The numbers on the University of Alabama football team’s rushing attack are deceiving.

Currently, the No. 2 Crimson Tide are ranked 18th in the nation in yards per carry at 6.26, but those numbers include the 75-yard touchdown from Henry Ruggs III, a designed swing screen that was later deemed a lateral pass, thus a run. Take that play away and the Tide’s rushing attack dips down to 5.3 yards per carry, which would rank 39th; UA hasn’t had a rushing attack end a season ranked that low since 2015.

UA has been searching for answers to its slow rushing start in the first two weeks of this season. While most attention turns to an offensive line breaking in new pieces, UA coach Nick Saban brought up a different idea for improvement.

“We really need to make improvement in the running game, period, and I think that’s everyone,” Saban said in his Wednesday press conference. “I think our runners have to do a better job of running the tracks. I think when you run a play, people don’t understand that by the runner running a track he actually makes a defense react a certain way when the runner’s on that track, so you actually force defenders to come to the blocks.

“And the offensive line is taking angles to block people assuming that that’s going to happen, and we haven’t been consistent in that, to this point.”

Alfano “disappeared”

Freshman defensive lineman Antonio Alfano has not been spotted at practice in a while, including in Wednesday’s media viewing periods. Saban said after the New Mexico State game the highly rated recruit was, “going through some discipline things with me.”

His words on Wednesday were more harsh.

“He’s kind of disappeared a little bit,” Saban said. “I talked to our team today about the fact that, you know, people makes mistakes. We all make mistakes: I make mistakes, probably everyone in this room makes mistakes, we makes mistakes as parents, we make mistakes as coaches, we makes mistakes in just about everything we do. But I think you compound the problem when you don’t confront the mistakes you make and you create greater consequences for yourself because of the choices and decisions you make after you make a mistake.

“Hopefully this will be a learning experience for all the guys on our team.”

Stewart’s battle continues

Beloved Alabama sports broadcaster Chris Stewart’s well-documented health struggles continue, according to a statement released from his wife Christy from the Crimson Tide Sports Network Twitter account.

“As many of you know, Chris underwent successful heart bypass surgery in August,” the statement read. “His recovery was heading in the right direction but unfortunately there have been some setbacks. The good news is that Chris’ heart is strong but he has been battling a serious infection as well as some additional side effects that have him back in the hospital. While Chris’ health is steadily improving, he still has a long road ahead.

“We’re so thankful that he is surrounded by a tremendous medical team and the doctors remain optimistic for a full recovery. We can tell you that Chris is extremely grateful for all of the love and support that he’s received from so many people.

“As many of you know, he’s dealt with some health issues this past year-and-a-half and we believe that all the prayers, support and words of encouragement have sincerely helped him throughout his recovery. That is why we chose to inform you of Chris’ current situation. Our family believes strongly in the power of prayer, so we ask that you please pray for Chris so that he continues to progress and heal in order to help him make a full and speedy recovery.”

Practice update

With both Chris Owens and Emil Ekiyor Jr. on the practice field, the first-team offensive line was as follows, from left to right: Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson, Owens, Evan Neal and Jedrick Wills Jr.

“Chris Owens probably is a little more up to speed,” Saban said on the SEC teleconference. “Emil is going to be a little more of a work in progress and probably a game day decision.”

The first-team secondary in its Dime package was as follows: Patrick Surtain II and Trevon Diggs as the outside corners, Jordan Battle and Jared Mayden as the deep safeties and Shyheim Carter and Xavier McKinney as the specialist defensive backs, Star and Money.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @brett_hudson

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