Tide Players Get Comfortable

Spring football practice is not generally considered to be a time of "comfort," but one of the things Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula has been pleased with as the Crimson Tide started its second full week of drills was that some players "are feeling a little more comfortable about what they are doing."

Tuesday's practice in full gear was Alabama's sixth of 15 spring training dates. Coach Mike Shula said the Tide "had a little more tackling–about 25 plays. We'll do more tackling each day this week, then have a scrimmage–a controlled-type scrimmage–Saturday. That scrimmage is expected to be held at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday morning. Spring drills will end March 20 with the A-Day Game.

Tuesday's practice was held on wet practice fields and sometimes in a light rain. Shula said he will practice outdoors "unless the field is so sloppy there might be a chance of injury. But football is played outside. That's one of the fun things about it." The team did go into the indoor facility for its post-practice conditioning work.

The coach said, "I think practice was a little better. The important thing is that we keep making strides. Sometimes they aren't big strides, just little ones, but it's important that we keep making them."

Shula said that among those he has noticed "more comfortable" are offensive tackle Kyle Tatum, who has moved from defensive tackle, and quarterback Marc Guillon, a transfer from Miami who sat out last season.

There is particular interest in Guillon because the Tide's top two quarterbacks, returning starter Brodie Croyle and back-up Spencer Pennington, are both recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and are limited in work. Croyle worked the first three practice days, then was held out last Friday and Saturday after bumping his shoulder in a fall. "Brodie is day-to-day," Shula said. "He practiced today and the shoulder seemed okay, but we're going to go slow. We'll err on the side of caution. Spencer was throwing better, but we'll continue to limit him."

The Tide coach said Guillon, a sophomore, showed improved "thought process. And that's good, because we are throwing more things at him. He's more comfortable with it. Hopefully he'll continue to minimize his mistakes and play efficiently–not necessarily big plays–and have a comfort level in the huddle, on getting the team to the line, all those things."

Shula said, "Defensively, Roman Harper (moving from strong safety to safety) and the two corners we had last year (Charlie Peprah and Anthony Madison) are going to benefit from that experience.

Alabama's offensive line is undergoing a major overhaul this spring with only center J.B. Closner back at his starting position. Evan Mathis has moved from right tackle to left guard and left tackle Wesley Britt is missing practice as he recovers from a broken leg. New spring starters in addition to former defensive tackle Kyle Tatum at right tackle are Chris Capps at left tackle and Danny Martz at right guard. Shula said, "The guys are getting better. I've noticed Chris Capps making strides."

Shula has liked the work of tailback Ray Hudson, who is ahead to replace the graduated Shaud Williams. "He really shows up when we start tackling," Shula said. "He's one of our fastest players, and he's very strong. He has a big upper body for a guy as fast as he is. He and (back-up tailback) Kenneth Darby have to take a leadership role by knowing their assignments and carrying them out."

Todd Bates, who missed last season because of inadvertent use of a banned substance in a supplement purchased from a health food store, has impressed Shula. "He's in better shape than he was a month ago, and he has been in the right place to make plays. He's a guy you can count on. Things are new to him because he didn't get any work (with the Alabama defense while working with the scout team) last fall. He's been a great leader since the first day."

Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines said the defense is "probably right on schedule. We've got some who are ahead of others. We've got three or four positions where we've got to find players for next year, and it's probably going to take all 15 days to do it." He, too, complimented safety Roman Harper for "some great plays." He said through the first six practices that linebacker Juwan Garth and cornerback Ramzee Robinson have been most impressive."

Offensive Coordinator Dave Rader said, "I think there are more positives than negatives. We've definitely made some progress. We're coming together at a faster rate than I thought we would, even on the offensive line." He said that moves of Mathis from right tackle to left guard and Tatum from defensive tackle to offensive right tackle had both been "win-win–good for the team and good for the player."

Rader said tailback Ray Hudson "is looking as strong as I've ever seen him." He also praised rookie wide receivers Matt Caddell, Scoop McDowell, Brandon Brooks, and Matt Miller. And, as had Shula, Rader had praise for the progress being made by quarterback Guillon.

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