Alabama Head Football Coach Dennis Franchione has another team first on the schedule. "I tell the players that the first team on our schedule is ‘Alabama'," he said. "That's the first team we have to overcome. More games are lost than are won, and we don't want to beat ourselves. I was encouraged by what I saw today. We made some steps."
The Tide head coach was pleased that Bama had very few penalties and no turnovers in the two-hour, 80-play scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium Monday morning. It was the final full scrimmage the Tide will have before hosting UCLA at 6:45 p.m. CDT Saturday, September 1.
In addition to work by the players, it was an opportunity for the coaching staff to test its sideline and press box operations and organization. The coaches who will be in the press box booth for games–Offensive Coordinator Les Koenning and Running Backs Coach Lee Fobbs for the offense and Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush and Cornerbacks Coach Chris Thurmond for the defense–directed the scrimmage. Franchione said the operations went well, which will be good for first game preparation.
Tyler Watts was the first quarterback out with the first team offense in a scrimmage that featured an inordinate amount of work from the shotgun. Watts took the team on a 12-play, 70-yard drive on that first possession. Fullback Donnie Lowe crashed in from seven yards out on his only carry of the day.
Andrew Zow directed the second touchdown drive of the day, a five-play, 50-yard drive with tailback Ahmaad Galloway going 25 yards for the score.
Freddie Milons had only one pass reception in the scrimmage, but it was a 61-yard scoring play from Watts. Watts completed six of nine passes for 106 yards. Zow was good on six of 14 passes for 51 yards, Spencer Pennington in mop-up work hit two of three for 38 yards, Jonathan Richey was good on one of two for 23 yards, and Brodie Croyle, who was the third quarterback used, hit one of four passes for six yards.
Tailback Josh Smith, working with the third team, wrapped up the scrimmage with a three-yard touchdown run.
Galloway was the leading rusher with five carries for 46 yards. Jason McAddley had one run for 22 yards, Josh Smith three carries for 21 yards, Santonio Beard six runs for 20 yards, and Brandon Miree three runs for 18 yards. Zow scrambled four times for 18 yards.
Antonio Carter was the leading receiver in the scrimmage with three catches for 27 yards. However, the most interesting thing about the passing game was that Terry Jones had one catch for 21 yards, Donald Clarke one for 23 yards, Theo Sanders one for 25 yards, and Jeremy Drummond one for 37 yards. Those four are tight ends. There was one other pass directed to a tight end, but it was broken up by Anthony Bryant.
On defense, freshman middle linebacker Freddie Roach had six tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage. Adam Cox had three tackles, including a tackle for loss.
Milons also had a nifty 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as Bama had some kicking work prior to the scrimmage. Franchione said, "We were better in the kicking game today. I was disgusted Saturday morning (a kicking game scrimmage). We took some steps today."
He said, "We also took steps offensively and defensively. And we were a little more physical and fairly spirited."
Franchione said this would be a critical week. After a Monday afternoon practice the team was to have two practices Tuesday and then "break camp." Classes at The University begin Wednesday, which means the start of just one practice per day. Franchione said it's normal to have a poor practice on the first day of classes, but he is challenging his team to have a good practice because it is important that every practice show progress.
The Tide head coach said that both quarterbacks, Watts and Zow, did things well, including neither having any bad plays. He has made it something of a joke to withhold the name of the starter for UCLA, although most practice-watchers believe Watts has moved in front.
A couple of first team defensive players saw almost no action in the scrimmage. Left cornerback Gerald Dixon was held out because of a strained Achilles tendon. And middle linebacker Saleem Rasheed was held out because he was late reporting Monday morning. During the practice defensive end Antwan Odom suffered a dislocated shoulder.
Franchione said it will be important to have "seven, eight, ten defensive linemen so we can rotate them in and out and be fresh in our pass rush in the fourth quarter. If we don't have any more injuries we're getting close to that."
He said the first offensive line is close to set and that at least three men have shown they can play as back-ups. The starters appear to be Dante Ellington and Wesley Britt at tackles, Justin Smiley and Marico Portis at guards, and Alonzo Ephraim at center. Top back-ups now are tackle Atlas Herrion, guard Dennis Alexander, and Evan Mathis, who is working as a back-up both at tackle and center.