The Bama football team of Coach Dennis Franchione completed its fourth day of practice in Tuscaloosa this week on Wednesday. After a team meeting, the squad was dismissed to go home.
The players, approximately 125 including all walk-on players, will reassemble in Shreveport Saturday afternoon. The players were given permission to make their own way to Shreveport rather than gathering in Tuscaloosa and flying as a team. That enables The University to provide travel money for the players. Franchione said, "I'm a little nervous. You worry about them like you would your kids, worry they'll have travel problems. But it helps them, and they appreciate that we want to help them every way we can."
Bama will have four practices in Shreveport, Sunday through Wednesday, which equates to a normal practice week. The team will have a Christmas eve dinner and gift-exchange party the night of December 24, an early practice on Christmas, and Christmas dinner on December 25.
ESPN will televise the Independence Bowl, which will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CST next Thursday. Iowa State is the "home" team for the game, meaning Bama will be in white jerseys.
Franchione said, "I think the players are mostly excited about the practices here being over. Now they have a few days home with their family. But I think they are excited about going to Shreveport and the whole bowl experience."
The Tide coach said that Wednesday's practice, which was held early since the players would be traveling home later in the day, was a good one. The Tide was out for about two hours in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. This was the only practice of the week in which those younger Tide players who have played little or not at all during the year were not kept afterwards for extra work.
He said that Bama had accomplished a great deal during the four days of practice this week and that the game plan is in with only fine-tuning to take place in Shreveport.
Two players drew praise from Franchione Wednesday. He said redshirt freshmen defensive backs Roman Harper and Anthony Madison had done well. But the two weren't being complimented for their work in the secondary. During preparation they are performing scout team duty as quarterback, attempting to emulate the play of Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace. Franchione said he didn't see anything in Harper or Madison that made him think about switching either to quarterback, but said their speed and quickness and athletic ability gave the Tide defense a "look" at what to expect from Wallace. However, Franchione said, "Wallace is also an excellent passer, but it was good for us to work against his type speed and athletic ability."
Franchione said there were "still a couple of things to check on," but said it appeared tailback Santonio Beard had completed all his disciplinary tasks and would be eligible to play in the Independence Bowl. Beard had been suspended for Bama's final game of the season after being arrested and charged with driving under the influence.
The Tide coach said he still did not have a final accounting of grades and that it might be as late as Thursday before he knew which, if any, players would be ineligible for the bowl game because of the Southeastern Conference rule that mandates players pass six hours in the fall semester in order to be able to participate in post-season action. There have been widespread, though unconfirmed, reports that starting wide receiver and kick return specialist Antonio Carter, along with back-up offensive tackle Dante Ellington and back-up fullback Marvin Brown would not be able to play in the bowl game.
Franchione does expect Assistant Coach Kenith Pope to be in Shreveport. Pope has missed some practices recently, including Wednesdays, with an infection. He had surgery earlier this year after injuring his leg in a fall while inspecting construction of his house.
On the recruiting front, there was some bad news for Alabama. Defensive tackle DeMarcus Johnson of Southwest Mississippi Junior College had committed to Bama. However, the Tallahassee, Florida, native has reportedly signed a scholarship with Central Florida in Orlando. The early signing period for junior college graduates began today and continues through January 15.
A couple of players who have committed to the Tide, running back Kenneth Darby and cornerback Ramzee Robinson, both of Huntsville Butler, were among those watching the Tide's final pre-bowl practice in Tuscaloosa Wednesday.