squad.
"We had four or five guys that really, really did a good job. We had a couple of other guys that did an OK job, and then we had a couple of other guys that probably didn't do it quite the way we'd like for it to be done," Saban said. "I think those guys have an opportunity to step up their game a little, and we also have an opportunity to look at other people that we think might help them step it up."
Alabama kicked off nine times Saturday. Two of the top performers on kickoffs were freshmen Vinnie Sunseri and Trey DePriest. Both were recognized by the coaching staff for their special teams play, and DePriest was named Southeastern Conference co-Freshman of the Week.
"I knew it was going to be big for me because Mark (Ingram) was out. I knew they were going to count on me. I knew there were going to be ups and downs and that it was going to be a fight. And I know it's going to be just like that this weekend. I know them boys want revenge, and they are going to bring everything they have." - UA running back Trent Richardson on last year's Penn State game.
Along with DePriest and Sunseri, the UA coaching staff recognized six other players for their performance against Kent State: Maze and Will Lowery (special teams), Barrett Jones and Eddie Lacy (offense) and Courtney Upshaw and DeQuan Menzie for defense. ... Wide receiver Kevin Norwood missed Monday's practice with an ankle sprain. Saban said Norwood could return "in a day or two." ... Reserve center Kellen Williams, who missed Saturday's game with a minor injury, was cleared for contact in Monday's practice.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.