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October 13, 2010TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama junior wide receiver Julio Jones was back in his usual white jersey during Wednesday's practice and catching passes just three days after having surgery on his left hand.
Jones had both a metal plate and screw inserted after fracturing a bone at South Carolina, and spent Tuesday's practice wearing black, signaling no contact.
"Julio practiced today, he didn't have problems from what he did yesterday," Coach Nick Saban said. "We just evaluate these things from day-to-day. He doesn't have any problems from what he did today. He was able to catch balls.
"He did run routes. He did practice with everybody else."
Jones has 32 receptions for 440 yards, averaging 73.3 yards per game, and three touchdowns. He's also the unit's best downfield blocker and leads the team in yards after the catch with 246.
When asked if he expects Jones to play, junior wide receiver Darius Hanks responded, "Yes sir, I do.
"Julio is a tough guy. He's out there every day. You could tell when he first had surgery, but he's looking a lot better."
Hanks said that Jones told teammates during the game that he had hurt his hand, but didn't tell team doctors until later on.
"You use your hands all the time," Saban explained. "You use your hands when you're blocking, you use your hands when you have to release off tight coverage, especially anybody who plays bump-and-run. Ole Miss plays a lot of cover-one, off-man, man-to-man coverage.
"He needs to have use of his hand. Catching the ball is something you use your hands as much and anything. So far he's been able to do that. We did have him use his hands on bags today, maybe people tomorrow, we'll have to wait and see."
Redshirt freshman right tackle D.J. Fluker has been ruled out for Ole Miss due to a severe groin injury. For the second straight day he rode an exercise bike during practice.
At linebacker, junior Chris Jordan (hamstring) is making obvious progress and Saban said junior Courtney Upshaw (thigh/ankle) is making progress as well.
"Ankle's fine, he practiced today," Saban said about Upshaw. "He should be ready for the game if he doesn't have any reoccurring problems."
Even though junior Alfred McCullough is expected to make his first career start and Alabama could also be without Jones, players say their injuries won't change the offensive game-plan.
"Absolutely not," senior tight end Preston Dial said, adding about McCullough: "We know he can handle the job, he's a big, strong guy, so we're not going to change anything."
Hanks had an even more direct response regarding the receiving corps, which has been using a seven-man rotation led by him, Marquis Maze and Jones.
"When someone goes down someone has to step up," Hanks said.
The running game figures to be a major priority against Ole Miss. "It's something we've emphasized," Dial said. "Last week we just got pushed back (by South Carolina's lead), you have to do what you have to do. We understand we have some great backs. Up front we take pride in our running game and our passing game, but we definitely want to get moving in the right direction and establish the run."
Saban didn't specify who would fill in for McCullough as the third tackle: "Tyler Love is on one side and John Michael Boswell can play right tackle. We haven't played him yet but Arie (Kouandijo) has worked at tackle most of the year. If it's necessary ready to play him we'll get him ready to play."
All of Alabama's reserve tackles have practiced on both the left and right sides. "The hardest part of it, I always thought, was the mind part of it," sophomore guard Barrett Jones said. "Every call you hear you have to flip it around in your mind."
A group of Cubans, including an elderly man who said he used to play football years ago (but that the Americans are now much bigger), was on hand for the start of practice. Many were startled by the offensive linemen hitting the blocking sleds for the first time behind them. Interpreters made sure to teach them the "Roll Tide" cheer before departing.
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