Spurlock Has Tide's Attention

Alabama Head Football Coach Mike Shula isn't sure about the adage that a team improves the most between the first game of the season and the second game of the season. But he does believe that individuals can make big improvement in that span. And with Alabama and Mississippi preparing to play their second games of the season, Shula has thoughts about a key individual.

Alabama will host Mississippi at 8 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in a game that will be nationally-telecast by the cable network, ESPN2. Bama is 1-0 with a win over Utah State, while the Rebels are 0-1 after losing to Memphis. This will be the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

The quarterback at Mississippi is Michael Spurlock, and he's got the difficult task of attempting to fill the football cleats of the finest player in the SEC, perhaps the best in the nation. Eli Manning has taken his fabulous skills to the National Football League, and the Rebels are trying to rebuild around Spurlock, a 6-0, 200-pound junior.

Spurlock had a difficult debut last week, completing only 11 of 31 passes for 182 yards. He was also sacked several times, part of the reason for the Rebels having only 58 net yards rushing.

But Mike Shula isn't fooled. He's watched the tape of that first Ole Miss game. "He was very close to making a lot of big plays," Shula said. "They say it's a game of inches and that's how much he missed several times having a big play. A throw just missed or a receiver was just out of bounds. They are real close to hitting on all cylinders."

Shula said that walk-on freshman A.J. Milwee (5-10, 167) of Boaz is running Alabama's scout team, but said it was impossible to emulate the athleticism of Spurlock, who is very, very quick and also possesses a strong arm.

Shula said that Spurlock has given the Rebels more weapons. "They still have everything they had last year, plus now they have another runner. He runs the option, the quarterback draw, sprints out. They do a lot of things."

Shula was not thrilled with Alabama's practice Wednesday. The Tide worked for just under two hours in helmets, shorts and shoulder pads and concentrated on short-yardage, goal-line, and two-minute drills. "I thought practice was okay," Mike Shula said. "We were just too inconsistent overall. We put in more situations today and we will finish up tomorrow with a few more things. Hopefully, we will have a better practice. We are going to have to be at our best this week against Ole Miss. They are going to be very motivated. It will be a typical SEC football game."

Shula said that freshman offensive tackle B.J. Stabler was back working at practice, but was still a few weeks away from being full speed. He said it was too early to speculate on whether Stabler would be back in time to play this year or whether he would be redshirted. Stabler suffered a ligament tear in his finger and had pre-season surgery. The Tide coach said both Stabler and freshman center Antoine Caldwell, who suffered a broken foot and had surgery in the pre-season, would both have been in the playing picture had they not been injured.

Shula also said that junior halfback Victor Horn had successful surgery on Wednesday to repair a fracture in his leg. He sustained the injury at Tuesday's practice.


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