TUSCALOOSA _ When University of Alabama running back Mark Ingram accumulated 246 rushing yards against South Carolina and became a viable candidate for national player of the year awards including the Heisman Trophy, something else was going on with the Crimson Tide offense.
Things clicked for James Carpenter, the junior-college transfer who stepped in at left tackle.
"He's really come a long way," senior guard Mike Johnson said. "Really had to talk him through the Virginia Teach game and talk him through it as best I could.
"Right about the second quarter of the South Carolina game, we were running a couple of power plays and at one point his footwork sort of came together. We got into the film room and he was, 'Yeah, I get it now.' We ended up running the ball the rest of the way and really started having success on the ground."
Alabama ran for 264 yards against South Carolina and has averaged 282.5 rushing yards the past two games. Meanwhile, except for the two against reserve players last week, sacks have slowed to a trickle since playing the Gamecocks with just one against LSU.
"He's always had the talent, he's always had the athleticism, just getting the scheme and getting used to the speed at the same time is so difficult," junior quarterback Greg McElroy said. "Practicing against Deaderick and Marcell Dareus can be tough, I think that helped him.
"James has done a super job."
Players say they also see a difference in practice as well, and not just with Carpenter.
"They clicked pretty well," Deaderick said about the line. "They had some rough spots while trying to figure each other out, but gelled pretty well."
One of the key statistics in Ingram's pursuit of the Heisman Trophy is yards after contact. While the sophomore has 1,399 rushing yards and 225 receiving yards, for a 1,624 total with three games to play, he's been credited with 885 yards after the initial hit (54.5 percent).
When Earl Campbell won the Heisman Trophy in 1977 after switching from fullback to tailback, he had 1,744 rushing yards, many by running over defenders, of which it was estimated 800 yards were after contact.
Texas sports information director Jones Ramsey is credited with creating the yards after contact statistic.
Mark Ingram Day
Friday has been declared Mark Ingram Day in his hometown of Flint, Mich.
"The Heisman Trophy would mean a lot for Flint," former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves told the Flint Journal. "It's just a bright light on the city and all of the tough times we've been going through. We all just gotta come out and support him."
Several government and school officials, community members, business owners and Flint-area athletes gathered Tuesday at Genesys Athletic Club to announce a local "Ingram for Heisman" push. Several restaurants will show Alabama's game at Auburn and sell "Ingram for Heisman" t-shirts.
"He never has a negative remark about anybody, he's always a team player," said Art Johnson, Ingram's grandfather, who played football at Michigan State and in the Canadian Football League. "I knew he had talent, but I didn't want to tell him that because I didn't want it to go to his head. His dad was the same way, but I'd tell his dad, 'He's better than you and I, period.'"
Smart up for Broyles Award
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has been nominated for the Broyles Award for national assistant coach of the year.
"Kirby is an outstanding coach, he's done an outstanding job for us," Coach Nick Saban said. "I think it's absolutely fantastic he's getting some recognition."
After giving up just 84 yards to Chattanooga, the Tide tops the nation in total defense by giving up an average of 225.18 yards per game. It also ranks second in both scoring (9.91 points) and rushing defense (70.55), and fifth in pass defense (154.64).
Also up for the award are Sonny Dykes (Arizona), Paul Petrino (Arkansas), Bryan Harsin (Boise State), Gary Tranquill (Boston College), Mike Bajakian (Central Michigan), Jeff Quinn (Cincinnati), Kevin Steele (Clemson), Joe Moorhead (Connecticut), Mike MacIntyre (Duke), Charlie Strong (Florida), Rick Trickett (Florida State), Brian Bohannon (Georgia Tech), Steve Axman (Idaho), Norm Parker (Iowa), Randy Sanders (Kentucky), Troy Reffett (Louisiana-Monroe), John Hevesy (Mississippi State), Buddy Green (Navy), Carl Pelini (Nebraska), Everett Withers (North Carolina), Rob Ianello (Notre Dame), Bill Young (Oklahoma State), Tryone Nix (Ole Miss), Frank Cignetti (Pittsburgh), Shane Beamer (South Carolina), Darrell Wyatt (Southern Miss), Greg Roman (Stanford), Will Muschamp (Texas), Dick Bumpas (TCU), Eric Russell (Texas Tech), Frank Gansz, Jr. (UCLA), Mike Sabock (Western Michigan), and Paul Chryst (Wisconsin).
