Most notable absentees at Thursday's two-hour workout were quarterbacks Brodie Croyle and Brandon Avalos. Avalos had an appendix attack and iunderwent surgery Wednesday evening. In addition to being out of Saturday's game, Avalos will also miss the remainder of baseball season. He has been moving towards a starting position in left field with Bama's baseball team.
Price is limited in what he can say about players injured or ill, but he did say he expected Croyle – who has been Alabama's number one quarterback throughout the spring – to be able to play Saturday. Croyle was out with a stomach virus, which has hit other team members as well.
The most serious loss is that of Todd Bates, a two-year regular at defensive end. Due to an undisclosed violation of policy. Price said Bates (who has missed practice with an infection) will not be eligible to play next fall. The coach said Bates will remain on the team and will practice next fall, then return to playing status in 2004.
Nautyn McKay-Loescher, who started seven games at defensive end last fall, has missed all of spring practice with illness. He has also been missing class, so much that he did not think he could maintain his academic eligibility. Therefore, Price said, McKay-Loescher has withdrawn from The University. He will return to school in the summer. Alabama will make application to the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA for an academic hardship exception that will enable McKay-Loescher to regain his eligibility in time for his senior season next fall.
Alabama will conclude spring practice Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff for the A-Day Game will be at 1:06 p.m. CST. Fans will be admitted at no charge to sit on the West side. Both the Crimson and White teams will be on the East side.
Price has said that he wants the A-Day to be as much like a real game as possible. The reason for putting both teams on the same side of the field is so that the coaches can work with players on both squads.
Although the quarterbacks will be protected (not tackled), Price said, "Everything else will be live. It should be exciting."
The Tide coach said his goal is "to look good." He said he doesn't want turnovers or unnecessary penalties and that he wants the players to execute well.
With Avalos out and Croyle recovering from illness, Spencer Pennington could be the top quarterback Saturday. Also likely to get extra playing time will be Mike Machen, a former professional baseball player who is a walk-on freshman quarterback. Price said, "He's playing better. He's been away from football for a while and he's got a lot of flaws, but he's working hard." Still, next fall Machen is what Price called "a definite redshirt."
The Tide coach was reminded that he had been very high on Croyle before the start of spring work and Price was asked if he still had that high opinion. Price, whose Washington State staff had judged Croyle the nation's top quarterback prospect in 2000, said, "He's even better than I thought." The coach cited Croyle both for his physical talents and for his leadership qualities.
Wednesday's practice included scrimmage work for players who had not seen much work in the two previous scrimmage practices and who may not see a great deal of playing time in Saturday's A-Day Game. Price said, "I really enjoy watching those guys. They aren't the biggest or the fastest, but they want to play football and wear that Alabama uniform and they are busting it. That's a great part of college football."
Price said, "I feel good about this team. I wish we had them for another week. There are some years I can't wait for spring ball to be over, but not this spring. I wish we could go two more weeks."
Price said Bama players are "coachable. They try hard to do what they are told."