Chris Black wants to play.
And it's obvious by the way he moves in practice that he's ready. He's quick, crisp, agile, acrobatic—he looks like the wide receiver everyone thought he'd be back in the spring and summer before injuring his shoulder.
The true freshman hasn't played one down this season, but he's ready to get on the field and his family supports him, which is why Alabama head coach Nick Saban seems to be leaning more toward letting him play Saturday in the SEC Championship game against Georgia.
"The decision wasn't made by just me," Saban said. "Chris wants to play. He can help the team by playing."
Black hurt his shoulder in August during a scrimmage, had surgery and it was assumed he'd redshirt. Then three weeks ago, he was cleared for activity and began practicing in a non-contact jersey.
Saturday, the Crimson Tide's go-to deep threat Kenny Bell went down with a broken leg and that made Saban think. The Crimson Tide hadn't been at full strength out wide all year. Black was the first to go down, then starter DeAndrew White tore his ACL in September against Ole Miss and then Bell.
Earlier this week Saban said that Black had been medically cleared for contact and said that the staff would "revisit" the decision to redshirt or play him in the Tide's final two games. He's been working behind Kevin Norwood in the ‘Z' position.
Now it's looking more like he will indeed play.
"We're trying to get Chris ready to play and he's responded really well," Saban said. "He had good carryover from what he did before. We still want to end up playing the three guys that have played the most for us this year."
This isn't the first time Saban has had to decide whether to pull a player's redshirt at the end of the season. While at LSU, Saban had to play cornerback Travis Daniels in the 2001 SEC Championship game.
"Lo and behold, we have three corners go down in the second half of the game and Travis Daniels has to play," Saban said. "We had to make that decision on the spot. We didn't really have anybody else to play corner. He ended up being a fourth-round draft pick in his fourth year. I don't know if he would have stayed for another year. He had already graduated. I think that's what you have to weigh."
Saban said Black and his family had input with this decision. And simply put, he wants to play.
"There's a lot of different scenarios," Saban said. "You never know what's the right one. You've kind of got to make the decision based on all the information that you have right now. It might help his development between this game and one more game, wherever it is, whoever it's against, in terms of his development for the future.
"It's a tough decision and you never know it's the right decision because you never know what's going to happen five years from now."
So when Alabama takes the field Saturday at the Georgia Dome, be on the lookout for No. 5.
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