Tide Staff Shifts Modes

With the end to a grueling regular season in Saturday night's 21-13 loss to Auburn, there is finally some time for Alabama's players to rest and recover, but that time has not yet begun for the Tide coaching staff.

Several top high school prospects were in Tuscaloosa for Saturday night's game, and Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula visited with them on Sunday morning before their return home. Shula's staff will have a brief respite before hitting the recruiting trail one week from Monday.

"I feel even better about (the coaching staff)," Shula said during his Sunday teleconference. "We are getting right in thick of recruiting which is what our coaches do as well as they coach. I'm going to put pressure on them this year to do another good job."

Alabama players will meet Tuesday to go over a schedule for the coming week. They will be off for the Thanksgiving week and will resume conditioning next Monday. Alabama finished the regular season with a 6-5 overall record, and a 3-5 Southeastern Conference mark.

Shula called his squad's first half defensive effort against Auburn "the best defensive effort I have ever seen in a half of football." Alabama limited to 89 yards of total offense, and just 22 rushing yards on 19 attempts by the vaunted backfield duo of Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown.

"We didn't take advantage of our opportunities offensively, but you've got to give them a lot of credit defensively," Shula said. "It ended up catching up to us in the third quarter with their big plays, and by the time we got back into it, it was too late."

Alabama's backfield was stopped more by injury than any Auburn defensive players or scheme. Kenneth Darby was limited in the game because of an abdominal strain that was kept under wraps until after the game. Le'Ron McClain was playing on an injured ankle, among others playing hurt.

"There are about 28 of them right now (players on injury report)," Shula said. "I think David (Cavan), the doctors told us, has a chance to play in a bowl game. Wesley (Britt), I don't think under normal circumstances would have played in either game (LSU or Auburn). We hope he gets to be back healthy.

"Josh Smith was out there and he has a bad wheel, Danny Martz has had an ankle sprain since the Tennessee game."

Tight end Clint Johnston was not cleared to play against Auburn, and was in street clothes on the sideline, forcing true freshman Trent Davidson into the starting lineup. On the bright side of the injury front, Shula said, "We're fairly healthy on defense. All reports are that there were no new injuries from last night."

Shula also said that any possibility of Ray Hudson returning for a bowl game, "would be news to me."

Shula knew Darby would be limited in the game, and he tried to offset the loss of production with a combination of Aaron Johns and Tyrone Prothro in the backfield. Prothro lined up at quarterback once in the game, but the snap sailed over his head. Prothro lined up as the left halfback and took handoffs out of the wishbone formation twice.

"In my own mind our plan was set to try run ball," Shula said. "But also with the way week was going we weren't sure with Ken Darby and McClain, it was to somehow involve our receivers more. Obviously Prothro was a guy we were trying to use more."

Shula said that quarterback Spencer Pennington played "His best game," against Auburn. "In the fourth quarter he did a really, really good job. For the most part, other than one interception, he played really well."

Alabama's bowl fate is still up in the air, but it appears that Florida secured a berth in the Peach Bowl with its upset win over Florda State Saturday night, finishing with a 7-4 record. Conventional wisdon is that Alabama and South Carolina, who both finished the season at 6-5, will be candidates for the Music City and Independence Bowls.

Arkansas could become bowl eligible with a win over LSU Saturday, which would bring into play the EV1.NET Houston Bowl.

"It's a reward for their efforts, for sure, unfortunately it's not rewarding enough for their efforts," Shula said. "I'm especially happy for our seniors, and hopefully we can go out and win it and end on a positive note. "It's also important for our younger guys to get used to it, and hopefully next year they will be ready for a bigger bowl."

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