Shula Worried about Possible Letdown, Not Weather

With Alabama's first road game against better-than-expected Arkansas just over the horizon, and an ominous hurricane threatening the Heart of Dixie, Mike Shula faces a tough task in keeping his squad focused on Division I-AA Western Carolina.

The Catamounts (2-0) and the Tide (2-0, 1-0 SEC) are scheduled to square off at 6:07 p.m. in Bryant-Denny Stadium with only Pay-Per-View television coverage, but that schedule is at the mercy of Hurricane Ivan.

Power outages and wind damage are a possibility for the Tuscaloosa area, and Alabama Director of Athletics Mal Moore said that he will meet with police and Alabama Power representatives Friday morning, after the storm is expected to have passed, to assess the situation. Moore indicated that both schools would make every effort to play the game.

Keeping his team's mind off hurricanes and on Catamounts is paramount for Shula this week.

"Our focus has been real good so far this year and we need to continue that more than anything else this week," Shula said addressing media members at his weekly press conference Tuesday. "Two games into our schedule a few guys are nicked up, not anything serious where they will miss practice, but just up to the point they could take their minds off it."

Western Carolina is undefeated on the young season, and have outscored opponents West Virginia State and Nicholls State a combined 105-14.

"I've never played against a football team that two weeks earlier scored 77 points," Shula said. "Defensively, they are a lot like Ole Miss, style-wise. They are going to move around and have good speed."

Shula is serious about not letting this game slip up on his squad. When asked a question about the chances of several lesser-used players getting a lot of action against Western Carolina, he wouldn't consider the topic.

"We won two of three games to start out last year and we got the same question before the Northern Illinois game," he said in response. "You go back to last year and we played a team that we were favored to beat that we didn't know a lot about and we got beat. We've got to make sure not to do anything like we did last year."

Shula has been keeping up with the weather, though, saying he thinks his squad will be able to get in two good days of practice, Tuesday and Wednesday. However, he said, "We've got to be flexible if the circumstances don't allow that."

Shula has as bit of experience dealing with hurricanes and football at the same time. He was an assistant with the Dolphins in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew devastated the Miami area. The Dolphins rescheduled its season-opener to what was its bye week.

"A lot of us stayed at the stadium because there were other places that didn't have power," Shula said. "Once it was over, I can remember hauling 60,000 pounds of ice down to a mall in Homestead that had been wiped out. They were delivering all the supplies.

"It kind of throws you a little bit. All of a sudden, it all becomes real. You're sitting there worrying about your job or what's going to happen, the schedule, having to change things, and you go out there and see all these homes that have been ruined and people looking for anything. Again, it keeps everything in perspective.

"You just hope and pray that this one, where ever it hits, it hopefully causes minimal damage. It's scary."

Shula said he doesn't plan to go into detailed weather scenarios with his players. "We'll talk about ‘Hey, let's worry about today' and let the coaches make any announcements that we need to make. As coaches, it's hard for us to think more than one day ahead."

Shula said that he might not be done taking the redshirts off of players this year, and that game three wouldn't be a cutoff point to make that decision. Tyrone Prothro took was first used in game five versus Arkansas a year ago.

"More so than last year we're going to give guys the opportunity to play," Shula said.

Shula said that Antoine Caldwell, who had surgery on his foot during fall camp, would be doing more in practice this week. Shula mentioned Caldwell specifically as one player who might vie for playing time this season if he comes back healthy.

Elsewhere on the injury front, Shula said Chris James will likely place this week after injuring his shoulder during the Ole Miss game, and that the status of Antonio Carter hasn't changed in the past weeks.

Shula said that he was happy with the play of the less-experienced right side of his offensive line. He said that Kyle Tatum played better and was better on pass protection in week two and that Danny Martz has been consistently good in both the Tide's games this season. He said the work Von Ewing to improve his body during the off-season helped him get significant playing time against Ole Miss spelling Tatum.

"We wouldn't put him in if we didn't feel comfortable with him," Shula said. "Last year this time we wouldn't."

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