Shula Likes His Team, Too

The message from Alabama Football Coach Mike Shula has been consistent this week. He has asked his team to be at its best, he considers Arkansas to be a great challenge for Bama, and he is withholding judgment on his Crimson Tide's preparation until after Saturday's game.

Bama, which fell to 2-2 with last week's surprising loss to Northern Illinois, hosts Arkansas, 3-0 and ranked ninth in the nation, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa Saturday. Kickoff will be shortly after 2:30 p.m. CDT with television coverage by CBS.

Alabama worked for about an hour and 45 minutes Thursday, the final physical work before Saturday's game. Bama will have a short walk-through Friday. "It was a good day of practice," Shula said.

He said, "We've asked the guys to be a little more focused and pay a little more attention to detail, and they've done everything we've asked them to do. Now the next 48 hours (of mental preparation) is important."

While he said he believes practices have gone smoother and that execution has been better this week than last week and that practice field indications are that the players have recovered from last week's loss, "the tale will be told Saturday." He said players have been more serious this week, but that enthusiasm has been excellent.

Shula continues to sing the praises of the Pigs. "It's a great challenge for us," he said. "They have a lot of talent and they are well-coached. They've got great size, but they are excellent athletes. A lot of times you will play teams that are big like that but maybe aren't quite the ball players these guys are. If you beat this team, you have beaten a good team. But I think we have a good team, too."

Shula indicated that pre-season All-America guard Justin Smiley, who has missed the last two games with a foot injury, would be back in the line-up Saturday. "He's practiced all week," the coach said. "I don't know if he's 100 per cent, but he's ready to go." Fullback LeRon McClain, who has also missed two games with a toe injury, has not practiced as much as Smiley, Shula said, and it would be a game-time decision as to whether McClain plays.

Shula announced captains for Saturday's game are quarterback Brodie Croyle (offense), strong safety Roman Harper (defense), and Chris James (special teams).

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