TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick expects coach Nick Saban to be "more crunked up" this week.
The third-ranked Crimson Tide and Saban’s changes in the secondary will play No. 14 Arkansas and a potent passing game stocked with a deep, dangerous group of wide receivers on Saturday.
Or maybe he doesn’t have to get quite so hyped or crunked, — slang not usually in Saban’s vocabulary.
"What the players don’t understand is I usually raise more cain on weeks like last week (against North Texas), because the players will be all crunked up this week," Saban said Monday. "Is that the right terminology? I’m not sure I’m up with the hip hop term. Last week it’s like trying to get them in the dental chair. That’s when it is the most challenging."
For Southeastern Conference defensive backs, the challenges don’t get much bigger than Arkansas.
The Razorbacks’ receiving corps and Alabama’s secondary could make the case for being the strongest of their respective units in the SEC.
"It looks that way," Tide linebacker Dont’a Hightower said.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks are averaging a league-best 346.7 passing yards a game. That’s nearly 3 yards more than the Tide has allowed in its first three games — combined.
Arkansas is averaging 9.5 yards per pass with seven touchdowns; Alabama’s opponents are averaging just 2.9 yards per attempt.
Kirkpatrick said after a 41-0 shellacking of North Texas there’s a different attitude in a big game week, starting with Saban, who frequently works with the secondary along with position coach Jeremy Pruitt.
"You’ve got to be more serious," Kirkpatrick said. "Coach is going to be more crunked up. You’ve got to be able to overcome him jumping on you because he’s going to do it, everybody knows that. "
The receivers versus secondary battle was probably a tossup last season when Alabama had three new starters in the secondary — two of whom came up with big interceptions.
Ryan Mallett passed for 357 yards, but safety Robert Lester set up the go-ahead touchdown with his second interception of the game and Kirkpatrick picked off another one when Mallett was trying to throw the ball out of bounds. Then Alabama was able to run out the clock on a 24-20 win.
Lester said that game was a "big-time" help to their confidence, and nobody’s passed for 300 yards against the Tide since.
Now, that secondary has all four starters back for the rematch with receivers Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton and Greg Childs. And the fifth defensive back, sophomore Dee Milliner, has started every game with Alabama opening in the nickel defense.
"We’re a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident," Lester said. "That’s the big thing of playing against great receivers like this. They’re going to make plays. We’ve just got to put that behind us and have short-term memory and go out and make plays, too."
Arkansas opened last year’s game with two big pass plays and a quick touchdown.
Saban said the Tide defense made a number of mistakes in last season’s game, particularly early against an offense that often requires adjustments on the fly.
"It’s typical NFL style that they’re going to do it some kind of way that you didn’t practice it so that a different player has to do that," Saban said.
"Last year at this time we weren’t very adaptable. I think we have a little better knowledge and experience and I hope we’ll make better adjustments in this game and not make those fundamental mistakes."
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said Saban’s defenses have few such breakdowns.
"So you have to go earn everything," Petrino said. "You have to go execute, block them, throw the ball, catch it and take care of yourself and execute yourself because they’re not going to give you any cheap ones."
Barron was the SEC defensive player of the week after getting a fumble recovery and interception against Penn State, when Kirkpatrick forced two fumbles. Lester blocked a North Texas field goal attempt to help preserve the Tide’s first shutout in nearly two years, and Milliner’s six pass breakups tops the team.
The Razorbacks counter with three of the SEC’s top 10 receivers.
"Just like our secondary out there, there are guys out there working together that have been together," Lester said. "They’ve got chemistry, just like our secondary. They work together. They’re not going to fuss and pout about not getting the ball. They’re just going to wait until their time comes. That’s what great receivers do."