Planning for success: Alabama

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
8:00
AM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Iron Bowl will have to wait on Alabama.

First there's the matter of Chattanooga. Oh, those poor Mocs daring to stand in the way of the top-ranked Crimson Tide.

[+] EnlargeHead coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesNick Saban wasn't necessarily pleased with how Alabama played last week, which is not a good thing for Chattanooga this week.
Alabama is on a collision course to face Auburn on Nov. 30, but while the Tigers have the week off to prepare, the Tide will host Chattanooga for senior day at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

And after the way Alabama traveled to Mississippi State last weekend, turning the ball over a season-high four times, playing a generally sloppy game and failing to dominate a sub-.500 team, there's plenty of motivation for the Tide to come out and stomp the Mocs, end the game early and turn its attention to Auburn and the Iron Bowl.

But what is UA coach Nick Saban looking for? After lamenting the way his team entered last weekend's game, he's hoping for better preparation and better focus.

"I think we're really trying to focus on attention to detail, doing the little things right," Saban said on Wednesday. "[I] don't think we really finished the last game the way we wanted to in terms of the discipline to attention to detail and fundamentals, whether it's how you carry the ball, how you block, how you run routes, how you read the coverage, how you cover your man. … I think those are all things we need to focus on improving on.

"We certainly have a lot of respect for anybody we play. The team that we play, they're a good team. They've won eight games. We just have to have a better sense of urgency about how we prepare so that we can improve as a team."

There's no key matchup to focus in on, no position battle to agonize over. Alabama should beat Chattanooga handily and the starters should be out by halftime. Instead, look to the second- and third-string players who might not have much of an impact this season, but could develop into key contributors next season and in the years to come.

Here are a few to watch out for:

LB Dillon Lee: The true sophomore has quietly become one of the top linebackers off the bench this season, flashing good quickness and instincts. He ranks third among non-starters with 15 total tackles. He also has two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.

RB Derrick Henry: He's not had the breakout freshman season many hoped for, but Henry's 10.3 yards per carry average is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you consider he's 6-foot-3 and 283 pounds. He's run the ball 21 times -- third most on the team -- for 216 yards and a touchdown.

CB Maurice Smith: Who knows what the cornerback situation will look like a year from now? Deion Belue will be gone and both starting spots will be up for grabs, and while Cyrus Jones, Eddie Jackson and Bradley Sylve have the inside track, don't forget Smith. There's a reason the true freshman has seen the field this season, racking up 10 tackles in 10 appearances.

WR Chris Black: After redshirting his first year on campus, Black has had trouble climbing the latter at receiver. But when you consider that Kevin Norwood, DeAndrew White and Kenny Bell -- three of the top five receivers -- will be gone next season, Black's opportunity doesn't seem far away. He should see the field in the second half, likely when Blake Sims comes on at quarterback.

Alex Scarborough | email

Alabama/SEC reporter

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