Tide using off-week to improve

With no game scheduled next Saturday, the Crimson Tide is using the extra days of practice time this week trying to improve as a team. "We spent almost the entire day working on fundamentals and ourselves against each other," said Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione.

Dressed out in full pads, the squad scrimmaged extensively with the first-team offense working against first-team defense. "There was no game planning involved at all," Franchione said. "Which we do on most Tuesdays. It was all ones versus ones and twos versus twos."

The Tide's next game will be Saturday, November 3rd, when the LSU Tigers come to Tuscaloosa's Bryant-Denny Stadium. That weekend will be Homecoming at Alabama, with the game scheduled for a 2:30 pm (CT) broadcast by CBS. The team will practice again Wednesday and Thursday before taking Friday and Saturday off. Alabama will return to its normal game-week schedule with a full-contact workout this Sunday afternoon.

"We touched on a little bit of everything today," Franchione said. "We did a lot of run. We did a lot of pass. We worked on the two-minute offense today, and we'll do that every day this week.

"Today and tomorrow will be very similar, and then Thursday we'll turn our attention more to LSU and try to get a little bit ahead on that. Then Sunday will be like a normal practice for us. But today and tomorrow we'll spend working on ourselves."

In three of its last four games, Alabama has found itself behind in the fourth quarter--only to have its offense fail to move the football. So all week the coaches will give extra attention to the two-minute drill.

Several reporters noted that backup quarterback Andrew Zow was successful during his series today at practice, prompting a question about whether the role of the former starter might change. "I have had some thoughts sometimes about having Andrew be our ‘may day' quarterback," Franchione said. "Because he is a guy that has an arsenal of throws more available to him than Tyler. But I don't know that we'll do that for sure."

Franchione then went on to state that there are no specific plans being made to train Zow as the so-called ‘may day' quarterback. "That depends on Andrew and how the game plan goes," he said. "It's hard to take Tyler out, because he knows what he's doing and he's smart. You have a great degree of trust and confidence in him to make good decisions."

In Saturday's loss to Tennessee, the Volunteers won the game in the fourth quarter, salting the game away with two long, clock-eating drives. On consecutive series, the Tennessee offense converted third down after third down, holding the ball and wearing down a tired Alabama defense.

But Franchione was still proud of his team's effort. "I think we did play physical Saturday," he said. "There were three or four helmets that got knocked off Saturday. I haven't seen that in a game in maybe my whole career. And our guys did some of that.

"We played a physical team that played a physical brand of football. Maybe because we couldn't get ourselves off the field with all their third down conversions, then we gave in a little bit to their strength. But I think we played hard."

As part of the off-week schedule, the Bama coaches sat down together to identify problem areas and plan on how to improve. Franchione explained; "Every area has identified some strengths and weaknesses. And every coach and unit has identified a couple or three things that they think they can get better at in the next two weeks.

"I don't really want to share them with all of you, because I don't really want to share them with LSU and all our other opponents. But we went through that process and tried to identify some of those things. We want to make sure we're playing to our strengths."

Though the team's record stands at only 3-4 overall, offensively there has been clear progress. And Franchione credits his young offensive line for much of that success. "The biggest thing with those guys is they need every rep they can get," he explained. "Three of those guys have only played seven football games. They make some mistakes that are frustrating at times, because of their youth. But yet they get you really excited because of some things they do, because of the physical mentality that they bring.

"A lot of times they block the wrong people, but they knock them down. Or they use the wrong technique, or they step with the wrong foot--things that you know in time they're going to do better. We just have to wait for time to pass."

LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn are left on the Tide's schedule, and then the make-up game with Southern Miss will finish the regular season. To qualify for a bowl bid Alabama must win three of its final four games.

"Getting a bowl bid would certainly be big," Franchione said. "But right now we just need to focus more on getting better this week and LSU--trying to get that fourth win. Then if we get the fourth win we can talk about the fifth. We need to stay as focused as we can on the task at hand and play ourselves into position to talk about those things.

"Obviously if we could get to post-season and have a chance to get to those extra practices, then it's big for your young players. It's big for all the kids. It would be big for our players' psyche, their confidence and mentality. It would ease some of their frustrations. But we need to win three of our last four games."


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