Mike Shula went on to relate that the staff has placed large pictures in the team meeting room of the national championship rings from Alabama's seven most recent titles. "It's to remind them a bit of what they're doing all this for," he said. "When they're tired, they can peek at the pictures as they walk out the door."
NCAA probation prevents the Tide from competing in post-season play this season, which also excludes them from the BCS. But Alabama is eligible for the Associated Press writers' poll. "We can still win 13 games," offensive tackle Wesley Britt said after practice. "That's my goal."
The Tide worked this morning and will return to the Drew-Thomas practice fields this evening at 7:45. (Shula will not meet with the media following that session, which is why Tuesday's practice report is early). Shula said the later starting time would help the players recover. "They'll be off their feet a little longer. It's a change of pace. It'll be a little cooler in the evening, and my experience is that those practices are always livelier."
Alabama is preparing for its season opener against the South Florida Bulls, scheduled for August 30, in Birmingham's Legion Field. Kickoff is set for 2 pm (CST) with ESPN providing national television coverage.
Shula said Tuesday's morning workout went well. "We cut it a little short," he said. "It was a nice, cool morning. After two tough practices in a row, this was a good one to get through. We've been doing a lot of hitting. Today we pulled off a little bit."
After reviewing the tape from Monday's scrimmage, Shula said the second teams on offense and defense played well. "At times toward the end the second group did some nice things," he said. "Running the football, passing the football, tackling and rushing the passer."
Asked if he worried about the squad's ability to pick up a new offense in such a short time, Shula credited several players with helping him sleep well at night. "I think about Wesley Britt, Justin Smiley, Triandos Luke, Shaud Williams and Brodie Croyle," Shula said with a laugh. "Those guys make me feel good about the job. The more I'm around them, the more confident I am."
Shula praised the entire team's work ethic. "We've asked them to do a lot in a very short time," he explained. "And that's in every aspect of football. Mentally, they've had to learn a lot. Physically, we've been hitting like crazy. The way everyone has responded makes you feel good."
One of the players told a reporter after practice that they already had "95 percent of the offense in." When told of the comment, Shula laughed. "Yeah, we've got 95 percent in--of what we've put in so far.
"We don't have a whole lot of plays. It's not our normal playbook. We'll add things later, according to what we feel confident with. But the stuff we have in we believe we can win football games with."
Shula went on to explain that in his experience coaches tend to underestimate players' ability to learn. "Young kids learn quickly," he noted. "They're picking the offense up. I have to give them credit. This year could have been scary, but the players are doing a nice job."
Several players were singled out for praise, including placekicker Brian Bostick, tight end David Cavan (who Shula said reminded him of Patrick Hape), defensive tackle Jeremy Clark, offensive linemen Dennis Alexander and Atlas Herrion, cornerbacks Charlie Peprah and Anthony Madison and reserve quarterback Spencer Pennington.
"Spencer had a nice day," Shula said. "In fact his last three practices have been better."
Regarding the cornerbacks, Shula said, "Charlie and Anthony have been very consistent. It's good to have experienced players in that spot. Like a quarterback, a corner has got to be able to put a bad play out of his mind and move on."
Fall Camp Notes
- Walk-on quarterback Chris Lombardo of Newbury Park, California, and center Joseph Bennett of Hoover have left the squad.
- Defensive end Antwan Odom was at practice but did not participate. Doctors are being cautious with him after he suffered a "stinger" last Saturday, but there are apparently no long-term problems.
- Tight end David Cavan participated in practice with a cast on his right hand. Tight Ends Coach Dave Ungerer said he did fairly well catching the football.
- Brandon Brooks, Shaud Williams, Triandos Luke and Roberto McBride are currently getting reps returning punts.
- Ramzee Robinson (who had a good scrimmage Monday in the role), Luke, Antonio Carter and Ray Hudson are working at kickoff returns.