November 10, 2010 9:11:00 AM
LIVINGSTON, Ala. -- Alvin Ellis knows his University of West Alabama football team has lost close homes. In fact, every loss in the Tigers'' 6-4 season has been by no more than four points.
A 5-foot-9 linebacker from Columbus, Ellis doesn''t worry about the past. He''s getting ready for West Alabama''s final game of the season -- a 7 p.m. Thursday home game against Valdosta State (8-1).
"It''s hard to bite about (the losses)," Ellis said. "We''ve just got to bounce back."
Ellis, who is The Dispatch''s College Player of the Week, said Thursday''s game is "a shootout." An East Mississippi Community College graduate, Ellis said the move from JUCO to major college has been a pretty smooth transition.
"It''s worked out pretty good," he said. "I was doing pretty well, but I had an injury during spring practice that put me behind. Now it is all up to me."
West Alabama defensive coordinator Robert Henry said Ellis'' injury slowed his progression.
"He was injured in spring practice with his hamstring," Henry said. "Spring practice is so short these days if you miss any time at all, then you''re behind. And he missed a week with the injury."
One area Ellis has noticed in the progression from high school through community college to college play has been the increase in speed.
"At each level, it gets faster and faster and faster," Ellis said. "That makes a lot of difference."
Henry said Ellis'' speed is his greatest asset.
"His quickness is what makes him a good player," Henry said. "He can run and tackle and that''s what we need him to do. He is a bright spot on our team."
The strength of Ellis and his work off the field also impresses Henry.
"And he''s strong. He''s probably the strongest player we have in the weight room," Henry said.
Ellis has raised his performance to the point where Henry calls him "an alternate starter. We want him to play as much as anybody."
Because the current season is Henry''s first year as the Tigers'' defensive coordinator, Ellis said he expects bigger things next season.
"Next year, we are really going to have a better," he said. "This is Coach Henry''s first year here, so next year we will have a better idea of what is expected. We''ll be sharper on defense."
Henry foresees a special season for Ellis next year when the linebacker from Columbus is a senior.
"We are looking for good things from him and he will be a starter next year," Henry said.