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September 13, 2010TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama junior running back Mark Ingram returned to practice Monday as is expected to play this week at Duke.
As for how much he could potentially contribute remains to be determined, depending on how much the Heisman Trophy winner can practice this week. He was wearing a protective brace/support on his left knee, but otherwise didn't appear to be limited while leading the running backs through individual drills.
Junior defensive end Marcell Dareus is also expected to suit up against the Blue Devils after serving a two-game suspension for receiving improper benefits, the equivalent of which he had to donate to a charity before being reinstated.
While Ingram is still considered day-to-day after having arthroscopic surgery just 13 days ago, Saban said Dareus is "full-metal jacket. He's ready to play."
"Both of those guys have proven to us around here that they're very capable players," Saban said. "They can be very effective. We're very pleased with what both guys have done to this point. Mark had a great camp."
Even without Ingram the Tide's rushing game has remained potent, averaging 218.5 yards per game with sophomore Trent Richardson and redshirt freshman Eddie Lacy both having 100-yard performances.
"He's a strong kid," Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill said about Richardson after Saturday's 24-3 loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium. "It showed off, whatever he was doing in the offseason. He worked hard."
Meanwhile, the defense leads the nation in scoring defense, having only yielded six points.
Dareus practiced in his usual spot Monday, with sophomore Damion Square at the other end on the first unit.
"His attitude has been good about it," Saban said. "He went to the scout team last week to help our offense prepare for the kind of players they were going to have to face from Penn State and their defensive line, especially the interior players, who were pretty quick and aggressive guys."
Overall, no one wore black, signaling no contact, despite numerous players having minor injuries.
Junior linebacker Courtney Upshaw and senior left tackle James Carpenter, both with ankle sprains, were limited Monday but are expected to play against Duke. Similar to Saturday, redshirt freshman Ed Stinson and senior Alfred McCullough worked with the first units.
Junior linebacker Chris Jordan practiced as his shoulder injury doesn't appear to have been as bad as initially feared. He had his right arm in a sling after a high collision on kickoff coverage against Penn State.
True freshman cornerback DeMarcus Milliner (hamstring) also practiced, with the team working outside in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. Saban didn't comment on his status, but did explain why he started Saturday instead of junior DeQuan Menzie, who is coming off an Achilles tear.
"It's just a management thing in terms of how many reps in practice, how healthy he is in practice, where do we sort of have to put our emphasis," Saban said. "Last week early in the week he was a little sore coming out of the game even though he only played 27 plays or something like that just playing for the first time, going a little faster than normal, so for a couple of days we wasn't able to take all the reps."
Coaches limited Menzie to the star spot in nickel formation and kept him there even after he felt better later in the week. Looking back, they're glad they did.
"This ended up, to our surprise, being almost a total nickel game," Saban said. "Penn State, last week I talked about playing two-back runs and regular and they didn't do that at all in the game."
Junior wide receiver Marquis Maze confirmed to reporters that his ankle injury was from landing awkwardly on his final reception, for 20 yards to set up the final touchdown against the Nittany Lions.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Maze said. "Minor injury, it's anything serious. It won't keep me out of a game or anything."