TUSCALOOSA _ Since he first arrived at the University of Alabama in 2005, senior defensive end Brandon Deaderick has been waiting for this Saturday.
"This is a game I've been pretty much looking forward to since my freshman year," he said. "My redshirt senior year, I can go home and get booed in Kentucky."
That's because Deaderick hails from the Bluegrass State, and after being recruited by former assistant coach Sparky Woods chose to attend the Capstone over Auburn, Kentucky and Louisville.
Consequently, he'll know a lot of players on the other sideline, especially the one opposite him on nearly every play. Former Elizabethtown High School teammate and good friend Zipp Duncan moved from guard to left tackle during the offseason.
"We'll try and keep it professional," Deaderick said.
Meanwhile, the homecoming figures to be even more special after he was shot a month ago during a failed robbery. Deaderick estimated that he's 95 percent recovered with the bullet holes having closed up and no longer requiring extra protective bandages.
"If I scraped myself, that's what it would look like," he said.
Alabama is still considering its option at weakside linebacker after sophomore Dont'a Hightower was lost for the season due to a knee injury.
"We given lots of guys opportunities at linebacker and we'll continue to do that," Coach Nick Saban said. "We really don't have anything specific to report right now. Cory Reamer has the most experience and is probably the most knowledge at this point to go in and play that position, but that decision has not been made."
After Hightower left the Arkansas game late in the first quarter, Reamer moved from strongside to weakside linebacker (Will), with sophomore Courtney Upshaw at Jack linebacker and senior Eryk Anders going from Jack to strongside linebacker (Sam).
"To me that's harder to do without taking all the reps," Saban said. "The guy with all the reps in practice is much more prepared for the game."
Sophomore Chris Jordan has not moved from backup middle linebacker to weakside during practice. Freshman Nico Johnson has been working at both Mike and Will, while backup Jerrell Harris is ineligible for two more weeks.
Saban reported that Hightower's knee surgery went well: "(The doctor) thinks he'll make a full recovery, and he'll be ok."
Meanwhile, sophomore defensive lineman Nick Gentry has been out with the flu the last two days; running back Jeramie Griffin (knee) was again on an exercise bike wearing a black jersey; and freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell (shin splints) was not on a bike.
Ban cut-blocking? Not so fast
Don't wait for the outcry from the Crimson Tide about the cut-block that ended Hightower's season.
"I have mixed emotions about it," Saban said. "Cut-blocking has been a part of the game for a long time. A lot of players get hurt because of cut-blocking, but I also feel that every player has a responsibility to play the cut-blocks. We need to coach how to play the blocks properly so that you minimize the chances of getting injured by being cut. It's always my feeling, and I tell the players this, that if a guy cuts you and is in front of you and you can see him, it should never be issue, because you can play the cut-block in a certain way, and that was the situation with Dont'a. I don't know if he saw the guy, but the guy was in front of him. He should have looked at the blocker and used his hands.
"I don't know how adversely it would affect the offenses if you couldn't block. I think it would to some degree and it would be much harder to make certain blocks."
Added senior guard Mike Johnson: "Depends of it's on the line of scrimmage or out in space, it's definitely used in a lot of what we do here, in terms of the back-side and outside on certain plays, getting people on the ground.
"It's just a tough situation. I looked at the block and it was a good block in my opinion."
Count Saban among those whom have noticed a lot of helmets coming off players' heads in general this season. "I think there ought to be something done, some sort of investigation regarding player safety," he said.
Senior running back Roy Upchurch says he's 80 percent recovered from the high-ankle sprain he sustained on a Wildcat-formation play when someone landed on him. "I've been basically sleeping the trainer's room," he said. He also promised not to shave his "Abe Lincoln" beard as long as Alabama keeps winning.
True freshman wide receiver Kevin Norwood was working on the scout team Wednesday as one of the players wearing Randall Cobb's No. 18.
Deaderick on the fan support after being shot: "Everyone was really, really nice, and really generous. I got cards from a lot of people and that meant a lot to me. But just the fact that a lot of people were telling me I was in their prayers and whatnot, that meant a lot me and my family."