Tough Stuff In Practice

Alabama's football team went into full gear for the first time in preseason practice Saturday, and the Crimson Tide ended the workout with some tough stuff–goalline scrimmage work. And it doesn't happen often, but both offensive and defensive coaches were pleased with the fullspeed work.

"It was probably our best day of practice this week," said Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula. "We had great intensity and effort. Guys on both sides were showing up and making plays."

The highlight of the two-and-a-half-hour practice was a period of fewer than a dozen plays with the offense at the goalline of the defense. "We went live at the goalline and the guys on both sides took a lot of pride," Shula said. " The offense wants to score every time and the defense wants to stop them. It makes for good competition.We'll continue to do that. It's an important area, obviously."

The Tide head coach said, "We were pretty intense on Friday, but it got out of hand. We had about three fights. Today we got beyond that. We're still trying to come together as a team. We're not there yet."

Offensive Coordinator David Rader said, "I thought our defense was good today, and I thought our guys responded extremely well. We had good concentration, no one backed down, and there were no cheap shots. It was just good football. The guys up front competed and the throwing and catching were good."

Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines said, "It was the first day we could have goalline and it's an exciting period. We had good tempo–good for both sides. It was good on both sides of the ball. The guys were excited and having fun. You know, people started playing this game because it was fun. That's the way it's supposed to be."

Kines added, "The first time we did this last year, the offense score the first four tries and no one on defense seemed to care. That wasn't the case today. We were pretty sharp today. Not great, but not sloppy."

In the early goalline work, the offense tried a little of this and a little of that, and the defense stuffed it. Then Bama's offense went to the big load, the backfield of 250-pound fullback Le'Ron McClain and 230-pound halfback Tim Castille and the result was touchdowns. Shula said that the running by both Castille and first team halfback Ray Hudson was good.

Bama will have another first Sunday, the first of two-a-day practices. Two-a-days will continue on alternate days through August 24. Classes begin August 25. The Tide will have two public scrimmages in the preseason, the first at 2 p.m. Monday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Another will be held Saturday, August 21. Bama is working towards the season-opener when the Crimson Tide hosts Utah State at 6 p.m. CDT on September 4.

Shula said that defensive end Mark Anderson, cornerback Anthony Madison, and middle linebacker Cornelius Wortham had had good days and a good week of making plays. Offensively, he said, quarterback Brodie Croyle had another good day.

Shula said, "Brodie is throwing the ball the best we've seen. But the best thing is his decision-making process. He's getting the ball out of his hands quickly."

Rader seconded the report on Croyle. "Brodie was really sharp today," Rader said. "He probably threw between 250 and 300 passes and you could count the bad ones on one hand."

As Bama wound up its first week of practice, Shula said, "Obviously, we're way ahead of where we were at this time last year. As the guys understand their assignments better, they have more enthusiasm. But we still have a lot of work to do."

On other topics, Shula said:

He likes the attitude of the offensive line, but it still needs to come together and improve in pass protection, particularly on third down situations.

He is pleased with all the signees and may increase the number he is predicting to play this year. Previously, he had said 10-13.

Returning back-up wide receivers Matt Caddell and Brandon Brooks are doing well. The last two days freshman D.J. Hall has been a standout. And Zeke Knight, who was a couple of days late joining the squad, "is still behind, but he's catching up quick. We're getting the kind of competition at wide receiver that we want at every position."

Defensive tackle Anthony Bryant returned to the practice field after having missed the first four days with an abdominal pull. And tight end David Cavan, still recovering from knee surgery from last season, took part in about 30 per cent of practice work. But the roster of "orange shirts," those unable to practice because of injury, was at nine. Shula said he did not think any of the "orange shirts" could be counted out of the first game, but said not all were going to be back quickly. He said that wide receiver Keith Brown and strong safety Charlie Peprah, both with leg injuries, would not scrimmage Monday, but said he hopes both are back next week. Others in orange shirts Saturday included wide receivers Antonio Carter and Will Roach, linebacker Freddie Roach, defensive ends Chris Turner and Keith Saunders, offensive tackle Chris Capps, and cornerback Eric Gray.

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