by John Vannie
The participants in this season’s BCS title game took a slightly different approach in scheduling the allotted practice time, but both squads will certainly be ready for the kickoff in Miami on January 7. At that moment, it will have been 44 days since the Irish knocked off USC in Los Angeles, while Alabama will be 37 days removed from its victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship.
Tide Coach Nick Saban gave his team until December 18 before initiating practice. His team will concentrate on fundamentals in five consecutive training camp type sessions before a Christmas break, and resume on December 26 by preparing specifically for Notre Dame before departing for Miami and final workouts. Brian Kelly’s preparation plan for the Irish started on December 7 and is less concentrated, as there are days off between most practices. Kelly has not disclosed the nature or focus of his practices.
Frankly, there is very little information for public consumption coming out of the Notre Dame camp, but that is by design. Kelly has largely shielded the players from view while allowing his assistant coaches to speak to the media. Those comments contained the usual high praise for their opponent’s defense, which in this case are justified. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, who worked for Tennessee in the SEC before his arrival in South Bend, is quite familiar with Bama’s defensive scheme and talent. “They’re outstanding in everything that they do,” Hiestand said. “They play tremendously hard, tremendously tough. They’re extremely well-coached. They understand football and they understand how to stop offenses.” Offensive Coordinator Chuck Martin, who was meticulously studying film of Saban’s rush defense in search of a weakness, was even more blunt in his assessment. “They don’t give up squat running it, we know that.”
Regarding assistant coaches, it appears now that Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco will remain at the school in 2013 after interviewing for various head coaching earlier positions this month. Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt is headed to Florida State to become the Seminoles’ Defensive Coordinator, and current Alabama DC Kirby Smart’s name has been associated with several job openings.
On the player front, Irish wide receiver DeVaris Daniels is practicing after recovering from a broken clavicle, and is expected to be available for action against the Crimson Tide. Similarly, the previous injuries suffered by safety Matthias Farley and nose tackle Louis Nix are not expected to limit their participation in the title game. Alabama has a couple of more serious injury issues to overcome. All-American center Barrett Jones is on crutches due to a broken foot that the program is reporting as a “sprain”, and he will not practice until sometime after Christmas. Wide receiver Kenny Bell is trying to come back from a broken leg, but has not been able to test it yet. While Jones is likely to play against Notre Dame even if he is not fully healed, Bell’s status won’t be determined until just before game day.
We’ll have a more in depth review of the matchup with a prediction on or about January 1.