Refreshed Tide feisty at practice

With the return of most of its assistant coaches from the recruiting trail, Alabama was back out on the practice field Friday for an energetic workout. <br><br>"The players are almost feisty right now," said Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione.

"They've had some rest time. We lack the mission of knowing who the enemy is right now, so we're working on ourselves. They're having a lot of fun competing. That's good to see. Really it was a good day. They're energetic and working hard, and that's what you want."

The Tide finished its regular season November 29th with a 28-15 win over Southern Miss, clinching a winning record and an apparent bowl bid as well. Formal invitations for the various SEC teams must wait on the conclusion of Saturday's championship game, but most reports still have Alabama traveling to Nashville for the Music City Bowl on December 28th. Boston College of the Big East Conference would be the opponent.

Though less likely, Alabama could end up in Shreveport, Louisiana for the Independence Bowl. Also, since there are more bowl-eligible SEC teams than berths, it's technically possible that Bama could be left out of the bowl picture entirely. But consistent reports indicate that Ole Miss with its smaller and historically less-supportive fan base will be staying home.

"I talk to Mal (Moore, Alabama's Athletics Director) daily, but we don't know anything more," Franchione said. "We're just glad to be going somewhere. We're optimistic. Cautious, but optimistic."

Though SEC and Alabama officials cannot confirm the plans until Sunday, Franchione and his staff will almost certainly be headed to Nashville on Christmas night. "I think this team is excited about post-season," Franchione said. "They're having fun. They're grateful to be where they are and they're looking forward to a bowl. The seniors are doing a good job of being purposeful in their leadership, and the team is having fun."

"Without a team to prepare for, you want to practice and stay in rhythm," Franchione continued. "The biggest thing is to stay in a rhythm as a team. We practiced Wednesday and we got time in with the older kids again today. We'll go again tomorrow, and then we won't practice for a whole week. So we needed to do something this week to keep our timing. That way when we do start back up we won't be too rusty from the lay off."

The various Tide assistant coaches had spent the entire week on the road, scouting and recruiting athletes from around the nation. In their absence, the squad had practiced only once, lifting weights and conditioning instead. So there was plenty of energy to go around. "We almost had to temper them a few times," Franchione explained. "Their legs are under them. They're fresh. They're excited. I think they're looking forward to what's ahead. It's fun to coach right now."

As he did last Wednesday, midway through today's workout Franchione let the starters and seniors leave early, keeping the youngsters and reserves behind for extra practice. "The young kids got 40 more minutes in today of good work, and that was good," he said. "That extra time with the younger athletes is very valuable. It gives you the opportunity to give a lot of instruction just for the younger players."

Franchione listed Tarry Givens, Spencer Pennington, Anthony Bryant, Todd Bates, Freddie Roach, Charlie Peprah, Roman Harper and Shaud Williams as younger and/or redshirt athletes that caught his eye today.

Freshman quarterback Brodie Croyle will miss the weekend practices due to his sister's wedding. And in his absence Pennington took most of the extra snaps. Junior Tyler Watts, who started most of the season before being sidelined the last three games with an injured groin, got in some tentative work. "Tyler is working, but he's limited," Franchione said. "We'll probably go right up until the week of the game before we completely know about him. But I think he'll be available."

Several high-profile recruits attended Friday's practice. High-school athletes on campus for their official visits include tailback Deshawn Wynn and wide receiver Charlie Vample of Ohio, offensive lineman Grant Dickey and tailback Albert Hardy of Texas, and defensive lineman Preston Parnell of Georgia.

NCAA rules prohibit Franchione from speaking publicly about specific recruits, but he noted that bowl practices during a recruiting weekend could work in Alabama's favor. "A good thing is that (the recruits) can watch practice, and so often that's not possible," Franchione said. "This way they can actually see the team run around, how practice is run and how the coaches coach. That's the bonus part of this weekend over others."


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