Injuries further deplete Tide roster

For a squad already dangerously thin, Alabama absorbed two more injury blows Thursday. Head Coach Mike Shula announced that linemen Dominic Lee and Travis West would miss the rest of spring after undergoing surgery.

Lee was essentially Bama's No. 3 athlete at defensive tackle, while West had been seen as the most promising of last year's three redshirt freshmen offensive linemen.

Shula commented, "We had a couple of guys that had surgery. Travis West had hernia surgery. Dominic Lee had surgery on his ankle. Those two guys will miss the rest of spring ball. The surgeries both went well."

Lee should return with no problem. West should as well, but his is more than a simple hernia. West has been plagued with the problem for months now, and he has described it privately as very similar to what Todd Bates had to endure two years ago. Bates underwent surgery to repair muscle attachments in and around his pelvic area in the winter of 2002. He ended up playing the following season, but his recovery by fall was a very close thing. It's not known now if West's problem is a serious as Bates' was.

Bama's leading tackler from a year ago, DeMeco Ryans, also sat out the latter part of practice with an injury. Ryans waited to leave the field with his teammates, which is probably a good sign.

"I don't think his injury is bad, but we'll see," Shula said. "It looked like DeMeco hurt his ankle."

With spring practice set to conclude in a couple of weeks with the annual A-Day festivities, the injuries--especially on the offensive line--will force Shula to take a long look at the traditional scrimmage. Specifically, it'll be difficult to divide the squad up into two equal rosters and have them go at each other in a realistic game-like setting.

"We're going to have to take a good look at the spring game and how we do it," Shula said.

Asked if now might be the time to call on all his former teammates and put together an alumni game, Shula laughed. "We won't do that, because that would mean I might have to play. But we may have to keep the clock running or something. We're going to try to keep it as still an A-Day game like we all know, but we've got to be sure we're smart."

Spring football is commonly an up-and-down affair, with one part of the squad gaining the upper hand on different days. Thursday was the defense's chance to shine.

Dominic Lee (pictured in the weight room last fall) had surgery on his ankle yesterday and will miss the rest of spring drills.

"Overall the defense had a good day," Shula said, "although we can improve on our tackling. The offense was real sloppy. We did more blitzing defensively, and we just really didn't pick it up that well. The offense has got a lot of work to do."

After reviewing the videotape, Shula said the offense played well the previous practice session.

"If you look at the tape from Tuesday, we had probably our best day Tuesday," he revealed. "The main thing is we want to keep taking steps forward. We've got to make sure we get things corrected from today."

Alabama will back off somewhat tomorrow in preparation for Saturday's scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"We won't go as hard tomorrow," Shula explained. "We'll be in shorts and shoulder pads, and we won't go quite as long either. Saturday we'll go in the stadium. We'll scrimmage right around 10 a.m. We'll do a warm-up first, then we'll scrimmage."

Mike Shula previously announced that Saturday scrimmages would be open to the public.

Shula talked about what fans should expect. "Everyone will be ‘live' other than quarterbacks. It'll be a controlled scrimmage. We'll start the ball on the 35, then go 10 plays with the 1s and come back with the 2s. We'll mix it up in between. We might mix in some 7-on-7. That will give guys a break, then we'll come back with a full scrimmage.

"We're going to try to get anywhere from 40 plays with each group (the 1s and 2s), but it might be a little bit more than that."

As Shula explained earlier, his goal at this point is to identify which athletes have the best chance to help the team in the fall. Later, as spring drills wear along, the top players will get more and more of the repetitions in practice.

"We need to get a lot of work on tape, to find out who the guys are that are taking steps," Shula said. "That'll be two weeks (or) nine practices Saturday. We're about halfway (through spring)."

Back-up quarterback Spencer Pennington got a good report from the doctors yesterday. He's still recovering from off-season surgery to his throwing shoulder, but now he's been cleared for relatively more work at practice.

"He got a few more reps today," Shula acknowledged. "We've still got to be smart there. He won't be in any of the scrimmages or any of tackling, but Spencer will be in other drills, especially the 7-on-7 passing drills.

Justin Moon (#71, left) and Travis West (#76) walk off after practice last fall. West will miss the rest of spring following surgery.

"Brodie Croyle got a few more reps today, too in 7-on-7. We'll probably keep both of them like that all the way through (spring)."

Shula also had words of praise for walk-on defensive tackle Rudy Griffin. profiled Griffin in a story earlier this week (New Face Emerges at D-Tackle).

"He's coming along," Shula said of Griffin. "He really did a nice job last year all throughout the year for the scout team. Now he's got a chance to show himself, especially with Dominic being hurt and Kyle Tatum moving to offense. Rudy has a chance to get a few more reps.

"Even ‘Bear' (Anthony Bryant) was a little nicked up today, but I think he's going to be okay."

Shula also noted that transfer tailback Justin Ballard was also getting reps in the secondary on defense.

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