Bama has back-to-back good practices

Much has been made of Alabama Head Football Coach Dennis Franchione having had experience coaching against Texas-El Paso. Franchione's experience came in his previous coaching stints at New Mexico and for the past two years at TCU, including last year's 47-14 TCU win for the WAC championship.

Franchione, who is aware that South Carolina fans tore down a goalpost at the end of the Gamecocks' 37-36 win over Alabama last weekend, said that he had only a little experience with fans tearing down a goalpost at the end of a game. He said it happened when his team upset seventh-ranked Utah one year. But, he said, "I think that should be reserved for championships, sort of like throwing water on the coach. You don't do it after just any win."

Last year before the UTEP game, TCU officials greased the support pole for the goalposts to prevent that type of celebration. It's not likely officials have taken such precautions at Legion Field in Birmingham. That's where Alabama will host UTEP at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Franchione has never coached a game at Legion Field. He said he had never been a part of a school that played some of its home games at an alternate site. "I like coaching at Bryant-Denny," he said. "I hope I like coaching at Legion Field as well."

Franchione has mostly good news following Wednesday's two-hour practice in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. "I'll have to look at the tape to be sure, but I think maybe we had our best two collective days of work in one week," he said. "Tuesday was good and today was pretty good. I think it's the best Tuesday-Wednesday we have had."

The Tide coach said that defensive end Antwan Odom would miss the remainder of the season. Odom, a 6-5, 247-pound sophomore, will have surgery and will be redshirted this year. He had seen limited action in Bama's first two games, but has had chronic shoulder problems. He will sit out the remainder of this year, then will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning next fall. "We made the decision today," Franchione said. "He tried to practice and just couldn't do it."

Franchione said that it could be difficult for a team to rebound from a loss like the one Alabama suffered in Columbia, South Carolina, last weekend. The Gamecocks came from 12 points behind in the final nine minutes to hand Alabama its second loss in four games and drop the Tide to 2-1 in Southeastern Conference contests. "I think the big thing is how we handle it as coaches," Franchione said. "You can savor a win too long and you can worry about a loss too long. We try not to do either. We try to put it aside after we look at the tapes on Sundays."

Franchione has been pleased with the progress of quarterback Tyler Watts. He said that Watts, a junior who earned the starting job 18 practices into fall work, is "checking," or changing the play at the line of scrimmage, about 50 per cent of the time and doing a good job with recognition. Franchione said that early in the season Alabama has been sending in a play package, which includes the play and the audible, but that Watts has to make the recognition and the call. "I don't think we'll have to send in the check much longer," Franchione said. "I tried to fool him today and he wasn't fooled. He's pretty smart."

Franchione said he was disappointed that Alabama reverted to its early season form of too many penalties against South Carolina. Although the coach said there were a number of reasons for the penalties, including a young offensive line, a new offense, a new defense, and very loud crowd noise at Columbia, he said it was primarily a matter of discipline. He was particularly unhappy that some of the 10 penalties against Bama were because of mistakes by seniors. "You have to eliminate the dumb penalties," he said.

Much of Franchione's post-practice press conference dealt with playing freshmen. The coach said he couldn't be sure, but that he thouht he played just one freshman in both his first year as head coach at New Mexico and his first year as head coach at TCU. Oddly., both were tight ends. He has played one true freshman this year, defensive end Todd Bates, but another one or two could play before the end of the year. Franchione said it was likely that linebacker Freddie Roach would end up playing and possible that cornerback Charlie Peprah would see action. But, he said, "I don't believe in throwing freshmen out there too fast. You don't want to waste a year. I try to make the best decision for the player and for the program." He said that possible NCAA penalties that would cost Alabama scholarships did not play into his decision.

He said that freshman quarterback Brodie Croyle, who participated in spring practice, was a possibility to play this year before Watts solidified the job in August. "And," the coach added, "if something happened to Tyler, it's possible Brodie would still play this year."

Franchione indicated that Charles Jones may have moved ahead of Reggie Myles at safety. Although a final decision is not expected to be made until after Thursday's practice, Franchione said the decision was partly the result of Jones' performance and partly because Myles did not have a good game against South Carolina.

The Tide head coach said that tailback Santonio Beard, who started out the season number four and has now moved up to number two, is "getting better. He has a better grasp of what we're doing. Even when he asks questions, they are better questions. His confidence is growing and he's feeding off knowing that his coaches have more confidence in him. He's becoming reliable."

Beard and the other tailbacks and fullbacks are being coached by Franchione this week. Assistant Coach Lee Fobbs is with his father, who is seriously ill. "He needs to be with his father," Franchione said. "I have a hunch that he'll be at the game, but this game is not more important than what he is doing."

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