Off week put to good use

After nine consecutive games without a break, the calendar at least finally gives Alabama some measure of relief. <br><br>"With the bye week coming up we can rest some of our guys and get ready for the final stretch," Tide Head Coach Mike Shula said.

"Saturday's loss is difficult to swallow. We've got to get through the disappointment."

The Tide's next game isn't until November 8 versus the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Shula detailed the teams' schedule during the upcoming off week.

"We followed our normal schedule Sunday with meeting times. The players will have Monday off. Tuesday we'll be back at it, but we'll move practice up. We'll have short meetings and short practices Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday we'll move practice up even more to where we'll have little meeting time, just a short practice. We'll give them Friday and Saturday off."

Todd Bates got work in Sunday's scrimmage.

From a health standpoint, the down time will be appreciated. "We need to get rest for sure," Shula acknowledged. "The guys have been playing hard. Maybe more so from Saturday's (five-overtime) game they have some nicks. We'll get those guys some rest."

Shula also noted that the team needs a break emotionally. Ordinarily a devastating defeat like Saturday might stay with a team, but the extra days off should take care of that. "Mentally (we can) get away from things for a second," Shula said. "Give ourselves time to regroup. We've got four tough games down the road, and we want to go win all four of them. We want a winning season, and we've got some other goals to accomplish. But the main thing is rest."

After the loss two weeks ago to Ole Miss, Shula and the Tide staff worked the players hard. No one, including the players, was satisfied with the team's effort against the Rebels. Obviously the Tide lost another game Saturday, but this week's approach will be completely different.

"If for no other reason than because of the number of downs they played, we're going to make sure we get them rest," Shula said. "Offensively there were more than 105 snaps Saturday. Defensively they had 90 plays."

"We all need a break," Shula continued. "We didn't work these guys much Sunday. They laid everything out there on the field. They're spent. We're going to take care of them. We've got to rebound physically and mentally from this and get ready for the last four games."

Emotionally the team has endured one disappointment after another, which makes the down time this week that much more important.

Mike Shula and the Tide coaches will give particular attention to the younger players this week.

Shula explained, "That's one of the biggest reasons the bye week is good. Now we've got time to regroup and catch our breath. We can get some rest and come back with a good mindset next week and get ready for Mississippi State. We want to have a winning record, so we've got to go win four games. We need a good mindset to do it. Recover physically and take them one at a time."

Without an opponent to prepare for this Saturday, Shula said his staff would take the chance to look carefully at itself, breaking down Bama's own game film looking for ways to get better.

"We'll take the week to do some self-scouting," Shula said. "We'll look at things we've done well, things we haven't done well. Things we need to do more and things we need to do less. Change up our tendencies. That will be No. 1 on our list."

After going through brief team workouts, designed to work the soreness out as much as anything else, Sunday's practice concluded with scrimmage work.

Shula commented, "We worked the guys that didn't play, but the session was shorter than in the past. We (scrimmaged) some of our younger guys that we didn't have a chance to play in the game. A lot of the work this week will be for guys that haven't played that much."

During Sunday's scrimmage Marc Guillon and Mike Machen handled the quarterbacking duties. Guillon had a nice touchdown pass to Brandon Brooks on a corner route. Justin Ballard, a transfer tailback from Delta State had several good runs. Fullback Le'Ron McClain also got some work.

Privately the coaches say that Eric Gray shows great promise at cornerback.

Generally the Tide offensive line consisted of tackles Von Ewing and Justin Moon, guards Mark Sanders, Gerritt Gordon and Andy Harrison and center Montre Walker. Besides Brooks, Marcus McKnight, Matt Caddell, Will Roach and Tarry Givens got work at wide receiver.

On defense, Todd Bates, Wallace Gilberry, Keith Saunders and Justin Johnson took snaps at end. Gilberry showed good ability to penetrate, while Saunders ran very well. J.P. Adams, Rudy Griffin (a transfer from the Citadel), Taylor Britt and John Bevel took snaps at defensive tackle.

Several players got snaps at linebacker, with Earnest Nance (inside) and Demarcus Waldrop (outside) playing well. Eric Gray, Charles Hosea and Ben Rose worked at cornerback. Eric Johnson and Bryan Kilpatrick handled the safety position.

After taking the weekend off, players will return to their normal game-week schedule. "We'll bring them back Sunday and then be back on our regular schedule," Shula said.

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