Croyle held out of practice

With the practice field again crowded with high school coaches in town for the annual coaching clinic, Alabama returned to work on the fourth day of spring practice. Temperatures mellowed from yesterday's frigid conditions, but it was also the second work day in a row for the athletes.

According to Tide Head Coach Mike Shula, the effort was generally good. But there is plenty of room for improvement.

"Practice started better; we just didn't finish well," Shula said. "We talked to the team afterwards about finishing practice better. It's consistency, and it's everybody. Whether or not you're conditioning, towards the end of practice sometimes things aren't quite as crisp."

Notable because of his absence, starting quarterback Brodie Croyle did not take part in any drills today. Croyle continues to recover from off-season surgery on his left shoulder, but before today he really had not been limited at all.

"Brodie wasn't out there," Shula explained. "His shoulder is a little bit sore. We're going to keep him out tomorrow, too. We'll see how he feels Tuesday."

In Croyle's absence, Mike Machen (#15) got more reps at quarterback.

Spencer Pennington, Bama's No. 2 quarterback, is also recovering from shoulder surgery. So Marc Guillon and Mike Machen took virtually all the "live" snaps today. Asked if he could assess where the two stand in the quarterback competition, Shula declined to answer.

"It's too early to talk about that," he said. "We're still installing offense. Hopefully tomorrow (Marc and Mike) will have a good day and will have a better grasp. We've thrown a lot at them."

Shula was asked if Guillon was roughly equal to where Croyle and Pennington were last fall before the season, and he quickly answered "No."

Finding receivers capable of competing in the SEC is a key goal for spring.

"Tyrone Prothro is still one of our best guys, and Matt Caddell is right behind him," Shula said. "It started out okay the first couple of days in shorts and helmets. Now the pads come on, and it's a little bit different."

Prothro, Caddell and Will Roach are all the same age, but Prothro saw game action last season while the other two redshirted.

"Matt doesn't have the experience Prothro has," Shula said. "He's getting used to full-speed stuff with pads on versus our defense. Will Roach is a guy that has to continue getting better and working."

Alabama's numbers are down this spring, largely due to the effects of NCAA probation. But one position featuring fierce competition from scholarshipped athletes is middle linebacker. A former starter on the strong side, Cornelius Wortham is working with last year's starter Freddie Roach at the position.

Shula commented, "Moving Cornelius to middle linebacker has been great. Any time you can get competition, it's going to make guys better. I wish we could do that at more positions."

Shula said that not nearly enough time has passed to say which athlete leads.

The move of Cornelius Wortham (#16) to middle linebacker has set up a fierce competition between him and Freddie Roach.

"It's too early to judge," he explained. "Both those guys are going to play and help us win games. And I'll probably answer the question like that all the way up to the week before the season, because I feel like they'll both play. But I do believe it'll make both of them better, competing against each other."

Other players are working at more than one position, as the Tide coaches search for the "22 best athletes" to put on the field. Tim Castille started last season at fullback for the Tide, but he's also working this spring at tailback.

"We look at practice reps specifically," Shula explained. "Right now Tim's getting more reps at fullback. About 30 percent of his reps are at tailback. He's looked good at tailback, but either way he's probably going to be a guy we want on the field."

For the final day of the Coaching Clinic, the team will return to the Thomas-Drew Practice Fields tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.

"Saturday we'll be back out in full pads," Shula said. "We probably won't practice quite as long. We'll continue with the same thing, a lot of individual work. We'll do 11-on-11 work, and we'll have tackling toward the end of team drills tomorrow.

"We haven't had full tackling yet. We'll have 20 minutes of 11-on-11 with the last 10 full tackling."

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