TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Just days before kicking off the season in front of a national television audience against another top-10 team, No. 5 Alabama still faces several questions.
The flu bug, an NCAA eligibility ruling and Monday night’s shooting of starting defensive end Brandon Deaderick require decisions in the two days before facing No. 7 Virginia Tech at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Georgia Dome.
By Wednesday evening, one issue was resolved.
The NCAA reinstated the eligibility of receiver Julio Jones and running back Mark Ingram, based on the condition of repayment for a spring fishing trip paid for by Athens, Ala., resident Curtis Anderson.
“According to the facts of the case submitted by Alabama, the student-athletes received impermissible food, lodging, transportation and entertainment from an individual with whom one of the student-athletes had become acquainted prior to enrolling in college,” the NCAA said in a written statement.
“Consistent with NCAA membership requirements, the institution reported the violation and declared the student-athletes ineligible. As part of the reinstatement request, the institution required the student-athletes to make repayment of the value of the impermissible benefits to charity.”
Earlier in the day, Saban expressed frustration about questions surrounding Jones and Ingram.
“I’ve got enough problems with what is,” Saban said on Wednesday morning’s SEC teleconference. “So let’s focus on what is for right now.”
That would be the questions about starting defensive ends.
Deaderick surprised teammates when he practiced Wednesday afternoon, less than 48 hours after being shot Monday in an apparent robbery attempt. The defensive end wore a black non-contact jersey and a white sleeve over his left arm, covering his single gunshot wound. Police still are searching for a suspect in the on-going investigation.
Deaderick, who started all 14 games last season, expressed interest in playing a day after leaving the hospital. It is a possibility Saban didn’t rule out after Wednesday’s workout, but the coach said there is no way he would allow Deaderick to play if there were any risk of further injury.
“Once we feel like he is ready to play, we will probably allow him to play, “Saban said. “I don’t know when that is right now, because we are sort of going day-to-day.”
And then there is the issue of the flu.
Several starters and key backups have missed time with the virus that has spread around the Tuscaloosa campus since classes resumed Aug. 19. First-string players Terrence Cody, Cory Reamer and Marquis Maze have missed practice time along with back-up left tackle Alfred McCullough.
Reamer returned Wednesday after missing Monday and Tuesday practices while being quarantined to prevent spread of the virus.
Darrington Sentimore’s illness could further weaken the Tide defensive ends. Sentimore, a true freshman listed third on Monday’s depth chart behind Deaderick and Luther Davis, missed four practices from Saturday through Wednesday.
Reamer said he is just happy to be back on the field after a few days “in lockdown.” The starting Sam linebacker didn’t miss too much of the game plan installation, just a few tweaks. A meeting with coaches brought him up to speed.
The team isn’t overly stressed when faced with the multiple issues it has this week, Reamer said.
“It might have a couple years ago, when we were lacking a lot of depth,” the senior from Hoover said. “But now that we have so many guys, especially in the front-seven, we have a lot of guys that can fill in. So it’s not like we are going to have to make huge adjustments. We have plenty of guys who can step in.”
Saban also said he is confident the players are not caught up in what he calls “external factors.” From conversations he has overheard, their topics haven’t strayed too far from the game, Saban said.
“If there is anything I’m worried about, it’s first-game jitters,” he said.