TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama junior running back Mark Ingram missed his third straight practice Wednesday and probably won't play this week against Penn State.
The Heisman Trophy winner is still considered day-to-day after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week. Reserve safety Wesley Neighbors, who apparently had a similar procedure the day before Ingram returned to practice Wednesday.
""Mark's improving every day, he did dry-land running every day and we'll continue to progress him every day," Nick Saban said during the SEC coaches' conference call Wednesday morning. "He hasn't had any swelling or any problems, so if he can continue to progress I would say he's probably not going to be ready to play this week, he might be ready by the game but he won't practice enough to be ready. I think after that I think we have a chance to get him back if he continues to progress.
His tone didn't change much after practice.
"Mark was in gear today for some of the stuff, doing some running and all that," Saban said. "I just don't know if Mark's going to have enough practice time. He's getting close, but I don't know if he'll have enough practice time in to be able to play in the game or not.
"Guys who don't practice Thursday usually don't get in the game, but we're not pushing Mark back into the game. We're not pushing Mark back in this game, we're not jeopardizing his future, his career, anything else. Until he can run the field in practice and gain confidence, in himself as well as his physical condition, we'll not do that. If there's anyone in the world who can play without practicing it's probably Mark. He's a student of the game, he watches everything, understands everything, knows everything and he's a tremendous competitor. He has a lot of experience, but would never put him in that situation."
Freshman D.J. Fluker worked again at his usual spot, right tackle, but more questionable is junior linebacker Courtney Upshaw, who did practice Wednesday. Both are coming off ankle sprains.
Marrow to transfer
Saban announced that redshirt freshman Mike Marrow has decided to transfer.
"I'm very close with his family, his dad played for me at Toledo," Saban said. "I recruited several of his uncles and his dad years ago. He's a fine young man, good player. I think this was really personal issues, family issues, that he really wanted to be closer to home.
"We want our players to be happy, we want to do the right things by them. We did everything we could to help Michael be successful here."
Marrow is from Holland, Ohio, where he attended Central Catholic High School. He spent time at tight end, but switched to running back this season where he was the primary option when Alabama needed a fullback, especially after Jeramie Griffin's knee didn't fully recovery following surgery and switched to a medical scholarship.
Consequently, Alabama had freshman linebacker Jalston Fowler working with the running backs during Wednesday's practice but wearing a defensive (red) No. 48 jersey. While he's playing the role of Penn State inside linebacker Chris Colasanti on the scout team, Saban indicated that he's still primarily a defensive players but also an option at fullback, especially around the goal-line.
Although Saturday will be the first Alabama-Penn State meeting between the head coaches, they've been on opposing sidelines before.
"Well, when he was at Michigan State, they were tough," Paterno said. "One year, we beat them, we had to beat them when Bobby Engram made a super play. I think that was '95 or '96. He had Bobby Engram take a little flat pass and literally fight his way into the end zone for us to win the game at the end of the football game. So I think, Nick has a way of getting kids to hustle and drive, and he's a tough guy and his kids play tough.
"He's got better talent at Alabama than he had at Michigan State and more good ones than he had at Michigan State. But, the same kind of attitude toward the game, the same kind of hustle. The details, fundamentals, toughness. So, it's not much different except I think he's got a little better talent"
Saban is 2-3 against Paterno, but won the most recent game in 1999, 35-28.
He doesn't see a whole lot different in the Nittany Lions, at least in their core philosophies.
"They have made changes through the years and made changes from last year to this year," Saban said. "A lot of it is based on personnel, some of it in the kicking game in terms of the system. But one thing remains the same; they play with a lot of discipline. They play with guys that will go out and execute and do their job and not make foolish mistakes or get foolish penalties. I think they have proven over time that they know how to win, in terms of their players. That is because they are a very basic, fundamental team in their approach. They execute what they do. It is not about fooling you all the time, it's about 'this is what we do, what are you going to do to stop it?' and they are pretty good at it."
One of many special guests
Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is expected to attend Saturday's game as a special guest of Alabama's.
"I think the thing you take from guys like Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno is that they are good and have been good for a long time," Saban said. "They have also been great ambassadors for the game, and they have done what they do in a classy way. They don't talk about other people. They don't run other programs down. They just do it in a first-class way. I think that is probably the biggest thing that I have tried to emulate Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden and those types of guys, is because of how they've done what they do, the kind of people that they are and the kind of character they have. I think that is important for college football. I think that is an important part of the integrity of the game."
The Birmingham native has a new book out co-authored with ESPN's Mark Schlabach and includes forwards by Tony Dungy and Paterno, "Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith and Football."
"I hope someday he'll feel comfortable, he'll want to come on up (to visit Penn State)," Paterno said. "He's been here before from when we played West Virginia. We played West Virginia eight, nine years when he was down there. Home and away. So, I never even thought about inviting him to a game here, except that he's got an open invitation to come to any game he wants to come to."
Speaking of Penn State-West Virginia, that's where Saban got his first look at the Nittany Lions: "They use to play West Virginia all the time and that was a big game and I went to it when I was a kid. I don't remember how old I was, but I remember Joe Paterno leading the team out. We (WVU) didn't win many of those, I don't know if we ever won any when I was growing up in West Virginia. I was rooting for the Mountaineers, but it was always the big game to go see Penn State."
Saban made it very clear during his press conference that he doesn't want to hear any booing of the opposing team, especially Penn State. "I just don't understand that," he said.
Saban usually has a media representative ask questions during his weekly radio show/"Hey Coach," recorded at Buffalo Wild Wings in Tuscaloosa. Thursday it will be ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, who picked Auburn to win the SEC West this season.
Senior H-back Preston Dial on running back Eddie Lacy landing dangerously on the back of his legs on his fumble: "It's amazing how many there are, 'Whew, that was a close one,' about 300 times within the practices throughout the season. It was a little nerve-wracking in a game to happen, but I thank my lucky stars."
The team practiced inside the Hank Crisp Facility to try and catch a break from the heat. Alabama will hold a final practice Thursday and its usual walk-though Friday. All practices are closed to the public.