Bama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said he expects a squad of 105, the NCAA limit before the start of classes, when the Tide begins practice Friday. One of those 105 will be Marvin Brown, the 6-0, 252-pound junior fullback who missed last year with academic problems. Franchione said Brown had satisfied academic requirements for eligibility this fall.
In answers to questions, he said that defensive end Antwan Odom is also eligible and said that the expectation is that defensive end Kenny King is over his shoulder problems of last season. But, he added, the jury would be out on King until he begins hitting in practice.
Friday is the first of three days of work in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads. Full gear practices begin Tuesday, August 14. Alabama opens the season at 6:45 p.m. CDT September 1 hosting UCLA in Bryant-Denny Stadium in a game that will be nationally telecast by ESPN.
The 20 newcomers were out in shorts and helmets for two workouts Wednesday. Franchione said some things had been accomplished, but cautioned that it's too early to make judgments. "This was like a walk in the park," he said. "The pace will pick up considerably beginning Friday."
The Tide head coach said he hoped the newcomers had picked up enough to get them through the first three or four practices in two-a-day work. "They should make it through the weekend with some recall and have some foundation under them," Franchione said. He said the two days of instruction were beneficial to the players in that they can learn drills and vocabulary and how to line up and "get a hint of what we're trying to do."
The morning workout Wednesday was in relatively cool weather with overcast skies, but in the afternoon it was considerably more hot and humid. Franchione, alluding to recent heat-related deaths in early football practices, said, "We have to be smart and take enough breaks. A lot of other teams have the same situation. But you can't worry about the heat when you're trying to learn or you'll lose focus."
There were a few questions about new players. Franchione said that linebackers Todd Bates and Freddie Roach appeared to be physically capable of contributing to this year's team, but noted that they will have a lot to learn and will have to learn under adverse conditions that will leave them fatigued. He noted that defensive backs Charlie Peprah and Roman Harper had shown good athletic ability, "but that's not Freddie Milons or A.C. Carter running at them right now. I'm not disappointed in them, but it's just going to be different when the pace picks up."
In answer to questions about the upcoming season, Franchione said it would be "vital" to have improvement by the offensive line. He said that area and quarterback performance were the most pressing issues on offense and that secondary play was the biggest concern on defense.
Franchione talked at some length about theleadership council, a group of players who meet with him on a frequent basis. He said he expected good leadership from the group, including leadership by example. "They'll have more on their shoulders later," he said. "That's why we have a council, the spread out that responsibility."
One of the summer stories regarding Alabama football was a report that Franchione might move the team from the East sideline, where it has been for many decades for home games, to the West sideline. However, Franchione said Wednesday, "There will be no changes."
Among practice visitors Wednesday was Gene Marsh, Alabama's faculty chairman of athletics, who has been on vacation in Alaska. There are no new revelations regarding the NCAA investigation into Alabama football.