Tide Has New Elements

Alabama Head Football Coach Mike Shula thinks that it means something to the players to have a special day at the end of spring practice. Alabama won't have a full game when spring training ends with the A-Day Game on March 20, but it will be more than a scrimmage. Details have not been worked out, but Shula said "It will be something between a scrimmage and a game. We'll have a clock running, but we won't have all our special teams. And we may have some things built in separate from the game."

A week from Saturday Alabama will conclude spring practice with the A-Day Game at 2:30 p.m. CST. Prior to the spring game, Bama coaches and players will be in Coleman Coliseum for Fan Day, an opportunity for followers to get autographs and photographs, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.. The annual Walk of Fame, in which 2003 captains Shaud Williams and Derrick Pope put their hand- and foot-prints in the cement walkway, will take place at Denny Chimes at 1:30 p.m.

The Crimson Tide had its 11th of 15 practices Thursday. Bama will have its second of three full gear, 11-on-11 scrimmages on Saturday. As last week, the morning scrimmage will be at Bryant-Denny Stadium and open to the public. Coach Mike Shula said it would be "about the same format" as last week. And, he added, "Hopefully, everyone will do better than last time."

He said he again wants to see the likes of quarterback Marc Guillon running the first offense, former fullback Tim Castille working at halfback, "the young outside linebackers, Terrence Jones and Demarcus Waldrop," how Charlie Peprah, last year's starting left cornerback, looks at safety, and how Ramzee Robinson, Peprah's replacement at cornerback, performs.

Shula said Saturday's scrimmage would be much like last week's work in which the first offense went against the first defense and the second offense against the second defense, along with special periods of seven-on-seven and kicking. Top returning quarterbacks Brodie Croyle and Spencer Pennington are not taking part in full contact drills this spring, but do participate in the seven-on-seven (offensive backs and receivers against linebackers and defensive backs passing drills).

The Tide coach said that all plans for the A-Day Game had not been finalized, but that there might be some seven-on-seven as something of an interlude "so Brodie and Spencer can get some work." He said there would be field goal and extra point kicking as a part of the A-Day Game, but that punting might be separate. And, he said, there might even be a "two-minute drill" exhibition apart from the game.

Shula said that he can tell the difference when the players are performing in the stadium with fans in the stands, even the relatively few at the open scrimmages. "And even today when a few pro scouts and coaches stayed around to watch practice, you could tell," he said.

Shula got to meet up with some former colleagues as Pro Day was held on the Crimson Tide campus. Pro Day is an annual event in which NFL coaches and scouts put prospective pro players–men who have completed their college careers–through a variety of tests. "There were more coaches and scouts here than we expected, which is good," Shula said. "And I heard the times were better than they had been at the combine."

Among those rumored to have done particularly well were offensive lineman Justin Smiley and wide receiver Lance Taylor. Smiley, who left Bama after his junior season, is projected as one of the top guards in the draft. Almost no one would have considered Taylor, a former walk-on, as a prospect, but his sub-4.5 clocking in the 40-yard dash got him some extra work with the scouts.

Thursday's two-and-a-half-hour workout in full gear included some new elements, some "two-minute drill" and some work with three wide receivers.

"It was the first day for the two-minute drills stuff," Shula said. "It was good to get the basics down. We did some of it with offensive and defensive lines and then did it in a seven-on-seven situation so Brodie could get some work. It was good to introduce that."

He said, "We looked at the three-wide package a little with (receivers) Tyrone Prothro, Matt Caddell and Brandon Brooks."

Shula said that overall "We have a long way to go," insofar as the receiving corps. "It's no secret that our most experienced guy is a true sophomore who played in about nine games and had about 16 receptions." That receiver is Prothro.

The coach added, "We're going to have some freshmen come in and play, and maybe start. Last year we had five who played and there may be twice as many this year."

Shula said that work on special teams in the spring has been mostly on individual drills, but that punting and punt return teams and field goal kick and block teams had been given some work. But there has been no team work on kickoffs. He said the coaching staff will "target guys for those jobs next fall. We need guys to come through for us on special teams."

The Tide coach said, "We are so far from a finished product right now. Our goal is to come out of spring feeling better about ourselves and with a mindset to do things right all the time. If we do that, we'll be a better team."

Shula said that tight end Clint Johnston, who has missed contact work this spring with a "stinger" in his neck, would not participate Saturday. Shula, Johnston, and Bama's medical staff had a meeting on the practice field following Thursday's workout. "He's still day-to-day," Shula said.

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