Hold the rope

With the second full day of Fall Camp completed, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione believes Alabama is making solid progress. And as part of a continuing effort to rebuild the team's confidence after last season's losing record, the players through their Leadership Council have come up with a slogan to rally around. "Hold the rope."

"It goes back to the analogy of if you're hanging over the edge of a cliff, you want someone that will hang on to that rope for you," Franchione explained. "You don't want someone whose hands might slip. Even if the rope is tearing at the skin and their hands are bleeding, they still hang on.

"It's about a shared common vision. Hold the rope. You want them to trust you to hold on and for you to trust them."

Though the first practice Friday morning wasn't as crisp as Franchione would have liked, things improved significantly after that. "Yesterday evening and again today, we had good practices," he said. "They both had a lot of enthusiasm, energy and learning. We got a lot of work done."

Saturday was the second of three days of work in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads. Full gear practices begin Tuesday, August 14 and Franchione hopes to scrimmage for the first time that next Wednesday. Alabama opens the season at 6:45 p.m. Central Time September 1st hosting UCLA in Bryant-Denny Stadium in a game that will be nationally telecast by ESPN.

"We threw a lot at them today as far as installing the offense and defense," Franchione said. "The retention and carryover from spring has been good. We'll be off from practice tomorrow (Sunday), but we'll meet a lot. So that will be a time for re-teaching. We were more aggressive in putting in our schemes today, because Sunday we can review."

With Freddie Milons, Jason McAddley and Antonio Carter all back for another year, the Tide head coach has made no secret of the fact that Alabama's strength on offense lies in its wide receiver corps. And the development of some of Bama's younger wideouts only adds to that strength. "Tarry Givens has improved a lot," Franchione said. "And as Triandos Luke has gained more confidence, he's shown that he's a very athletic player. And Dre Fulgham is coming on as well. But Tarry Givens has definitely improved himself as a football player."

Standing 6-5, Givens' height gives him an advantage in catching the football. "I've always said that height can make a player two tenths of a second faster (in the 40-yard dash)," Franchione explained. "Both Tarry and Jason McAddley present that type target. Height can affect speed to a degree. A 4.6 guy that's tall can play like a 4.4 small player."

With the relatively large number of quality receivers on the Bama squad, Franchione says they very well could use multiple athletes as part of a given game plan. "With our offense, we can use as many as eight," he said. "Coach Pope (Bama's wide receivers coach) is going to move the guys around. Utilize various players in different formations. If you have that many guys you can trust and believe in, you can play up to eight--depending on the game plan."

Besides the young receivers, Franchione also pointed out that several running backs were improved after hard work in the off-season. "There are a number of players that are playing quicker now," he said. "Ahmaad Galloway and Brandon Miree both lost some weight. And Santonio Beard is also (better). I was pleased to see the quickness they returned with after summer.

"Ahmaad Galloway did a lot of running, and he dropped some weight. He's a smart back that runs quickly. He plays with a lot of confidence, and he really enhanced his speed over the summer."

Galloway, Miree and Beard were listed 1-2-3 on the tailback depth chart headed into fall. But Franchione continues to be impressed with cornerback-turned-tailback Ray Hudson. "Ray has that bona fide burst. If we ran our backs in the 40-yard dash or 100-, he would win. He can be a homerun style back."

Franchione explained that Hudson weighed only 178 pounds at this time last year--undersized for an SEC tailback, which prompted the decision to start Hudson on defense. But he's now bulked up to right at 200 pounds, and the question now is how quickly he can pick up the offense. "We hope he comes along quickly enough to play him in the first game," Franchione said. "He's learning well. Because we moved him immediately after spring ball, he spent those months studying film and working over the summer. He talked and listened to the other players during individual workouts. They taught him a lot in summer pass skel.

"He's still got a lot to learn, but when he plays with confidence you can see his speed."

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