Tide *Hits the wall*

Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione had been pleasantly surprised at the conditioning of his Crimson Tide football team as it toiled through two-a-day August practices. He was not surprised when the toll finally was taken Friday. "We kind of hit the wall this morning," he said prior to the Friday afternoon practice.

"Actually, it started Thursday afternoon. I thought they fought through it pretty well. We took the pads off and went into the indoor facility where it's cooler and I think we got something out of it. We've been fortunate with the weather, but today was about the toughest it's been."

Franchione said the formula for college football practice produces more two-a-day practices than, for instance, NFL players go through. And, he said, if this wasn't a coaching staff in its first year with the team that it might be able to take a morning off. Next year, he said, there will be carryover, but this year the team needs every minute of practice.

Alabama will have a "kicking scrimmage" Saturday morning at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Earlier Franchione had pointed out that it would be "asking to get someone hurt" if he had a full scrimmage Saturday at the end of a week of two-a-day practices. Instead, the team will have a day of rest Sunday, then Monday morning will scrimmage for the final time before the opening game.

Alabama is preparing for the nationally-televised (ESPN) opener against UCLA two weeks from Saturday. Kickoff for that game will be at 6:45 p.m. CDT. from Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Franchione said, "I think we're going in a good direction. Does that mean we're ready to beat UCLA? I don't know. They look like a pretty good team on paper. They've got a 2,000-yard passer (Cory Paus), a 1,000-yard rusher (DeShaun Foster), a guy who caught over 50 passes (Brian Poli-Dixon), and a number of men who played on defense. That's a quality opponent."

He said he doesn't expect Alabama's offense to be as good against UCLA as it will be later in the year, and that he expects it to be better in that opening game than it is right now. He said in the time between now and the opening game that "we want to clean some things up and pare some things down." He explained that the offense was given more of the game plan to start pre-season drills than will be used in the first few games.

As is almost always the case when Franchione meets with reporters, the quarterback situation was discussed. But the Tide head coach let it be known that he isn't likely to announce really big quarterback news (such as a depth chart change) because he doesn't want to announce it to UCLA. In regards to what appeared to be poor quarterback play in Wednesday's scrimmage, he said "Sometimes the mistakes of a quarterback are because of mistakes by other players." But, he said, Tyler Watts did some good things Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. And he said Andrew Zow showed improvement in some passing drills.

He said the offensive line is "probably blocking more fronts and blitzes than they are likely to see in a game." He said he thinks the offensive line is making progress, but not as fast as he would like.

In answer to questions he said that he believes the players "feel positive about the change" that he and his staff have brought to Alabama football. And, he said, "It's not just discipline. I don't think that was the only thing missing last year."

Still, he said, the team is "not void of talent." Nevertheless, he doesn't know what to expect after the team went 23-24 over the last four years and 3-8 last season. "We're hopeful and our fans are hopeful, but we have to be realistic. We have a lot of work to do on offense."


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