Practice simulates game conditions

Alabama finished its third two-a-day session with an eye toward Saturday's scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Tide Head Coach Mike Shula admitted he was anxious to get to the stadium, which will allow the team to practice under more game-like conditions.

"The more we can get ourselves ready for game day, the better off we'll be when kickoff finally arrives," Shula said. "Every day we're trying to mimic game action as much as we can. We'll simulate game conditions Saturday, but we'll do that even more the scrimmage the following weekend."

Football practice will continue with one workout on Friday and two practices Saturday, including a scrimmage that will be longer than Monday's scrimmage. The Tide is preparing for its season-opener against South Florida. The game will take place on Saturday, August 30, at Birmingham's Legion Field. Kickoff is set for 2 pm (CST) with ESPN providing national television coverage.

Temperatures were higher in Tuscaloosa Thursday, pushing the heat index skyward and taking an inevitable toll on the Tide players. "We actually cut back some on practice today," Shula said. "The whole practice was 'move the ball,' usually you spot the ball in one place and leave it. That made it a little longer."

The Tide worked extensively on two-minute drill situations, giving the offense plenty of reps on that key component of the game. "The defense is probably ahead of the offense right now in the two-minute," Shula said, "which is probably good. If it was the opposite, I'd probably be worried about the defense. I feel good about that side of the ball right now."

Bama has now finished its 10th day of fall camp, and Shula thinks the squad is probably a little ahead of schedule. "We're about where I'd like to be," he said. "There's always room for improvement each day. But I think back to when we first started last week. We've put a ton of stuff in."

Shula singled out strong safety Roman Harper, cornerback Anthony Madison and defensive tackle Anthony Bryant for praise. "Those guys are maybe having the best camp," he said. "The defense has definitely had a nice couple of days."

According to Shula, Bama's depth chart is a work in progress. However, he expects it to solidify after this weekend as the coaches target the players they expect to depend on during the season. "It'll firm up some, but even then it won't be rigid," he said. "It'll be more solid than it is now. We've got to get the main guys more reps (in practice)."

Special Teams Coordinator Dave Ungerer really got after his group during this morning's session, and Shula indicated it had the desired result. "Special teams had a good day today," Shula said. "Your main concerns are punt coverage, punt protection and kickoff coverage. Like on offense you've got to make sure everybody is doing their job. One guy making a mistake can cost you. But we've got real good athletes on our special teams."

Fullback remains a position of concern for the Tide. True freshman Le'Ron McClain is closer to being eligible, but he's not there yet and so cannot practice with the team. Sophomore Greg McLain, who started at fullback last season, has been held out of recent practices. That leaves true freshman Tim Castille and walk-on Nathan Cox. Shula had good things to say about Castille, but more than one player is needed.

Even so, Shula noted that the offense wouldn't necessarily be limited. "We've got a lot of personnel groupings we can use," he said. "We can use a tight end at the fullback slot or even a wide receiver in the backfield. We just need to settle on one sound scheme that can be productive."

Shula listed Triandos Luke, Antonio Carter, Shaud Williams and Brandon Brooks as the main candidates to return punts. Add in Ray Hudson and Ramzee Robinson, and you also have the contenders to return kickoffs.

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