TUSCALOOSA — Alabama receiver Kenny Bell underwent surgery Sunday morning for the broken leg he suffered against Auburn, and Tide coach Nick Saban has a possible replacement in mind:
True freshman Chris Black, who hasn’t played a down this year after hurting his shoulder in the first week of preseason practice.
Black had surgery and returned to practice three weeks ago in a limited capacity. He wasn’t cleared for contact drills at the time, and Saban had intended to redshirt him.
On Sunday, Saban said doctors have cleared Black, and he could get a chance to shore up Alabama’s depleted wide receiver roster as the second-ranked Crimson Tide (11-1) prepares to face No. 3 Georgia (11-1) in the SEC Championship Game.
“We may have to revisit whether we redshirt him or go ahead and let him play,” Saban said.
The winner of this game likely will go to the BCS National Championship Game, and it isn’t unusual for Saban to consider lifting a redshirt when the stakes are this high. In 2009, Saban named then-freshman AJ McCarron his backup quarterback for the BCS Championship Game. McCarron had not played all year, but Saban said if then-starter Greg McElroy went down with a game-ending injury and not just a few plays, McCarron would get the call.
McElroy didn’t get hurt, and McCarron remained on the bench for Alabama’s 37-21 win over Texas, keeping his redshirt intact.
Bell went down in the 49-0 win over Auburn, and Saban said doctors told him the Tide junior would need surgery to insert a rod into his leg. Bell had 17 catches and avearged 25.4 yards a reception. Alabama also lost receiver DeAndrew White with a season-ending knee injury in the fifth game of the year, which was a home win over Ole Miss.
“We have other good players who have played consistently for us this year,” Saban said. “We’re going to try to put them in the best position to utilize the skills they have and hopefully make some plays for us.”
At the beginning of preseason practice, Alabama had slated Bell, White and Black as part of the two-deep depth chart at the Tide’s three receiver positions.
Black enrolled at Alabama in January and went through spring practice, catching three passes for 61 yards in the annual A-Day Game. Last year, Rivals.com rated Black as the eighth best prep receiver in the country, while Amari Cooper, who leads Alabama in receiving this year, was rated sixth.
Georgia has had injury issues at receiver, too. The Bulldogs lost receiver Marlon Brown on Nov. 3 to season-ending knee surgery. At the time, he was tied for the team high with 27 catches. Georgia also lost receiver Michael Bennett a month earlier to a knee injury.
The two teams have other areas in common, too. For example, Alabama and Georgia have the two most efficient passing quarterbacks in the country. The Bulldogs’ Aaron Murray ranks first nationally, while Alabama’s McCarron is second.
Both run a pro-style offense and a 3-4 defense. Both prefer balanced offenses. Georgia has a running back tandem of Todd Gurley (1,138 yards) and Keith Marshall (720), while Alabama’s tandem has gained similar yards, Eddie Lacy (1,001) and T.J. Yeldon (847).
One thing they’ve done is they’ve been national champions and we’ve not,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “They’ve been SEC champions, and we’ve not during the time frame of these kids’ careers. That’s the biggest difference I see right now.”