Saturday could be the first start for offensive lineman J.C. Hassenauer in his career. He replaced left guard Ross Pierschbacher early in the Mississippi State game when he left with a high ankle sprain. Pierschbacher has not practiced this week.

Hassenauer’s teammates liked what they saw against the Bulldogs.

"J.C. did an incredible job,” senior center Bradley Bozeman said. “You couldn't really ask for better. He played as best as he could. He really stepped up. That's what practice is for is to practice those situation to get to those games and come out and have no drop off. We had no drop off. He did a very good job for us."

Bozeman said Hassenauer blended well with the offensive line and was prepared when called upon. Hassenauer, a junior who has already graduated, has played in 21 career games. He’s bounced around with the reserve offensive line this season, and had been playing center since backup Brandon Kennedy was lost for the season earlier this year.

“J.C. did a nice job in the game,” coach Nick Saban said. “We have always rotated guys a little bit in the offensive line. J.C. also has to be the backup center so he has to do sort of dual duty regardless of what his circumstance is relative to playing guard.”

This is the first time this season Alabama has had to replace a starter on the offensive line this season due to injury. Pierschbacher is a redshirt junior who had started 40 consecutive games at guard.

 

Fitzpatrick a Nagurski finalist

Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick was named one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Wednesday, the Football Writers Association of America announced.

The Nagurski Trophy is given annually to the best defensive player in college football, as voted on by the FWAA All-America committee and the rest of its membership.

Fitzpatrick was the only defensive back to make the list. He has 44 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks through Alabama’s first 10 games this season. He also an interception, six pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.

The award will be presented at a banquet on Dec. 4.

 

Back on the field

Outside linebacker Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis are one step closer to returning to the field.

The duo represents a large of chunk of the pass rush Alabama was counting on entering the season, however both suffered severe injuries in the season-opening win against Florida State. Miller tore his biceps muscle and Lewis suffered a torn ligament in his elbow.

Saban updated their status without prompt during his opening remarks of his Wednesday evening press conference.

"We don't have any new injury information. Alls I will say is, Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller are in what they call the 'functional phase' of rehab," Saban said. "But not really medically cleared to play. As they go through this continued work on the field and so forth, at some point in time, I guess they'll get medically cleared. As I've always said before: That's a medical decision that our medical staff will make when the times comes, when they feel like they're ready to get back out there and maybe be able to play."

If either or both is able to return this season it would be a major boost to a linebacking corps that has been hit hard this season by injury.

 

Aaron Suttles contributed to this report