Football Intensity Goes Up

Alabama officially "goes into pads" on Saturday. But actually on the third day of practice the team can add shoulder pads to the helmet of football gear. The result is an elevation in the intensity of work, not to mention the sound of football contact. Thursday's practice included some 25 plays of 11-on-11.

"It was the first day in pads and the third day overall and I thought it was pretty good for the most part," said Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula. "We had stressed to our team the importance of guys showing up more when we got into pads, and we did just that today."

While he agreed that the attitude of the team seems very good, Shula said, "It's still early. We've got a lot of tough days and a lot of hitting ahead of us. I hope we can say that at the end of camp."

As is usually the case, most of the attention is on the quarterback position. Shula said that starter Brodie Croyle has had three good days, that back-up Spencer Pennington had his best day of camp Thursday, and that Marc Guillon "has been pretty good, too." The Tide coach noted that Croyle continues to get about 50 per cent of the practice work with the balance divided between Pennington and Guillon.

"The thing I like about Brodie is he is throwing underneath some," Shula said. "This time last year he always wanted to go downfield, even if he had to force it. Now he's showing maturity in his selections."

Assistant Coach David Rader, who works with quarterbacks, said, "I see a look of confidence in the eyes of the guys. That comes from having knowledge."

Rader noted, "One thing that is good is we're coaching a healthy Brodie. He's over his injuries and throwing spiral after spiral. His footwork is outstanding. He's doing things a quarterback needs to do and he's not spending much time on the things he doesn't need to do. That means he's not wasting time and he's getting more repetitions. It's the sign of a quality quarterback."

Two players who really stood out with exceptional receptions Thursday were freshmen D.J. Hall and Zeke Knight, and they were the first two players mentioned by Shula following the two-and-a-half-hour workout. The freshman wide receiver who had been most impressive the first day -and-a-half, Keith Brown, is still slowed by a slight groin pull suffered in Wednesday's work, and Will Oakley, another of the freshmen receivers, was absent in order to take a final examination as summer school winds down this week. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Will Roach, who had shoulder surgery following spring practice, was held out with a "little" soreness. Sixth-year senior Antonio Carter continues rehabilitation of his leg and is not expected to practice before next week.

Shula also noticed an end on the other side of the ball, junior defensive right end Mark Anderson. "He looked really good today," Shula said. "He's taller and bigger (6-5, 253) and in the best shape of his life. He's more mature. He had quality experience last year. He's going to be a good player."

Shula admitted it was a bit of a scare when Anderson went down during the practice, but it was only a cramp and he was soon back at work. Todd Bates, the projected starting left end, was out for most of the practice because he had been taking a test. Shula said that junior college transfer Chris Turner had impressed Bama's defensive coaches with his work at end. "He moves around pretty well," Shula said. "He'll be in the mix."

It seemed to be a day in which to discuss ends as Shula also addressed the tight end situation. "We want to get them in the offense," he said. "We wanted to last year, but David Cavan had a cast on his wrist and Clint Johnston had some early injuries. Clint had a very good practice today. There's a lot to learn at tight end. I think (freshman) Nick Walker (6-5, 238) is going to be a good one. And Trent Davidson (6-5, 270) is a bigger tight end who can also catch it."

One of the biggest stories of the spring was the work of Ramzee Robinson at left cornerback, enabling Bama to move Charlie Peprah to strong safety. "No one worked harder than Ramzee Robinson," Shula said. "Ramzee was making a lot of plays in the spring. We're about putting our best people on the field, and he earned it. Now, he's got to earn it again this fall."

Shula said he has enjoyed watching the receivers and defensive backs, veterans and freshmen both, going against each other in the early practices.

Bama will continue in helmets and shoulder pads Friday, then go into full gear Saturday. The first of two-a-day practices will be Sunday. The first scrimmage is Monday at 2 p.m. CDT at Bryant-Denny Stadium. While daily practices are closed to the public, the Monday scrimmage and another scrimmage Saturday, August 21, at Bryant-Denny Stadium will be open to the public.

Admission to the scrimmages is free to subscribers of 'BAMA Magazine and/or

(Well, okay, it's free to everyone else, too.)

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