Tide Has Worked Hard

It is understandable that questions would be raised regarding the attitude of an Alabama football team that has lost three straight games and four of six this season. Crimson Tide Head Coach Mike Shula said following Thursday's practice that he thinks the team has responded well to the adversity. "I think (their attitude) has been great," Shula said. "I think these guys are hungry–extremely hungry–for a win. I think they're a little ticked off and they've worked hard because of it."

Shula said that practices this week have been good. "I feel good about our preparation," he said. "We've talked to the team ab out having a little more urgency, which is something we talk about every week. But it's more important now. And they've got a good look in their eye. I hope it pays off on Saturday."

Saturday is homecoming at Alabama and the Crimson Tide will host Southern Mississippi at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. CDT with th e only television coverage provided by pay-per-view outlets. Alabama has fallen to 2-4 in its current losing streak. Southern Miss is 3-2.

As has been the case for several weeks, the biggest question concerns quarterback Brodie Croyle, who has been hampered by a shoulder injury that held him to only two plays in last week's game at Georgia. Shula said, "Brodie feels good. He feels better than he did last week. He threw again today in individual work. And, as last week, we'll probably make a decision Friday night (on Croyle's playing status)."

Shula said Alabama's routine has not changed this week even though it is likely that redshirt freshman Brandon Avalos, who got his only college experience in the final quarter and a half of the Georgia game last Saturday, is expected to start this week. Shula regularly attends the quarterback meetings during the week, but said he leaves most of the work to Quarterbacks Coach Dave Rader. "Coach Rader is real good in situations like this," Shula said. Shula said he usually spends time with the quarterbacks on Friday nights and before the games on Saturdays "so we can see if they have questions for me or I have questions for them."

He also said Alabama would not change its policy of not having an exact script of early plays. "We don't script, but we have early ideas," Shula said. "We have a set of plays we expect to use early, but they can change."

As on Wednesday, Avalos got about 80-85 per cent of the practice time with the first offense, while freshman Michael Machen, the former professional baseball pitcher who is a walk-on quarterback, got the remaining snaps.

Regarding the straits in which Bama football finds itself, Shula said, I think it's important for us as coaches to help all of us realize how important it is to do everything right.–on the practice field and off. Doing everything right at practice, but also in meetings and in the classroom. And, of course, on Saturday. We've all got to dig down a little deeper."

Shula expects freshman fullback Le'Ron McClain to return to action this week after McClain had missed a coup;le of games with a toe injury. McClain has practiced all week. Offensive lineman Atlas Herrion, who backs up all guard and tackle spots, is also expected to play after suffering a head injury against Georgia. Herrion practiced Wednesday and Thursday.

Captains this week will be snapper Nick Ridings (special teams), tackle Wesley Britt (offense), and safety Charles Jones (defense).

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