The University of Alabama football team continued practice on Tuesday at Thomas-Drew Field, despite having its first open date nine games into the season. The Crimson Tide will practice again on Wednesday and Thursday of this week before taking off Friday and Saturday.
As he had indicated earlier, Shula chose to hold some of the starters out of work to get them over the bumps and bruises of the season.
"We rested some of our older players that have played a lot," he related. "We worked our third-team and scout-team guys. When the older guys were in there we worked on some run-and-pass plays that we need to get better at."
The Tide takes the field in Starkville, Mississippi against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on November 8. Jefferson Pilot will televise the game with the kickoff set for 11:30 a.m. The contest will mark the 88th time the two schools have met.
The Tide offense worked some installing new wrinkles, but most of the emphasis was on basic work. Shula commented, "A little bit (involved new plays), but our biggest priority is just continuing to get familiar with all three phases (offense, defense and special teams) and improving on fundamentals. That's not unique to any other bye week I've been involved with."
Shula reported that offensive tackle Wesley Britt had come through his surgery well. Bama's starting left tackle broke his leg early in the Tennessee game, and Atlas Herrion stepped in to take over the position. "Atlas is the one (of all the offensive linemen) that handles moving around the best," Shula said. "If we had to shuffle, he'd be the first guy and let the other guys stay at the positions they perform best at."
For the first time in several days tailback Kenneth Darby was dressed out in shoulder pads. Darby is recovering from a slight shoulder separation. "He'll be close to see if we can get him healthy by Mississippi State," Shula said.
Saturday's tough loss to Tennessee involved a couple of poor center/holder exchanges in the placekicking game. Shula indicated that attention would be paid to the problem, but he stopped short of threatening anyone's job.
"We're going to look at it and talk about it," was how Shula put it. "That's a tough call to make a change like that now, because you've had so many reps with the same three guys. Kickers are a little bit different than other positions. You want to make sure that they're comfortable."
Shula does not want the team to think that an athlete will get yanked precipitously from the starting lineup without good reason. "Everybody has a bad game every now and then," he said. "I don't want to all of a sudden pull the trigger on them.
"But if we think it's something that will make our team better, then we'll have to look hard at it."
"It makes you feel good about the future," Shula said. "Le'Ron had his best game by far blocking. There are some young guys that are getting in there in a big game. Hopefully that will help for next season."