The five finalists will be announced Nov. 30.
Here's the Alabama awards rundown:
Heisman Trophy: Finalists announced Dec. 7.
Maxwell Award (outstanding player): Mark Ingram, finalist along with Tim Tebow (Florida) and Colt McCoy (Texas): Winner announced Dec. 10.
Walter Camp Award (Player of the year): Ingram, Rolando McClain semifinalists. Finalists announced Dec. 2.
Butkus Award (linebacker): Rolando McClain, finalist along with Sam Kindle (Texas), Eric Norwood (South Carolina), Brandon Spikes (Florida) and Sean Witherspoon (Missouri). Winner announced Dec. 8.
Bednarik Award (defensive player): Terrence Cody, finalist along with Spikes and Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska). Winner announced Dec. 10.
Doak Walker Award (running back): Ingram, finalist along with Toby Gerhart (Stanford) and C.J. Spiller (Clemson). Winner named Dec. 10.
Lou Groza Award (kicker): Leigh Tiffin, finalist along with Kai Forbath (UCLA) and Blair Walsh (Georgia). Winner named Dec. 10.
Bronko Nagurski Award (defensive player): Cody, finalist along with Pat Angerer (Iowa), Eric Berry (Tennessee), Jerry Hughes (TCU) and Suh. Winner announced Dec. 7.
Rotary Lombard Award (lineman): Cody, finalist along with Hughers, Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) and Suh. Winner announced Dec. 9.
Lott Trophy (defensive impact player): McClain, semifinalist. Finalists were due to be announced Tuesday.
Rimington Trophy (center): Finalists were to be announced Monday.
Eddie Robinson Award (coach): Finalists announced Dec. 9.
Broyles Award (assistant coach): Kirby Smart, nominated. Finalists announced Nov. 30.
No longer in the running: Davey O'Brien Award (quarterback); Unitas Golden Arm (senior quarterback); Fred Biletnikoff Award (wide receiver); John Mackey Award (tight end); Ray Guy Award (punter); Walter Campbell Trophy (scholar-athlete, formerly known as the Draddy Trophy); Outland Trophy (interior lineman); Jim Thorpe Award (defensive back); George Munger Award (coach); Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end).
Both coaches are preaching that Friday will be a physical game. "That's what the game is going to come down to, the physicality on both sides of the ball," Auburn's Gene Chizik said. "Everyone needs to understand the game does not get won or loss based on reputation," Saban said. "Our players need to be ready to play a very physical game because most of the time the team that is most physical will win the game."
Senior cornerback Javier Arenas was named to the SEC Community Service Team. According to the release: "Arenas has volunteered more than 50 hours of community service throughout the Tuscaloosa community. He has spent time in the local school systems, speaking to children about the dangers of bullying and the positive effects of team work. He has also attended birthday parties of physically challenged children and reached out with phone calls to children battling cancer. He is also involved with Project Angel Tree."
Alabama practiced earlier than usual Wednesday and players whose families live within a two-hour drive were allowed to go home for dinner. Saban had 17 players heading to his house to celebrate Thanksgiving. As for the shortened week, he said the team practiced "Ok. It's a little bit of an adjustment."
Practice was closed to reporters. "We don't really have any injuries to speak of," Saban said. "We have a couple of guys nicked up, but everyone practiced today."
Saban took time during his press conference to wish fans and everyone associated with the program a happy Thanksgiving. "It's a holiday that sometimes gets overlooked, but it is a time to have gratitude for all that we have," he said. "I know that we all have a lot to be thankful for."