Summer work paid off

As Tide fans know, several key players worked hard this past summer to get into better shape, notably several of the big men who make their living along the line of scrimmage. Understandably, names like Ahmad Childress and Dennis Alexander have gotten positive publicity for their hard work. <br><br>A close look at the numbers listed in the 105 roster reveals other changes worthy of note.

Ahmad Childress was a big winner, losing a total of 27 pounds down to his present weight of 331. "Big D" (Dennis Alexander) only dropped 11 pounds, but he's looking downright svelte and is in the best shape of his life. Also targeted for weight loss this summer, Anthony Bryant made progress (-12 down to 336), but coaches hope his new eating habits will continue. "Bear" has been told his ideal weight would lie 10 pounds or so more down the scale.

Herrion was the summer diet champion, dropping 28 pounds.

Though less publicized, Atlas Herrion has also reshaped his body since spring. The senior tackle dropped 28 pounds (down to 286), improving his quickness and enhancing his chances to win a starting job.

Redshirt sophomore offensive linemen Mark Sanders and Von Ewing were also targeted for weight loss this summer. Sanders dropped 10 pounds--down to 310, while Ewing lost six--down to 304.

Several skill players worked to lose weight this summer, primarily to help their speed. In their cases the numbers weren't as large, but that extra step on game day could be just as important.

Dre Fulgham (-11 to 214), Brandon Greer (-6 to 190), Carlos Andrews (-6 to 210) and Charlie Peprah (-9 to 189) are all looking for that extra burst. Peprah, of course, could play either cornerback or safety, but at cornerback (where he'll start this season) he's better off a tad lighter.

It's not just the little guys looking for speed. All-American guard Justin Smiley is down nine pounds to 293. Tight ends David Cavan and Donald Clarke both lost seven pounds off their spring weight. Linebackers Cornelius Wortham and Freddie Roach dropped four and six pounds respectively.

Senior free safety Charles Jones lost nine pounds down to 174, but his coaches may not be entirely happy with that. Jones has had to work hard to add weight during his career.

Two defensive linemen deserve significant praise for reporting as big as they did. End Nautyn McKay-Loescher was forced to drop out of school due to a severe bout of mononucleosis. His weight dropped significantly during his illness. But the senior worked feverishly during the summer and reported at 252 pounds, just three pounds less than last season. "I wouldn't have minded playing at 245," McKay-Loescher told in an earlier interview. "That would have helped my speed."

McKay-Loescher virtually lived in the weight room this summer, building his weight back up following illness.

Defensive tackle Kyle Tatum is listed at 282, one pound less than on the spring roster. But there's a story behind that story. At the end of spring drills the lanky athlete actually weighed significantly less. Tall, relatively slender players like Tatum have to work hard to put on--and keep on--extra weight. His summer efforts in that regard have paid off. At 282, he'll be much better prepared to hold his own on the defensive line than 262.

On the flip side of the weight coin, many Tide athletes were working in the opposite direction. The days of 185-pound linemen in the SEC have long since passed, and most young players need to put on weight to effectively compete in the modern game.

McDowell has bulked up.

Receiver Scoop McDowell weighed just 176 when he joined the squad last winter from pro baseball. He's up to 185 now. Cornerback Anthony Madison will be even stronger than before after adding six more pounds of muscle to his already powerful frame. Roman Harper continues to build himself into an SEC strong safety, adding five more pounds to his angular frame.

Weakside linebacker Juwan Garth is up four more pounds to 208. Defensive end (transitioning from linebacker to lineman) Mark Anderson put on nine pounds and is now up to 239. Center J.B. Closner has steadily built himself into an impressive O-Lineman, now weighing in at 290.

Quarterback Brandon Avalos deserves special mention. Last spring the combination of classes, football lifting, baseball practice, baseball games and football spring practice took their toll on his frame. He finished baseball season weighing less than his listed spring weight of 175. But hard summer work (in the weight room and at the supper table) has him back up to 188.

Avalos won his battle to get his weight back up.

A few players lost weight, seemingly for no positive reason. Defensive end Leslie Williams lost ground in the form of seven pounds over the summer and now weighs only 216. Redshirt freshman receiver Marcus McKnight had worked hard to get his spring weight up to 183, but he's now listed at 173. Tarry Givens dropped 10 pounds down to 220, which if he was still at receiver would be a good thing. But Givens is now working at tight end, where added bulk would be a bonus.

And yes, based on logic alone, there were a few players that added too much weight. Wideout Zach Fletcher's game is speed. He's now up seven pounds to 194. Five foot nine inch cornerback Roberto McBride now weighs 182, a full 15 pounds more than in the spring. Punter Bo Freeland, admittedly a big athlete for a kicker, is now up to 257.

Two other numbers of note: quarterback Brodie Croyle weighed in this fall at an even 200--not as big as he needs to be, but certainly higher than the ridiculous 175 "reported" by rival fans. Starting right tackle Evan Mathis weighs 13 more pounds than in the spring (308). Mathis is athletic enough to carry the weight--especially at his position. But his continuing rehab from leg surgery kept him from running as much as he wanted during the spring. Expect Mathis to start the season at a smaller number.

Roman Harper looks more and more like an SEC safety.

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