The first thing Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody remembers about his recent knee injury was the pain and fear, lying on the ground at Bryant-Denny Stadium and wondering if his season was over.
``I was like, 'Aw man, I think I'm done, I don't know what to do,''' Cody said.
Then, there was the ovation he received as he was being carted off the field late in the game against Mississippi. That, he said, made him feel like he ``was needed and wanted.''
Cody, who has been a huge part - literally and figuratively - of the Southeastern Conference's top run defense, wound up with only a sprained right knee that kept him out two games. The 6-foot-5, 365-pounder returned against LSU and will be a key in top-ranked Alabama's efforts to stop Mississippi State tailback Anthony Dixon on Saturday night.
Cody is a native of Perkinston, Miss., and spent two seasons at Gulf Coast Community College, where he was a teammate of Bulldogs receiver Co-Eric Riley.
Cody was also recruited by Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom, ``but Alabama jumped in and that was pretty much it.''
Neither Cody nor Alabama's run defense looked quite the same against LSU. Charles Scott ran for 92 yards and two touchdowns - both season highs against the Tide. Cody had just one tackle.
Tide coach Nick Saban said Cody's initial quickness and mobility wasn't quite what it had been before, largely because of conditioning and rust after not practicing much when the offensive and defensive starters faced off.
``The speed of the game is a little different (than) when you're playing against the scout team,'' Saban said.
MOUNTING CONCERNS: Injuries continue to mount for Auburn.
The Tigers could be without linebacker Merrill Johnson (broken hand) and receiver Montez Billings (broken nose) Saturday against No. 13 Georgia, just as three injured defensive line starters are set to return.
``Obviously, we can't go through a game without getting someone hurt,'' coach Tommy Tuberville said.
Auburn has had 16 players who were listed as either starters or top backups miss a combined 57 games due to injury this season, according to the media relations department. Eight players have been lost for the year, including linebacker Tray Blackmon, offensive lineman Chaz Ramsey, defensive back Aairon Savage and receiver Philip Pierre-Louis.
``It's just been one of those years,'' Tuberville said.
ee-Martin game last weekend.
Only five defenders have started every game and only three offensive players have opened every game at the same spot.
BACKUP HARDY: If all-SEC defensive end Greg Hardy is healthy enough to play Saturday for Mississippi against Louisiana-Monroe, he may have to wait a while to get on the field.
He's listed third on the depth chart, and if his former backup Kentrell Lockett continues to play the way he has been, Hardy may have trouble finding playing time.
``I'm going with Kentrell Lockett,'' Ole Miss defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. ``That's the guy till I see something different. We'll see where Hardy fits in.''
Truth is Lockett has played so well, the decision's easy for Ole Miss coaches. Lockett has blossomed with increased playing time while Hardy has missed games due to a foot injury and poor effort.
Lockett has 7.5 tackles for loss this season, including 4.5 as the Rebels went 2-1 over the last three games. He was a force in the 17-7 win over Auburn on Nov. 1 before the team's bye week. He finished with seven tackles in that game and 2.5 for loss.
``It was pretty much just playing football,'' Lockett said. ``I got into the groove, got into the comfort zone and that was the outcome. We were playing football and I know how to play football.''
The 6-foot-5 Lockett was one of the top defensive ends in the nation coming out of high school, but had been too thin to make much of a contribution in his first two years on campus. He threw himself into the weightlifting program in the offseason and is now about 250 pounds.
``He's a guy we're hoping will lead for us in the coming future,'' Rocker said. ``I'm proud of his play. I just hope he can keep getting better and better as the season finishes up.''
COMPETITION OVER: Consider Kentucky's quarterback competition over. It's Randall Cobb's job.
The freshman has sparked Kentucky's previously lethargic offense and had 187 yards of total offense and three rushing touchdowns in last week's 42-38 loss to Georgia.
Cobb has made believers of his teammates, and his play means sophomore Mike Hartline - who had been splitting time with Cobb - will likely spend the rest of the season as a backup.
``(Cobb) has been the leader out there,'' running back Alfonso Smith said. ``If a play breaks down he just takes off running for a first down. That just gives everyone else confidence and takes pressure off everyone and makes us play more relaxed.''
Coach Rich Brooks said Cobb's play has helped Kentucky overcome its offensive woes. Brooks retooled the offense while switching from Hartline to Cobb and the freshman has repaid his coach's confidence with the kind of exciting play the Wildcats lacked much of the year.
``If you're not throwing and catching, you got to do something else to help win games, and that's what we're doing now,'' Brooks said. ``This offense has taken a little bit of a turn, and obviously Randall has provided us a different kind of way to move the football. We will continue to do that.''
Cobb will start for Kentucky (6-4, 2-4) against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
STANDING OUT: In a poor season, Tennessee safety Eric Berry has been terrific.
The SEC's career interception return yardage leader is one of eight semifinalists for the Lott Trophy, given to the nation's top defensive player.
Berry is the first sophomore to be a semifinalist in five years of the award, which recognizes a defensive player with impact on and off the field.
The Fairburn, Ga., native has also been picked as one of 15 semifinalists for the 2008 Chuck Bednarik Award, another defensive player of the year honor. He's also a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back.
n he has his hands on the ball and physically can come up and tackle and be a really outstanding leader.''
Berry has 442 career interception return yards and leads all major college players with 220 interception return yards this season for the Vols (3-7, 1-5).
He's just 60 yards shy of breaking the NCAA career record held by Florida State's Terrell Buckley.
Berry also leads the SEC and is tied for the major college lead with six interceptions. He's third on the team with 64 tackles.

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