Odom's rehab going well

Compared to most seasons, 2001 has actually been a relatively fortunate year for the Tide in regard to injuries. However, there's no question that the loss of standout defensive end Antwan Odom back almost before the season began hurt badly. <br><br>But the good news is he expects to return--literally better than new.

The problem first flared up in the pre-season. "I originally popped my left shoulder out of place during two-a-days, but it didn't respond well," Odom explained. "I hadn't had problems before with that shoulder, but I had problems with my right."

Shown stretching during fall practice, Odom possesses prototype size and speed for a defensive end.

Some athletes are prone to minor separations but continue to compete, relying on weight training and rehab to avoid the serious step of surgery. Initially, that's what Odom did as the Bayou LaBatre native played in Alabama's first two games, contributing three tackles in a limited role.

But in the fourth quarter versus Vanderbilt, the shoulder popped out again and the decision was essentially made for him. On October 13th the Tide medical staff operated on his left shoulder to solve the problem. "They did a capsule shrinkage," Odom said. "The doctors shrunk the ligament in the back of the joint that kept popping out. They shrunk the ligament, scoped the joint--just tightened everything up.

"At the time I didn't really like the idea, but now there's no question I think it was the right thing to do. That's something I don't have to worry about anymore. I'm ready for next year."

A Parade All-American out of high school, Odom has as much physical ability as any athlete on the team. Standing a legitimate 6-5 but with the straight-ahead speed of an outside linebacker, his coaches have described him as a "first-round draft choice waiting to happen."

As a true freshman in 2000, he played in every game, earning starts against Ole Miss and Tennessee. For that season Odom had 13 tackles, three stops behind the line of scrimmage for 12 yards in losses, five quarterback hurries and one pass breakup. Against South Carolina he had two sacks for minus 10 yards.

Odom signals a fumble recover versus Vanderbilt. In the fourth quarter of that 12-9 victory, Bama's sophomore defensive end re-injured his left shoulder, requiring season-ending surgery.

All Odom needed was time to mature and gain strength. "I'm stronger than this time a year ago--a lot," Odom said. "I weighed 230 or 235 pounds this time last year. I weigh 265 now, and I want to get up to around 275 or 280. That's my ideal.

"But I'm doing well now. I'm back in the weight room benching. I did 235 (pounds) eight times the other day, so I'm getting my strength back. It's slower than I would like, but I'm getting it back."

Odom played a total of 38 snaps this year, including a high of 21 versus Vanderbilt. He is eligible for a medical redshirt, and he'll have three years left to compete at Alabama.

A competitor down to his core, sitting out the season has not been easy for Odom. "Watching the team from the sideline has been the worst thing I've had to do in awhile," he said. "Watching them practice while I'm sitting over there riding the (exercise) bike. That's been hard. It ain't good.

"In a way, I don't even like going to the games. It's so hard just to watch, when you can't play."

Besides rehabilitating his injured joint, Odom has put his time away from football to good use, working diligently in the weight room to gain size and strength. Since arriving on campus, he's added more than 25 pounds of muscle to an already impressive frame.

His left shoulder now repaired, Odom is working to regain full flexibility in the joint. "My range of motion is fine," he reported. "They tell me I'm way ahead of schedule."

Of course his combination of size and speed is what makes Odom so dangerous. Watching him during wind sprints, his long stride effortlessly gobbling up the yards, it's easy to see why scouts drool over his long-term potential. "I haven't lost any of my speed," he asserted. "I know I haven't lost a step. I actually think the bigger I get, the faster I'm going to get. But that's just me. I've got it in my mind that I'm running faster."

Of course next up for Alabama is the Independence Bowl, Odom's first chance to experience a college bowl game. "I'll be in Shreveport; I'm going to make that trip," he said. "I don't know about Christmas in Shreveport, but I'll be there. I've been to Baton Rouge before but never Shreveport."

And after cheering his teammates on over the holidays, it'll be back to full-time rehab. "I'll definitely be there for spring practice," Odom said. "I'll be ready to go."

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