"We went lighter today, even more than expected," said Alabama Coach Mike Shula. "For one thing, we're beaten up a little and we wanted to reduce the risk of additional injuries. And we felt we had already had two good scrimmages plus some other good scrimmage work in our other practices."
There was something of a major position change in the scrimmage. Brodie Croyle changed from number one quarterback to the guy signalling plays to the other quarterbacks. But that was just for a day.
"We held Brodie out to give him some rest," Shula said. "He's been throwing the ball a lot. And, too, we wanted to give the other quarterbacks a chance to work."
Shula noted that in both college and professional football, "You take the starting quarterback out and the offense deflates. That was another reason we did it. We have to have leadership from others when that happens. What are you going to do if you lose your quarterback for the season, or for a game?"
The coach said, "No one really took charge with Brodie out. I think some of those guys on the offensive line like Wesley Britt and Evan Mathis and J.B. Closner are helping the offense out and working hard to be leaders. Then we'll have a receiver drop a ball or something else happen. You can't just have 10. On offense, you have to have all 11 making the play."
Shula said a problem is that the offense continues to make mistakes that can cost points. "We'd be working to get into field goal position, working to get points, and do something to take ourselves out of field goal range," Shula said.
He said Bama still needs to work on pass protection, but said–as Offensive Coordinator Dave Rader had earlier–that "We're doing some things better this year than we did anytime last season."
Sophomore Marc Guillon and junior Spencer Pennington are battling for the job of back-up quarterback. Guillon completed seven of 19 passes for 77 yards and one touchdown. Pennington was good on seven of 14 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown Neither quarterback was intercepted, but both were sacked several times.
Sophomore wide receiver Tyrone Prothro also got the day off. Walk-on junior Matt Miller had three catches for 35 yards, while the lone touchdown was scored on a 26-yard pass from Guillon to walk-on freshman halfback Theo Townsend. Zeke Knight had three catches for 14 yards, Keith Brown one for 16, Matt Cadell one for 11, and fullback Tim Castille one for nine.
Freshman halfback Aaron Johns had his best day and led the rushing game with nine carries for 75 yards, including the only rushing touchdown of the day, a 35-yarder. "He's not very big (5-10, 185), but that doesn't bother me at all," Shula said. Walk-on sophomore Brandon McAway had two runs for 22 yards and Kenneth Darby had four for 17.
Strong safety Charlie Peprah, who returned to the practice field Monday night after missing over a week with a pulled hamstring muscle, was a leader on defense. He had a tackle-for-loss, a big hit on halfback Josh Smith on a pass reception, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble. Cornerback Eric Gray also had a nice take with three tackles. a sack. and a pass broken up. Linebacker Juwan Garth also had three tackles.
With a handful of regulars held out of practice, some newcomers had a chance. One who took advantage was freshman linebacker Jake Wingo. Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines said, "Jake Wingo made two or three plays today. When you turn a football player loose he will make plays. There's a football player in Jake Wingo. There really is." Wingo, 6-0, 203, the son of former Bama linebacker Rich Wingo, had a couple of tackles and broke up a pass.
Shula said that Tuesday's work "sort of marked the end of pre-season camp." Alabama's focus will now be on Utah State, the Crimson Tide's season-opening opponent. Bama will host the Aggies at 6 p.m. CDT Satuday, September 4, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Shula addrtessed the team during the interruption of practice Tuesday. "It was sort of like halftime of a game," Shula said. "If you're not playing well, you want to regroup. If you are playing well, you want to make sure you sustain it, continue to play well. They have to understand that one play can win or lose a game."
Shula said, "Defensively, overall, we were much better. We put the offense in a bunch of second-and-longs and third-and-longs. We're running to the ball well and getting good penetration. We gave up fewer big plays. (Defensive end) Mark Anderson is rushing the passer. The defensive backs are playing the ball well. But we've got to have more consistency."
Shula said that both back-up quarterbacks "did some things good and some not-so-good. That's a position that is about operating efficiently." He said a decision would be made "in the next few days" as to which is the back-up in order to give him enough repetitions when game preparation begins.
Classes begin at The University Wednesday, which means some changes are coming. There will be only one practice per day now. Prior to Wednesday two-a-day workouts were allowed every other day. Beginning next week the 20-hour rule kicks in, meaning preparation (meetings and practices) and game time must be completed within a total of 20 hours each week. And the beginning of classes means that additional players may be added. The squad was limited to 105 prior to the start of classes. It is believed Bama will add 20-25 walk-ons, eight-ten of them newcomers. The new players must go through an orientation before starting practice and the added players must go through three days of work without full gear and full contact.
Shula said that Wednesday's practice would be relatively brief. Bama will have a regular practice Thursday, then go to Bryant-Denny Stadium for a "mock game" Friday. The Friday practice will not be full speed. It will be work on "every conceivable situation that can arise in a game," the coach said.
The Tide will then be off on Saturday and start regular game week preparation Sunday.