Fluker Makes Big First Impression

The first thing one notices about D.J. Fluker is his feet, which squeeze into a size 22 /12 shoe. And his right foot was particularly noticeable as Fluker met with sportswriters following practice Wednesday because it was in a therapeutic boot, which is worn to promote healing.

D.J. Fluker is preparing for his sophomore season as an Alabama football player. Last year he earned first team Freshman All-Southeastern Conference as he played in 10 games and started nine at right tackle. Fluker, who came to Bama from Foley High School, spent his first year as a redshirt, and spent it losing weight. He came to Alabama weighing 405 pounds. Even on his 6-6 frame that's a lot of weight to put on those 22 1/2s. So he went on a program and has lost down to 335.

That's almost to where he wants to be. His plan is to be at 328. For a man who has lost 70, the final seven should be a snap.

After Fluker finished his interview, he shook hands with each of the sportswriters. And we thought his feet were big. His hands were the likes not seen around Tuscaloosa since Ozzie Newsome was snaring passes, resulting in a handshake that involved wrist and half a forearm being swallowed in Fluker's grasp.

Fluker, who said he had worn the boot for just a couple of days and expected to be out of it before Friday's practice and Saturday's scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium,

Seeing Fluker in a boot brought up memories from a year ago when Crimson Tide tailback Trent Richardson blamed Fluker for an injury to Richardson's foot. But Richardson had admiration for Fluker, who had followed the tailback downfield and was close enough to hit the scrum attempting to tackle Richardson.

Both players denied Fluker's foot injury being retribution from Richardson.

Fluker said that he has been challenged this spring, challenged to be an improved football player. "I came out here with the attitude that I want to be a lot better than last spring," he said. He said that last year his focus was on trying to learn,"trying to get things going." This sp[ring he is watching film and learning the "motives" of the defense. In the second year, he said, the learning is quicker.

He has a new coach teaching him, and Fluker seems satisfied with the change. Veteran Joe Pendry retired after last season and Jeff Stoutland has joined the staff from the Miami Hurricanes.

"Coach Stoutland is a great coach," Fluker said. "He teaches us how to read defenses and how to read safeties. Sometimes when the blitz is from the edge or the corner , or a corner blitz, now we have a call for that. It's been going pretty good." Fluker did mention that "It takes a while to get used to the yelling."

Fluker agrees with Alabama Coach Nick Saban that depth on the offensive line is improving. "We're looking pretty good," Fluker said. He named Austin Shepherd and Chad Lindsay as players who have moved into contention for playing time.

Fluker has also been impressed with the competition at left tackle, where junior college transfer Aaron Douglas and senior Alfred McCullough are in battle.

As for defensive linemen who have impressed Fluker from the other side, he names Ed Stinson and Darrington Sentimore. "They've been giving me a lot of trouble lately," Fluker said.

Look for Fluker to give most defensive linemen trouble, too.

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