Tide Getting Healed

Under ordinary circumstances, a Wednesday practice is in full gear and full speed. It might even have some first team offense going against the first team defense. But after the bumps and bruises–and worse–of nine games, Alabama's football team was out in shorts and helmets and trying to get well.

It is going to take more than one week to get at least one Crimson Tide regular back into action. Alabama Coach Mike Shula announced following Wednesday's practice that tight end David Cavan had suffered a broken vertebra in Bama's 30-14 win over Mississippi State last week. Cavan will miss Alabama's next two games, but could return for a bowl game.

The good news at tight end is that Clint Johnston, the starter who missed last week when doctors did not clear him after he had suffered a mild concussion, is back at work and will be able to play this week. Behind him are Greg McLain and Trent Davidson.

Otherwise, Shula said the news on the injury front was encouraging, even though some other Tide starters were unable to practice.

Alabama, 6-3 on the season and 3-3 in Southeastern Conference games, goes to LSU Saturday to take on the Bengal Tigers, 6-2 overall and 3-2 in SEC play. LSU, the defending national champion, was ranked fourth in pre-season polls and is now ranked 17th. The game will be televised by ESPN with kickoff at 6:45 p.m. CST.

Last week starting left tackle Wesley Britt suffered a sprained foot. Although he was able to come back and finish the Mississippi State game, he was unable to practice Tuesday or Wednesday. Shula said, "We are going to give him every chance to play, even if he can't practice." Ordinarily a player who did not practice by Thursday would be counted out on Saturday, but Britt is an experienced player–a four-year starter and fifth-year senior–playing late in the season. Meanwhile, Shula said, back-up left tackle Chris Capps will get the practice time this week.

While Britt is not practicing, he is no longer wearing the protective boot he wore Sunday and Tuesday.

Starting strong safety Charlie Peprah played only two snaps against Mississippi State before taking himself out of the game with a hamstring injury suffered prior to the game. Shula said that Peprah did not take part in team practice work Wednesday, but that he had done individual work and "was moving around better."

Shula said that starting center J.B. Closner, who suffered a "stinger" in his right shoulder against State, and special teams player Marcel Stamps, who had injured an ankle Saturday, were both back in practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

And Shula said back-up quarterback Marc Guillon, who has not played in the past month after suffering a back injury, would be ready to play "if needed."

Shula said the injury to Closner was one reason for the work in shorts. "When you take the pads off, the tempo goes down," Shula said. "Ideally, we'd be in full gear and going full speed to get used to the speed of the game. But the trade off is we hope we get some guys well.

Shula said the defense had good practices both Tuesday and Wednesday and that the offensive practice Tuesday was good. He said Wednesday he kept the offense out "a little longer to work on some things that might be productive."

Shula, who went to Baton Rouge twice as a player, remembered that both those games were afternoon affairs for television. "I know it will be a lot noisier at night," he said. And he said that although Alabama has played in some loud stadiums on the road at Arkansas and Tennessee, that "LSU is the noisiest." Bama will have crowd noise piped in at Thursday's practice.

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