TUSCALOOSA | Around the University of Alabama practice field this week, it's not hard to tell which jersey numbers belong to Michigan's best players. Scout team players wear numbers corresponding to the opposing players that are of the greatest concern to the UA coaching staff, and there are several wearing No. 25 this week.
That would be Michigan fifth-year senior linebacker Kenny Demens.
"He's an outstanding football player, probably one of their best football players," said UA coach Nick Saban. "He's somebody we're going to have to get blocked and finish on because these guys don't stay blocked very long. He can run, he's a very good athlete and he runs their defense, pretty much."
Demens led Michigan in tackles last season with 94, and is approaching 200 for his career. The Wolverines return only one starter on their defensive line, however, which could make things more difficult for Demens Saturday night when the two teams open their seasons in Dallas. Michigan's defense ranked No.17 in the nation last year at 322 yards allowed per game.
They play with a lot of toughness up front (on defense)," Saban added. "(They) especially play the run extremely well."
Clean-up on aisle McCarron
The end of two-a-day practices are a primary reason players look forward to the end of fall camp. For some, however, there are other things to be thankful for now that the season has arrived.
UA offensive tackle Barrett Jones, for instance, was roommates with quarterback AJ McCarron in camp, but no longer.
"He's messy. Surprising from him. Kind of leaves his things everywhere," Jones said with a smile. "I guess it wasn't our permanent rooms, so it's hard to really judge how he would be as a roommate. I was like, 'AJ, I'm not your maid. I'm not going to clean up your trash.'"
Walk-on Kelly Johnson, who earned the starting role at H-back for Alabama, said he is trying to contain his excitement for the Michigan game. The senior has played several positions at UA, but only began trying his hand at tight end last year after making the request of UA assistant Bobby Williams. After spending last year on the kickoff team, the Charlotte, N.C., native carries a larger role into Saturday's game.
"My phone has been ringing off the hook," Johnson said. "I'm telling them to relax a little bit. I'm trying to relax a little bit."
"I told him not to do that. He's not allowed to do that." - UA safety Vinnie Sunseri on whether his father, Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, will wear orange pants on game day like UT head coach Derek Dooley.
Saban said center Ryan Kelly, wide receiver Amari Cooper and running back Eddie Lacy -- all of whom had minor injuries last week -- are healthy enough to play Saturday. ... Alabama will have its walk-through in Tuscaloosa Friday, but the team will visit Cowboys Stadium upon their arrival in Dallas. ... Stiffarmtrophy.com, which polls Heisman Trophy voters throughout the college football season in an effort to project a winner, released its preseason list Wednesday. The highest-ranked Alabama player was quarterback AJ McCarron, who ranked 15th. McCarron appeared on 35 percent of respondents' unranked watchlists. ... According to SeatGeek.com, the average price for an Alabama-Michigan ticket on the secondary market is $375.78, a mark-up of 86 percent over average face value. It is Alabama's fourth-most expensive ticket since 2010, behind UA's three most recent games against LSU.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.