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September 6, 2010TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama junior running back Mark Ingram didn't practice with teammates Monday and is considered day-to-day after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week.
"They're both going to start some dry-land rehab today," Coach Nick Saban said about Ingram and reserve safety Wesley Neighbors. "Every rehab and every step of the way when you come back from this has to be evaluated in 12 to 24 hours as to how you react to that. It's going to be a day-to-day basis as to whether he can take the next step and the next step and the next step ...
"You can ask me, but I don't know if he'll be able to play in this game."
Saban said the deciding factor will be how long it takes for Ingram to practice at full speed, or in his words, "see Mark Ingram be Mark Ingram." Usually players who aren't on the field by Wednesday or Thursday aren't counted on for games.
"He's working hard," sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "I saw him cutting around yesterday so hopefully we'll have him back next week."
It wasn't clear if Hightower meant for Penn State or Duke on Sept. 18.
Without Ingram the Crimson Tide accumulated 257 rushing yards, 243 by running backs Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy and Demetrius Goode, and four rushing touchdowns against San Jose State.
When asked how Ingram's absence might change the offense, senior quarterback Greg McElroy said: "I'm not really sure. I think we do have confidence if we need to open it up more."
He also thinks that the running backs probably learned a lot during Saturday's game, with all three having heightened roles.
"I think that fumble by Eddie was great, long-term," McElroy said. "Obviously you never want to fumble, you never want to give up a possession in the red zone, especially in the end zone, but the way he was able to bounce back, the way it didn't affect him, the way it was maybe his fourth career carry and had a negative result, he was able to bounce back and have a great game. That's really encouraging to me."
Other injury news
All of the players who sustained injuries Saturday were at practice, although redshirt freshman D.J. Fluker and junior linebacker Courtney Upshaw were obviously limited by their sprained ankles.
"He's probably going to be out today," Saban said about Upshaw before practice. "We're hopeful that he'll be able to practice tomorrow, even though he'll be out on the field (today). D.J. Fluker, who we didn't really feel like he had that serious of an injury after the game, had a little more swelling and a few more problems. He'll be very limited and do very little in practice today. We also feel like he should be able to practice tomorrow."
Junior A.J. McCullough worked with the first unit at tackle, with true freshman Arie Kouandijo on the second unit. Redshirt freshman Ed Stinson is behind Upshaw on the depth chart at Jack, although the Tide has some other options there if necessary.
Best catch since Prothro's?
Apparently Robert Ezell isn't the only player who can do impersonations of the coaching staff as senior quarterback Greg McElroy predicted offensive coordinator Jim McElwain's reaction to Julio Jones' leaping one-handed catch on the game film.
"Wow," he quipped. "I mean what else can I say?"
While Jones believes he's made better receptions during practices and says he expects to make those kinds of plays, he's also right-handed. Saturday's catch was with his left hand.
"That's about as special as I've seen," McElroy said. "I don't think I've seen a catch like that since I've been here."
Consequently, Jones was one of five players recognized by the coaching staff for weekly honors, joining Richardson on offense, junior safety Mark Barron on defense and freshman kicker Cade Foster and junior linebacker Chris Jordan on special teams.
Jones and Lacy received consideration of SEC offensive player of the week.
No problem in first game back
Hightower didn't have any problems in his first game back after a helmet to the knee against Arkansas resulted in season-ending surgery last year.
"I wasn't too worried about it, I was just trying to make the calls," said Hightower, who made three tackles. "My knee was kind of the last thing I was worried about."
Jones had an end run Saturday that was very similar to the play he got hurt on last season against Florida International when he took a helmet to the knee, resulting in deep bruise that troubled him for weeks.
"They were trying to get us low," he said of San Jose State. "I learned from last year I have to get my pads down low."
He also had Fluker blocking before him on the left side, between James Carpenter and Chance Warmack, which Jones laughingly said he didn't request for the play out of the wildcat formation.
"Not at all. We drew it up and ran in the play."
Saban believes the greatest improvement during any season is between the first two games. "As fans, maybe you look at it as, 'Well we gained this many yards, we did this well on third down, we didn't give up that many points and we scored a lot of points,' but as a coach, you look at potential areas of exposure based on things not being done correctly," he said. "Whether they were taken advantage of or not, really is not what you're concerned about."
Hightower on Penn State being called Linebacker U: "No comment."
Redshirt freshman Brandon Moore was lined up at third-string nose tackle during practice, with junior Nick Gentry backing up senior Luther Davis at right defensive end.
Alabama will enter Saturday's game with a 15-game winning streak at Bryant-Denny Stadium and with a win will tie for the fourth-longest string in stadium history. However, the record is 57 (1963-82).
Scout-team numbers: Both Corey Grant and Blake Sims were wearing the number of Penn State running back Evan Royster during practice, while Tana Patrick and Jalston Fowler were mimicking linebacker Chris Colasanti, and Michael Bowman the role of 6-5 receiver Derek Moye.
The Tide practiced a little later than usual, with players in shells. The forecast for Saturday is sunny with a high of 93 degrees and a low of 74.