Fran careful not to overload offense

Alabama Head Football Coach Dennis Franchione is having to walk a tight line this week as he prepares his Crimson Tide for an important Southeastern Conference game at South Carolina. Franchione said following his team's two-hour Wednesday practice in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts that he and his staff have to be careful not to overload the team with more than it can handle.

"This is the freshman year for the program," he said. Franchione explained that although he has a number of veteran players that everything is new to this team this year. "I have a saying that ‘Every day is a clean chalkboard.' Well, there's a little more on the chalkboard now because we've played three games, but it's still not where it will be in year two or year three," Franchione said. "In a year or two we'll be able to adjust easier and we'll have more recall. For now, if we try to overload them there's a chance we'll do more harm than good. If we give them more than they can handle there is more opportunity for a busted play, more likelihood that a player will be tentative. Those are things that get you beat."

Franchione pointed out that Alabama won't be able to make turnovers or have penalties or allow South Carolina receivers to get behind the secondary and have a very good chance of Bama winning the game. "We know that South Carolina is not going to turn it over or have many penalties. We don't expect very many gifts from them."

The Tide coach noted that this is an important game. "It's a conference game, it's against a nationally-ranked team, and it's at their place," he said.

Alabama, 2-1 overall and 2-0 in SEC games, will take on the Gamecocks at 11:30 a.m. CDT (12:30 EDT) Saturday at Columbia in a game that will be regionally telecast by Jefferson Piolot. South Carolina is 3-0, including 2-0 in SEC games, and is ranked 15th in the nation.

"I'll be interested to see how we respond," Franchione said. "Naturally, I hope we respond well. We'll have to have good focus and good patience."

He noted that a number of Alabama players have been on the road to tough places, such as Florida, but that this will be the first time this year the Tide has been in a truly hostile environment and the first time any of the players or coaches have been to South Carolina. Alabama played one earlier road game, at Vanderbilt, but the crowd was not overwhelmingly Vandy. Alabama will have some practice work in its indoor facility Thursday with crowd noise piped in to give the Tide offense some work on dealing with that problem. He added that he thinks coaches and players like to play games early and that while he might prefer a starting time about an hour later, that "We like to get up and go play."

Franchione said that Wednesday's practice was a typical Wednesday work in that it is a workout in which "we have to see what we can run." He said there were too many mistakes, but they were mistakes that are "manageable." He said one task in Thursday's practice will be to clean up some of those mistakes. One area of error was too many penaties, he said.

Franchione said, "On Mondays we feel real bold about what we can put in. By Wednesday we see where there are things we can't run and on Thursday we adjust. It's a process of continuous tweeking. We have to limit our game plan to what they can absorb mentally so they can do it physically."

He noted as a "for instance" that this week's South Carlina defense is far different from the defense presented by Arkansas in last week's game. That means Alabama's base offense changes this week. He estimated that of the game plan that is considered at the beginning of the week, no more than about 50 per cent of it survives until kickoff.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Alabama offense is the continuing discussion as to whether Alabama is an option team. Franchione pointed out that Alabama got about 100 yards of offense using the option in the opening game against UCLA. However, the Tide ran only two option plans against Vanderbilt and only one last week against Arkansas. "That's just part of the multiplicity of our offense," he said. He agreed that it probably presents preparation problems for opponents who have to consider the possibility that Alabama will run the option.

Franchione said that Alabama would not have a great deal of difference on defense when South Carolina changes quarterbacks. Although Phil Petty is the primary quarterback, the Gamecocks will also use Cory Jenkins. Franchione said that South Carolina may have given Mississippi State some problems with formations when changing quarterbacks last week, and said that Jenkins has some different strengths than Petty, but that Alabama believes the offense is substantially the same regardless of which quarterback is playing.

Franchione said it appears that Donnie Lowe, who was Bama's number one fullback until suffering a concussion in practice before the start of the season, would be the starter at South Carolina. Lowe played for the first time in last week's 31-10 win over Arkansas. He would move in front of Marvin Brown, who had two lost fumbles and also dropped a likely touchdown pass last week. He said a final decision would be made after Thusday's practice.

Franchione also said that he expected Freddie Milons to continue as the Tide's punt return man, even though Milons had a couple of bobbles against Arkansas. "Freddie has been back there a lot of times and I have confidence in him," the coach said. However, he didn't rule out the possibility of using Antonio Carter, perhaps in a twin return alignment.

The coach said he expected defensive end Antwan Odom, who missed last week with a shoulder problem, to be among the 70 men (the SEC limit for a road team in a league game) who dress for this week's contest.

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