For a cornerback, going unnoticed means teams aren’t throwing to your side. In his second season with the Crimson Tide, Belue has emerged as the top cornerback in a secondary full of change.
“He’s the most experienced corner that we have,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “He struggles to stay healthy or he has struggled to stay healthy this year. We’re hopeful he can stay healthy and be out there and play well on Saturdays. He’s a great competitor. He does a really good job every day.”
Belue has battled nagging injuries since the off-season with hamstring and toe issues, but has missed only one game. The Tide has managed Belue’s healthy by limiting him during practice and pulling him early when games are out of reach.
The Tide still hasn’t found a consistent answer for its No. 2 cornerback, making Belue one of the more valuable defenders and players on the team.
“As far experienced goes, he’s very important,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “Even when he’s not practicing or not playing, he’s helping young guys out. He showing what to do or telling them what to call or make this adjustment. As far as leadership goes and experiences goes, he’s still there.”
VICTORY CIGARS: Only one word comes to mind when Tide left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio thinks about the atmosphere in the locker room following a victory over Tennessee.
“Righteous,” Kouandjio said. “You know the feeling of victory, the feeling of accomplishment, and you have the cigar to prove it. It’s a good feeling.”
Currently on a six-game winning streak over the Volunteers, Alabama players are more than familiar with the postgame tradition of smoking a victory cigar in the locker room.
The tradition began in the late 1950s when then-Alabama head trainer Jim Goostree started giving out cigars after wins over Tennessee.
“My first year after we won, I didn’t think we could smoke inside the locker room,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “I’m not a cigar person, but it’s cool to have. It’s a tradition thing, so that’s always cool.”
Tide coach Nick Saban doesn’t partake in the tradition.
“I don’t smoke, and I don’t particularly enjoy cigar smoke, but I know that’s something a lot of people really do enjoy,” Saban said. “It’s not a tradition that I started, it’s a tradition that was here that the players have continued. I think it’s something they have fun with. I’m happy that they do, but it’s not really something that I’m interested in.”
VINNIE SUNSERI: Tide wide receiver DeAndrew White has been where safety Vinnie Sunseri is. Just last season, White appeared to be headed toward a breakout season, but was sidelined after tearing a ligament in his knee. White says he spoke with Sunseri and told him to “keep his head up.”
“I’ve been through it. You can get over it,” White said. “You can get through it. You have to stay firm, rehab real hard, get the knee back right, and look forward to coming back.”
What’s the biggest hurdle when trying to return?
“The biggest thing (for me) was having such a good year in the beginning and feeling like all that went to waste when I got hurt," White said. "The biggest thing is the mental part of it. The knee will be all right. I’m sure he’ll have the best surgeon and the best rehab, so the knee will be all right. It’s the mental part of coming back; being confident on it and not feeling sorry for yourself and go out there and compete.”
INJURY UPDATE: True freshman running back Altee Tenpenny (turf toe) wore a black non-contact jersey, but was back with the running back group. Tenpenny carried a ball and participated in drills.
Cornerback Bradley Sylve (high ankle sprain) wore a black, non-contact jersey. Sylve briefly stood near the defensive backs, but did not participate in drills. He worked off to the side with an athletic trainer.
“Bradley (Sylve) and Altee (Tenpenny) did a little bit of stuff today, running around and jogging,” Saban said. “We’ll evaluate whether they can practice some tomorrow and we’ll know whether they can play in the game.”