Pollard poised for move

Classes are set to start this Wednesday, but Alabama Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard won't actually begin active supervision of the Tide football athletes until the following week.

Once again the NCAA has passed regulations that will affect the way coaches and athletes interact. According to Pollard, extra off time has been mandated by NCAA fiat, which will delay the formal start of Bama's off-season workouts.

From the beginning of classes until the following Thursday (January 15), the Tide players can participate in voluntary weight lifting and conditioning. But Ben Pollard will be strictly prohibited from exercising any supervisory role.

A certain number of additional "off days" have been added per semester, and the Alabama coaches are choosing to schedule several of those days at the start of Winter term. One factor driving the decision is the still-under-construction Football Complex Annex, whose entire ground floor will be taken up by a new state-of-the-art weight room.

Visitors to the Tide campus right now will see the impressive facility nearing completion, but interior and exterior finishing touches remain to be made. For one thing the flooring has yet to be laid. While it's certainly true that you can lift weights on a bare concrete floor, that would hardly be wise at this point. If the athletes began work before the flooring was put down, then they'd just be making double work for the construction workers later.

As with any major construction project, there are minor problems that still remain to be solved. For example some of the ceiling tiles that were supposed to be in stock have yet to be delivered, but Pollard is optimistic that the ground floor at least will be ready to begin work when the Winter term schedule starts on Thursday, the 15th.

Coach Pollard looks up at to the second-floor windows looking down on the weight room. Visitors to the new facililty have been universally amazed at the expansive size of Bama's new workout area. NOTE that his picture was taken before Christmas, and the walls are now essentially finished.

Right now Pollard is very much "betwixt and between," but he's doing the best he can to be patient. The old weight room is 2/3s empty, with most of the old equipment already moved out. Enough remains to allow the few off-term users to lift, but most of the campus workouts have either been shifted to facilities at Coleman Coliseum or are on temporary hold.

Contrary to what most might assume, it's not simply a matter of moving the equipment from the former weight room into the new facility. In fact, Pollard said essentially all of the equipment in the new complex will be new. Almost $2 million worth of state-of-the-art equipment will go into the spacious facility.

With Head Coach Mike Shula and his entire on-the-field coaching staff away at the NCAA Football Coaches Convention (including Director of Football Operations, Randy Ross), right now Pollard is probably the "ranking football coach" on campus. Monday afternoon he drove to Muscle Shoals to speak to a Red Elephant Club meeting, a job most often handled by one of the other assistants.

Shula and the rest of the football coaches are expected to return by Wednesday afternoon. Alabama's first major official visit weekend of 2004 recruiting is scheduled to begin this Friday. Note that the mandated "dead period" in recruiting will extend through the convention.

The actual visit list itself is very much subject to chance, but right now defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington, athlete Chevis Jackson, offensive lineman Drew Davis, defensive end Brandon Fanney, wide receiver Larry Kendrick and defensive lineman Kevin Hamilton are tentatively scheduled to be in town.

However, those names will almost certainly be juggled somewhat between now and Friday.

The following Saturday Alabama's basketball team will host Auburn at Coleman, and January 16th-18th appears to be Bama's "blowout" official visit weekend. The majority of the publicly committed members of the Tide's 2004 class will probably be on hand either officially or unofficially for the festivities.


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