Coach Fran makes Media Days debut

He may well be a newcomer to SEC competition, but Dennis Franchione still garnered far more than his share of attention during the final session of SEC Media Days. With flash cameras from the surrounding photographers going off continuously as he responded to questions, one scribe remarked that a rock star might have been less royally received. "I don't know," Franchione quipped. "It's about the same as it was at Pittsburg State."

Already well known to Alabama fans, the former Gorilla turned Tide Head Coach was on stage for a direct comparison with his SEC peers. But the coaching veteran of five previous turnaround stops was hardly fazed. "To a degree, I've trained for this," Franchione explained. "It's a little bit bigger, but you just have to handle it. The questions (from the media) and the issues you deal with (as a head coach) are still primarily the same."

For Alabama fans accustomed to supplementing their Tide news by scouring the Internet (that's you), Franchione had little new to say. He reiterated that he knew the drill. After all, this was the sixth time in his career that he has taken over a previously losing team. And he reminded the scribes that bringing along the majority of his staff from TCU was a great help in that transition.

Franchione stated firmly that this transition/transformation has gone more smoothly and more quickly than any one before. "The players have done a magnificent job since I've been here." And that he would once again depend on his strength program to lead the team to success, "There are no free lunches out there. I may not have the highest IQ, but even I can figure out that if one guy can bench 400 pounds and the other guy only 300, then after a period of pounding the first guy will win out."

Despite being brand new to Alabama, today's meeting with the assembled SEC media was hardly Franchione's first time around the college football block. In fact, the veteran head coach seemed to genuinely enjoy Thursday's give and take with reporters.

As informed Tide fans already know, Franchione lists a young offensive line and secondary as primary concerns, and he feels the Bama receivers will be a strength of the squad. "Our receivers, Freddie Milons, Jason McAddley, Terry Jones and Antonio Carter are all (playmakers)."

He repeated his favorite line about Alabama's inexorably tough schedule, "We play 10 bowl teams out of 11, and I want to know how we let that one team slip by." And he again restated what Bama's rivals find hard to believe, "It's an honor to be a part of (the Alabama tradition), coaching where Coach Bryant coached. Being a college football traditionalist, I'm honored to be a part."

Beyond noting that TCU had more players drafted in the NFL than almost every other school in the country last spring, Franchione declined to give a firm assessment of Alabama's talent, noting only that "I don't think we're the same 3-8 club you saw last year." And while he also was careful not to criticize the previous staff, he did admit "It's hard to think you go from an Orange Bowl to 3-8 as quickly as they did."

The king of the turnarounds is apparently presenting that same message to the Tide players, as Franchione listed Andrew Zow, Reggie Myles and Freddie Milons as individuals in need of a rebound season. And he also pointed out that Terry Jones and Kindal Moorehead had something to prove as well after both suffered serious injuries in 2000.

Franchione highlighted Freddie Milons as a special player, "We'll let the other team kick it to him and punt it to him. And we'll throw it to him and hand it to him. We have to find a way to get the ball in his hands." And on defense, he singled out Kindal Moorehead and Saleem Rasheed as players that "stood out" as being special from the beginning of spring drills.

On more routine player questions, Franchione made clear that he wasn't afraid of playing more than one quarterback. "I don't know if it's necessarily important to establish a clear-cut starter. But we have to establish how to handle the situation and what each quarterback's strengths are." He went on to point out that Alabama has two veteran SEC quarterbacks returning (Andrew Zow and Tyler Watts) along with Jonathan Richey, and two newcomers (Spencer Pennington and Brodie Croyle) that will all be "in the mix."

Listing Charlie Peprah, Clint Johnston, Roman Harper and Freddie Roach as possible candidates, Franchione said that several true freshmen could earn playing time. "Whether if it's a freshman or even an eighth grader that might wander onto the field, we're going to play the best player."

With the media selecting Alabama to finish third in the SEC West, Franchione acknowledged that picking a pre-season champion logically was a tough job. "I understand how you guys are having difficulty assessing us, too. I've looked at film and there's not a single team that you can mark down as a ‘W.' We'll have our hands full every week in that side of the division."

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