Tide Works Before Scrimmage

The University of Alabama football squad practiced for approximately one hour and twenty minutes on Friday on the hottest day yet of fall football camp. The team is preparing for a long scrimmage Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"We had a lot of different looks today both offensively and defensively," head coach Mike Shula said. "We put the offense in some different situations, second-and-long and tougher situations like that. We've gotten a lot of work on blitz drills for both the offense and defense, and you can't get enough of that kind of practice."

Shula said, "The offense is good at times and not so good at times. We've got to get there. I'm not worried. The mistakes we're making we will get corrected. The most important thing right now is that they correct it so they don't repeat it."

He said, "The last few days have been really hot."

Regarding injuries, Shula has noted that Bama has had only minor nicks and bruises. But, he said, "They are starting to have an effect on the squad. We're cutting back on practice time for that reason. When the schedule was made before the start of camp, it was made with the idea that it could be cut back. Some of the players legs are a little tired right now."

He said that was the primary reason for cutting short Friday's practice, to have the team a little more prepared for the important Saturday scrimmage.

Former Tuscaloosa County High star Le'ron McClain practiced for the first time today. He was cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse to begin earlier on Friday. Bama officials learned of his eligibility only hours before the practice.

"It could be big to have him here if he's a good player," Shula said. "We said all along w're going to get the best players on the field. If that turns out to be three wide receivers and a tight end (instead of a fullback), then that's what we'll do. It's good that we're going another set of fresh legs out there, and now we can see how he does. We'll ease him into his. His learning curve will take some time. We're not going to ask too much of him too quickly."

McClain is in shorts for the first four days as mandated by NCAA rules. McClain's arrival into fall camp could be important in part because returning starting fullback Greg McLain has missed several practices with a minor injury.

Rarely a day goes by that some reporter doesn't ask about the progress of quarterback Brodie Croyle Shula said, "Every day he has more of an understanding of the offense. He recovers quickly from his mistakes. He learns quickly. That's a good quality to have in your quarterback. For that matter, it's what you look for in all your players. You want them to get over the mistake and look forward to the next play."

An out-of-town television reporter asked Shula how he responded to allegations that he was awarded the head coaching job at Alabama because he is the son of all-time NFL coaching great Don Shula. Bama's coach said, "Actually, I've dealt with that all my life. It started in Little League baseball and I was a pitcher and people wondered if my arm was strong enough to be the pitcher. I feel like I've paid my dues. I was lucky enough to start coaching at a very early age. I don't have any high school or college coaching experience, but I have coached in the NFL for 15 years. I know I have been fortunate. There are a lot of coaches out there who have been coaching a lot longer than I have. The way I look at it is you take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, and then work as hard as you can the best way you know how."

Two-a-day sessions will be held Saturday (the afternoon session will be the closed scrimmage) and Monday, while one-a-day practices will be conducted on Sunday and Tuesday before classes begin Wednesday.

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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