Tide Goes Into Full Gear

There was no mistake about Alabama's football team being in full gear Saturday. The four-day build-up–two days in shorts and helmets, two days with shoulder pads added to the uniform–culminated in full gear and full contact on Saturday. And there was a decided difference in the level of hitting.

Following the two-hour practice at the Thomas Field practice facility, Head Coach Mike Shula said, "There was probably more hitting in practice today than we've had all week. We had a lot of tough one-on-one drills, compete drills. We had long periods of offensive line versus defensive line without receivers in there. We had short yardage and goal line periods and then normal team periods."

One of the places where toughness counts is defensive tackle. Alabama is replacing both starters this year, Jarret Johnson and Kenny King having taken their games to the NFL. Both back-ups from last season, Ahmad Childress and Anthony Bryant, have proved themselves in battle. And based on Saturday's work, the Tide is coming up with good back-ups. For the second time in the first week of practice Shula had good things to say about freshman defensive tackle Dominic Lee. And, Shula said, "I think Jeremy Clark has done some nice things and Kyle Tatum and Taylor Britt are coming around too. At that position we've got to rotate a lot of guys."

Place-kicking is an area of interest. Shula said that Kyle Robinson, who ended last season as Bama's field goal and extra point kicker, looked good in kicking field goals. And, the coach said, freshman walk-on Jamie Christensen "is doing a pretty good job kicking the ball off."

Shula said, "I think our receivers have done a nice job as to understanding what we're trying to get done. Those older guys have experience. Zach (Fletcher) Dre (Fulgham), Triandos (Luke(, and AC (Carter) are coming along. We want to use those guys. We think they can be a strength for us and because of that we want to get them on the field"

As for stopping the pass, Shula said, "I think our secondary is playing very well together. (Defensive Coordinator) Joe Kines really likes (cornerbacks) Anthony Madison and Charlie Peprah."

Alabama is having to fill the vacancy at weakside linebacker caused by pre-season All-SEC Brooks Daniels unexpected illness that resulted in Daniels dropping out of school. Shula said, "DeMeco Ryans has done a nice job. I think he showed up on some plays."

At middle linebacker the Tide returns two experienced men, and Shula had good things to say about both Derrick Pope and Freddie Roach. He said, " Derrick Pope is an older guy who plays with a lot of enthusiasm, and it's contagious, especially when you go through some practices like today. In tough practices, you look to those guys. I know he and Freddie are competing at that spot. We've got some of good competition at a lot of positions."

With two-a-day workouts beginning Sunday, Shula said the morning practices would be longer and more intense, and the afternoon practices shorter. Two-a-day sessions will be held August 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18 while one-a-day practices will be conducted on August 11,13, 15, 17 and 19 before classes begin on August 20.

Alabama will begin the 2003 season on August 30 against South Florida at Birmingham's Legion Field. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN, with kickoff scheduled at 2 p.m. CDT.

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