Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Sports

Tide enters title game hurting at WR

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No. 2 Alabama's once-deep receiving corps has been hit by its third big injury.

The Crimson Tide lost deep threat Kenny Bell to a broken leg against Auburn, marking the third major hit among receivers this season. It has left a thinned-out group facing No. 3 Georgia in Saturday's SEC Championship Game.

Coach Nick Saban said Monday he's considering playing touted freshman Chris Black, who had shoulder surgery in August, over the final two games. Black is in line for a redshirt season.

"He's been practicing for three weeks now. Now he's been cleared," Saban said Monday. "So we're going to try to get him some reps because we're getting down to where we only have maybe five guys that have much experience at the position. We still feel good about the guys that we have. We just need to get more guys ready to play so that they can complement each other.

"You'd like to be able to roll guys in and out at that position."

The Tide has been able to do that pretty well this season despite the casualties. DeAndrew White started the first five games before a season-ending knee injury against Mississippi.

Now, Bell has had surgery and is out five or six weeks. Saban said it's up to the team doctors to determine when he can return.

Bell has a team-high 25.4 yards per catch and has the team's two longest receptions, 85 yards against Florida Atlantic and 57 against Mississippi State.

The biggest playmaker for quarterback AJ McCarron has clearly been freshman Amari Cooper, easily the team leader with 767 yards and eight touchdowns. He has three 100-yard games in his past six despite being held without a catch against LSU, when he missed the second half with an ankle injury.

"The one you notice is Cooper, obviously," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "He's the leading receiver. He's definitely the go-to guy, the deep ball guy, made some wonderful plays. Some of the long yardage receptions have been just launching it out there deep and him making a play. He's also caught a couple balls, shorter range balls, made people miss, has taken it to the house or had some big plays.

"He's very versatile. They have a couple other guys that have been outstanding for them, as well."

Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones are veterans having solid seasons, but no other healthy wideout has more than four catches.

MUTE MURRAY: With Georgia one win away from playing for a national championship, quarterback Aaron Murray has suddenly imposed a media blackout.

The school said that Murray, the former Plant High standout, met with coach Mark Richt and got permission to be relieved from his media responsibilities leading up to the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.

Murray has always been one of Georgia's most accessible players, usually meeting with the media on Tuesdays and after games. But he gave a hint that his approach would change when he didn't hang around after last week's win over Georgia Tech, appearing to catch the sports information staff off guard.

One of his best friends, linebacker Christian Robinson, said Murray simply wants to make sure his entire focus is on beating the Crimson Tide.

CHATTY MANZIEL: The legend of Johnny Football has grown all season while Johnny Manziel piled up yards and the Texas A&M Aggies piled up wins.

Monday, the freshman quarterback finally weighed in on his catchy nickname as he spoke to the media for the first time all season.

"I think a lot of people here in Aggieland enjoy it," he said. "But I find it extremely funny."

The success of Manziel and the Aggies is no joke. His 4,600 yards of total offense have helped A&M to its first 10-win season since 1998 and has him among the top Heisman Trophy contenders.

Manziel said he respected coach Kevin Sumlin's decision for him not to speak to the media this season because he's a freshman. But he said he's happy to have a chance to talk about this season.

"It's kind of nice now to be able to kind of let you guys know how I am a little bit more," he said. "There's so many question marks out there."

Sumlin, who is in his first year at A&M after four seasons at Houston, raved about Manziel and said he was a catalyst for what his team was able to do in its first season in the SEC.

"He's a tremendous competitor and a tremendous leader, and that's something that you really don't see in a player as a redshirt freshman," Sumlin said. "His leadership on and off the field throughout the season has made our season a real successful one."

HAWAII BOWL: SMU accepted an invitation to play the Christmas Eve game against a team from the Mountain West.

POINSETTIA BOWL: San Diego State accepted a bid to face BYU in the Dec. 20 bowl in San Diego.

GA. TECH: The school opened practice for the ACC Championship Game without leading rusher Orwin Smith, but the senior said he "definitely" plans to practice today and hopes to play in Saturday night's game against FSU. Smith missed last week's 42-10 loss to Georgia with a sprained right ankle.

MICHIGAN: Coach Brady Hoke said a medical-redshirt request is being sent to the Big Ten on quarterback Devin Gardner's behalf. If a medical hardship is granted, Gardner will be eligible to play during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Gardner was limited to three games as a freshman at least in part because of a back injury.

PITT: Coach Paul Chryst dismissed redshirt freshman defensive back Stephen Williams from the team for disciplinary reasons two days after he was charged with assaulting a woman who said she was his girlfriend.

TEXAS: Coach Mack Brown said Case McCoy will start at quarterback this week at Kansas State. Starter David Ash is listed as questionable after a rib injury in last week's loss to TCU.

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