Like all college coaches, Franchione doesn't get to watch many games live--most Saturdays his attention is focused elsewhere. So the off week also gave him a rare chance to play fan, tuning in various games on television. Franchione explained his schedule; "I went to see my son's game (Brad is an assistant coach at West Alabama), so I missed some of the day games. I took my little remote TV. So I guess I would have watched Auburn/Arkansas if I could have picked it up."
What Franchione missed was another big home win by Arkansas. The Razorback's 42-17 dismantling of Auburn means that several teams, including Alabama, have a realistic shot at the West. But once again Franchione didn't give Auburn much thought. "I haven't spent much time looking at it to be honest," he said. "The day's results probably do throw the SEC West open a bit more. With Auburn's loss that changes things, but you've got to take care of what you can take care of right now."
Looking on from seats in the endzone, Franchione's presence unfortunately didn't do his son much good, as West Alabama dropped a 31-13 decision to Ouachita. But his time as a spectator had only just begun. Franchione explained; "I did see the Nebraska/Oklahoma game, because I could pick it up on my remote television. I got home in time to watch the end of the Tennessee/South Carolina game. And then I watched the LSU game that night."
With the Bengal Tigers next up for Alabama, Franchione was particularly interested in ESPN2's late game between Ole Miss and LSU. "The LSU pass offense is very good," Franchione said. "(Quarterback Rohan) Davey is a good thrower. Physically he's hard to get down. He made several throws versus Ole Miss after he was hit. He's just a strong quarterback with a strong, strong arm."
LSU's Robert Royal is one of the top tight ends in the country, and Jerel Myers and Josh Reed are exceptional receivers. But backup Michael Clayton provided most of the Tiger fireworks Saturday, scoring on an end-around and turning in an incredibly athletic play for another touchdown. "That was a phenomenal catch," Franchione agreed. "I didn't think he caught it at first, but looking at the replay he did. There was no doubt about it."
Alabama spent most of last week working to improve as a team, and the two off days over the weekend should help heal some bumps and bruises as well. "The open date was certainly good for us," Franchione said. "I've had two open dates in a season before, and I like that. I like to have one after about two games and then about this time. That's good timing, if you can get the schedule the way you want it to."
For the most part Alabama has avoided severe injuries this season, but last Wednesday backup Rover Jason Rawls was carried off the practice field with a torn ACL. Franchione acknowledged the injury; "When a guy is out for the season, I do announce that. And Jason is out.
"He's been valuable at kick coverage, and he was getting better every day at linebacker. We've made a few changes in our special teams' personnel over the break."
Though Rawls was not a starter, he provided valuable depth at outside linebacker. Defensive end Kindal Moorehead is also nursing a strained knee, which means that three senior backups must now step up. Adam Cox's playing time will now increase at Rover, and backup middle linebacker Darius Gilbert has been practicing at defensive end. Former starter Victor Ellis will prepare to play both inside and out.
Besides those three seniors, Bama's most talented option would be Freddie Roach. But the Tide coaches are reluctant to take the redshirt off the true freshman. "We'll probably make the decision about Freddie Tuesday or Wednesday," Franchione said. "I don't know what we'll do yet. We've talked both ways."
Other changes were considered during the off week, including more playing time for Dante Ellington and Atlas Herrion at offensive tackle, the free safety position and tailback. But Franchione is keeping his options open. "No other decisions have been made yet. Not final ones, no."