Beard Out, Watts In For USM

Santonio Beard is out and Tyler Watts is in for Alabama's Thursday night game against Southern Mississippi.

Following Alabama's Tuesday practice, Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said that Bama would dress over 100 men for this week's game, but that Beard would not be among them. Beard, who was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license while home in Nashville for the Thanksgiving holiday, had only recently moved up to starter at tailback. He rushed for 199 yards and two touchdowns in Alabama's trouncing of Auburn two Saturdays ago. However, as "only part of his discipline," he has been suspended for the final regular season game of the year. If Alabama plays in a bowl game, Franchione said Beard's status for post-season play would be addressed.

Alabama issued statements from Franchione and Beard.

Franchione said, ""I have visited with Santonio Beard and he understands that his actions were totally unacceptable. As part of his disciplinary procedure, Santonio will not dress or travel to Thursday night's game in Birmingham with Southern Mississippi. His actions are not what we expect from members of this team and he fully understands that his actions had an impact on himself, his teammates and The University of Alabama. As is my policy, disciplinary measures will be handled within the framework of our football team."

Beard said, "I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to my family, my teammates, The University of Alabama, and its fans for my actions in Nashville last weekend. I understand that I made a terrible mistake, but I am also ready to do whatever it takes to restore the trust and confidence given by those who have supported me."

On the quarterback issue, the Tide head coach said that Watts, Alabama's starting quarterback for the first nine games of the year, would be among those who dress. However, that is all he would say on the quarterback situation following Tuesday's practice. Watts suffered a groin injury against Mississippi State. Andrew Zow replaced Watts in the line-up and led the Tide to a 24-17 win over the Bulldogs. Zow then earned the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week award for his play (22 of 29 pass completions for 221 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions) in the romp over Auburn.

Alabama (5-5) will take on Southern Miss (6-3) at 6 p.m. CST Thursday at Legion Field in Birmingham with television coverage by ESPN2. Alabama will have to defeat the Golden Eagles in order to be bowl eligible.

With Beard absent, Alabama will start Ahmaad Galloway at tailback. Galloway is Alabama's leading rusher (150 carries for 755 yards, a 5.0 yards per carry average) this year after having been the starter in Bama's first nine games. He'll be backed by little-used Ray Hudson. If the Tide has to have a third tailback it could be walk-on Josh Smith or fullback Marvin Brown. Franchione said Brown is familiar with tailback responsibilities.

The weather was a topic of conversation following Bama's 90-minute workout Tuesday. In what was the equivalent of a normal Thursday practice with the team in helmets and shorts, the Tide was forced indoors after only a few minutes of work. Franchione said the move didn't adversely affect practice except "we couldn't kick as well." He said he thought it would have been more disruptive to have to work on wet fields outdoors.

The coach said, "We have had good workouts all week.  We have had good focus, too.   I think we are going to be fine. We are on course to be all right."

A torrential downpour hit just as practice ended. That hampered to some extent an Alabama tradition of the seniors being carried by their teammates from the practice field following the final regular season practice.

The weather forecast for Thursday calls for rain during the day and much cooler temperatures that evening.

Alabama will have a final walk-through workout in Tuscaloosa Wednesday before going to Birmingham. Franchione said the Tide would maintain its regular schedule for a night game with game-day meetings and videotape review. "We'll continue teaching right up until the pre-game meal," he said. "About the only thing that will be different is we won't be able to go back to our rooms and watch college football on television."

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