TUSCALOOSA _ The University of Alabama football team worked out without its starting left tackle Monday, but junior James Carpenter was only out with the flu.
Senior cornerback Marquis Johnson practiced with a cast on his hand after sustaining an injury last Wednesday, and also had the flu.
"He should be able to play in the game, so we don't have any issues there," Coach Nick Saban said about Johnson, who leads the SEC in pass breakups (16) and is tied for the lead in passes defended.
Although senior right tackle Drew Davis missed a practice last week with the flu, Saban said he didn't have anywhere near the same concern as earlier in the season when a more contagious strain hit the team and school.
Replacing Outland Trophy winner Andre Smith, Carpenter started all 13 games this season and was named second-team All-SEC.
"He's done extremely well," Saban said. "He's done a good job for us. I think playing alongside Mike Johnson certainly enhanced his development.
"He played really well in the beginning of the season and did nothing but get better and better as the year went on. He was someone that we needed to really come through for us this year. I'd say he's done a fantastic job for us."
Sophomore Alfred McCullough worked in Carpenter's spot with the first unit at left tackle, backed up by redshirt freshman Tyler Love. Sophomore John Michael Boswell was at right tackle with the second unit. The 6-foor-2, 305-pound reserve has worked at both left and right tackle this season.
"He doesn't look like a prototypical tackle, but he has a great wingspan, can really reach out and get his hands on people," Mike Johnson said. "That ability and his athleticism give us the ability to flip him on either side, so he's very valuable for us."
No regrets for Cody
Senior nose tackle Terrence Cody has had some thoughts about what things might be like had he decided to leave school a year early for the National Football League, but that's about it.
"I've improved a lot since last year," he said, later adding, "I told myself before I signed that I was going to graduate with a degree before I leave."
Cody wanted to improve his pass-rushing, overall technique and also fully recover from last yearâ€™s knee injury during his senior season. The All-American is still considered to be behind Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy in terms of draft status, but might still be a first-round selection.
"I think a lot of these players they sometimes need to understand that they are constantly being evaluated, in terms of what they do, how they and how they manage issues that they have," Saban said. "I think all those things affect their future. I think Terrence could have a very, very bright future if he makes the choices and decisions to manage himself and the kind of football player he wants to be in a positive way. I think he has a tremendous amount of potential and he has a chance to be a very, very successful player, because they do look for players like him, who are difficult to block, who are good interior players and can play a special role on the team and he can certainly do that."
Saban couldn't help but have a little fun when asked what kind of precautions he takes to make sure the coaching stress and job demands don't wear him down.
"My motivation is I believe I can work here and take the stress here, or I can retire and go home and work for Terry and take the stress there. I'm trying to keep my day job, because I would be working just as hard at home," he said, smiling. "I don't really feel like I have an out right now, so I'm going to hang in there."
He was more serious, though when talking about Florida coach Urban Meyer, who announced he was stepping down Friday due to health reasons only to reconsider Saturday and take a leave of absence.
"I will say this, I think that college football is a lot better off with people like Urban Meyer in our profession," Saban said. "He's a true professional it what he does, has done a fantastic job everywhere he's been, and does it with a lot of dignity, class and professionalism. We not only have a lot of respect for him as a person, but also the wonderful job he's done everywhere he's been and especially at the University of Florida. We're also very mindful and concerned that he doesn't have a health issue that will affect his future. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in making sure that he takes care of himself and doesn't have issues in the future relative to his health."
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoop attended last Wednesday's practice before the team broke for the holidays. "Practices are not open to the public, but we've had numerous coaches from a lot of different places at practice," Saban said. "When we got together over the summer he mentioned that he wanted to come back to practice at some time. They got here right before practice, they watched the practice organization, the watched practice and they left. We didn't get a chance to spend a lot of time to talk much, we had a Christmas party right after that for the staff here, but yeah they were here." Oklahoma will face Stanford in Thursday's Sun Bowl.
Alabama still hasn't heard anything from the NCAA regarding its appeal on travel reimbursement. The NCAA provides a stipend to players of bowl-bound teams, who can make their own arrangements. However, with the bowl so far away the Tide voted to take a team charter.
Sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower and redshirt freshman end Damion Square, who are both coming off knee surgery, stretched with teammates and wore black jerseys. The team practiced outside and everyone was in sweatpants after working in pads Sunday. Saban compared it to a normal Monday practice.
Mike Johnson on how he ended up at left guard: "I don't know exactly. Probably because everywhere else was full. Last year I was playing between two great guys and just trying not to mess things up."