Fall Camp started with a ‘good news/bad news' scenario at fullback. Franchione was clearly pleased to announce that super-athlete Marvin Brown had successfully completed all classes to gain his eligibility. But junior-college transfer Quentin Bowens does not now appear likely to join the squad this season. The brother of former Tide receiver Tim Bowens and the half-brother of current freshman Freddie Roach, Bowens said recently that he will probably have to wait until next spring to join the team.
A roster change was noted this morning, as the departure of defensive end T.J. Shaddix, a freshman walk-on out of London, Kentucky, freed up a spot on the 105-man squad. P.J. Fletcher, a freshman Rover out of Panama City, Florida was added to the list. Fletcher (6-2, 213) is a promising athlete who showed up well in early work last spring before a knee injury forced him to miss the rest of drills.
National polls released recently find Alabama ranked No. 25 in the nation. And given the squad's disappointing 3-8 performance last season, some might suggest the team had done little to earn that much respect. But as Dennis Franchione remarked today, "That's just Alabama."
Late last week Franchione made a point of remarking on how the off-season conditioning program had improved Alabama at the tailback position. He noted that both Brandon Miree and Ahmaad Galloway had lost weight and were quicker and faster than last spring. An explosive burst by Galloway today--through the defense and immediately up the sideline for what would have been a touchdown--seemed to bear out his assessment. Either Galloway is faster or someone else is wearing the No. 29 jersey.
It's obviously still early in practice, but another noticeable change from last season can be found in the aggressive play by the Tide defensive backs. Players are reading the pass, flying to the ball and even making a decent number of interceptions. The recent climb up the depth chart by Roberto McBride may provide a clue to what's happening. McBride's recent play merits the move--today he made an impressive break on the football on a sideline pass, getting there just as the ball arrived to intercept and head to a score. But since the change was made other cornerbacks (Thurman Ward in particular) have been noticeably more aggressive and physical in their play.
As every coach knows, competition always makes everyone better.
Franchione noted yesterday that freshman kicker Mike McLaughlin has a sore leg from kicking more than he was likely used to from high school. And reports are that both Neal Thomas and backup Michael Ziifle are consistently getting the ball up quickly. After kicking off a tee in high school, true freshmen like McLaughlin often struggle with that aspect of placekicking.
The latest indications are that most of this year's signing class are likely headed for redshirt seasons. On defense, Freddie Roach at middle linebacker, Charlie Peprah at cornerback and Todd Bates at defensive end (in that order) are thought most likely to see action this season. Also, the recent move of Roman Harper to safety could provide a better chance for him to play early. But his development over the next several days will likely be crucial in that regard.
On offense, tight end Donald Clarke (who isn't a freshman but a junior college transfer) is probably the most likely newcomer to see action in 2001. Though his running mate at tight end, Clint Johnston, remains a possibility. According to Franchione, Theo Sanders and David Cavan are also playing well. So depending on how many tight ends the coaches decide they will need this season, a redshirt year for Johnston could be the best decision.
The squad has quickly gotten beyond the talent assessment phase and headed immediately into the talent development phase. At this point the coaches are pitting 1s versus 1s and 2s versus 2s a great deal.
Remarking recently that he would choose "the player that can catch the football" for the kick-return roles, Franchione has not yet decided on who will return kicks for Alabama. Prime candidates for kickoff returner include Jason McAddley, Antonio Carter, Triandos Luke, Freddie Milons, Shontua Ray and Roberto McBride, with Brandon Brooks, Marquez Dupree, Charlie Peprah and Shaud Williams having also shagged some kicks. Several players have worked fielding punts, but Milons, Carter and Brooks have consistently been in the group.