(Above left) Starting safety Roman Harper warms up before a recent scrimmage. Last season Harper started at strong safety, finishing with 111 tackles. This spring he's been working at free safety, but the junior could end up starting at either slot.
As fullback Josh Smith (#38) looks back toward his quarterback, Brodie Croyle (#12) looks downfield for the pass. It's been a bit of a frustrating spring for Croyle. The first several days he was pushing the rehab envelope, taking part in more drills than anyone expected. But after aggravating his surgically repaired left shoulder to cushion a fall, the Tide coaches have been very conservative with him, limiting him to 7-on-7 non-contact work only.
Fifth-year senior Cornelius Wortham poses last week. For a squad struggling to find depth at virtually every position, linebacker has been a welcome relief. Now recovered from a dislocated elbow that kept him sidelined last season, Wortham has returned to compete at middle linebacker. Late this week he was running first string at the position, ahead of last year's starter, Freddie Roach.
Six wide receivers caught passes for Alabama last season, but only one (#4, Tyrone Prothro) returns for 2004. Only a true sophomore, Prothro suddenly finds himself the "veteran" athlete among Bama's wideouts. In the background, receivers coach Charlie Harbison watches Prothro work.
Running Backs Coach Sparky Woods stands on the sideline with tailbacks Ray Hudson (#27) and Kenneth Darby (#34). Woods must find a replacement for the irreplaceable Shaud Williams, but so far all three of Bama's major tailback candidates (Hudson, Darby and Tim Castille) have performed well, and reserve Nic Luke has also had a good spring.
He's the youngest starting linebacker in terms of experience, but Juwan Garth (#42) takes a backseat to no one in terms of raw talent. Fast and extremely athletic, Garth shows textbook form in this tackling drill, locking up his man and then taking him to the ground.
Will Roach (#83) runs for a pass just out of his reach. Some problems simply defy a quick solution, and the Tide coaches realized that they couldn't solve all their receiving problems this spring. Mike Shula and the rest of the staff readily acknowledge that some incoming freshmen will almost certainly earn playing time next fall.
2004 will be Mike Shula's second season as Bama's head coach, but these few weeks have been his first chance to direct the Tide during spring drills. Here he deals with the media following last Saturday's scrimmage.