Bama?s Smith suspended from Sugar Bowl

By Chris Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

NEW ORLEANS8212;The Big Easy just got a little easier for the Utah defense, particularly for defense end Paul Kruger.
In what was anticipated as a monumental task of shutting down the powerful Alabama offense, a rather large piece of the load has been lifted off of the shoulders of the Utes.

Outland Trophy winner and projected top five pick Andre Smith was suspended for the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl by Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban after Saban said Smith had violated unspecified team rules.

Apparently, it’s a little more harmful than the statement sounds
Several media outlets, including the Associated Press and ESPN, have reported, according to unidentified sources, that Smith was suspended on account of premature and improper dealings with an agent.

With Smith out, starting left guard Mike Johnson will most likely slide into No. 71’s position on the Tide offensive line.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect anything,” 365-lb. nose tackle Terrence Cody said when asked about the loss of the consensus All-American. “Smith is a real good player. We have to come out and play our game.”

The news has had an emotional affect on the Tide and it could be a huge motivation factor come Friday.
“It really hurt me (when I heard the news) that he was suspended,” Cody said. “I put my head down, I was sad, upset.”
Alabama’s star defensive back Rashad Johnson had a similar response to the situation.
“Our hearts go out to him and we’re going to help him in any way,” Johnson said.
So is this a blessing in disguise for the Utes?
The challenge for Kruger and the once highly-anticipated matchup with Smith will not happen on the turf at the Superdome on Friday.

“It’s disappointing, more for him than me, but I’m sure that they have plenty of great players to back him up,” Kruger said. “It’s disappointing because it would have been a good matchup and I felt confident going in. I’m sure they have some awesome players who back him up because they have a big team and they have a lot of talent.”

With Smith out, the Utes know that the Tide will be just as ready as if the 6-foot-4, 330-lb. left tackle was suiting up.

“I don’t think it will affect them at all8212;it is the University of Alabama,” said U outgoing defensive coordinator Gary Andersen. “(Smith) is a great player without questions8212;he is a dominant player. He has been tagged as the best lineman in the country.”

The Alabama attorney general’s office is reportedly reviewing the assumed contact between Smith and an agent, the AP reported Tuesday.

With or without Smith, the Utes and Tide have flooded the Bayou and Utah defensive back Brice McCain is looking at the Sugar Bowl with eyes wide open.

“That’s too bad because he’s going to miss a good game,” McCain said after learning of Smith’s suspension. “I don’t feel bad for us, but I feel bad for him because this experience you remember for the rest of your life.”

[email protected]