Shula Sticks to His Guns on Playing Youngsters

Since August 9, 2004, the day that 105 (actually 104 plus one late addition) players reported to The University of Alabama for fall camp, there has been speculation on which newcomers will see the field this year and which ones will be redshirted.

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula has been nothing if not consistent on this question, maintaining since last spring that the number of true freshmen to play will be in double-digits. Special teams coordinator Dave Ungerer shed further light on which freshmen might play this week in some facet of the Tide's kicking game.

"I think Marcel Stamps, Zeke Knight, Travis Robinson, Marcus Carter, Jeffrey Dukes; they will all get some snaps one way or another in the kicking game Saturday," Ungerer said at Alabama's Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Shula said that true freshmen DJ Hall, Keith Brown and Knight will all work in at receiver "because that's where we're at," he said. "We lost a lot of guys last year and we feel comfortable with these guys."

And about Aaron Johns, Shula said Tuesday that the staff is treating the true freshman from Thomasville Aaron Johns like he needs to get himself ready to play. Although Johns might be more borderline than the spotlighted receivers, he has worked heavily in practice at halfback and as a kick returner. The coach has also indicated that Trent Davidson might be close to seeing some snaps this weekend at tight end.

Defensive coordinator Joe Kines was asked about a timetable for playing newcomers on his side of the ball, and specifically true freshmen Simeon Castille.

"It won't be too long," Kines said in reference to playing the younger Castille. "The band may not be sat down good, yet. This is an important game for us. We're not going to kid each other."

Justin Britt is another true freshman who will likely see the field on defense. Britt has impressed tackles coach Buddy Wyatt, and is listed second at right tackle behind Jeremy Clark. If all the above-mentioned newcomers, and no others, get into Saturday's game, that will make 10 true freshmen and one junior college transfer.

The numbers could realistically climb to 11 true freshmen and two transfers if linebacker Curtis Dawson gets in on defense or special teams, and if junior college pick-up Chris Turner sees action at defensive end. Any of these 13 players could see action Saturday, but Travis Robinson has been recovering from a strained knee, and Shula said Tuesday that he has the longest odds on the squad of being healthy enough to play in the opener (excluding the three players Shula has already ruled out: Antonio Carter, B.J. Stabler and Antoine Caldwell).

For reference, only five true freshmen saw action in 2003 (Le'Ron McClain, Tim Castille, Tyrone Prothro, Dominic Lee and Terrence jones), and only two the year before that (DeMeco Ryans and Greg McLain).


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