Tide's Monday Practice Warms Up

During the regular season Mondays were Alabama's day off and Tuesdays began the bulk of the work for Saturdays' game. This Monday, with kickoff of the 2004 Music City Bowl on a Friday, the Alabama football team put in a two-plus hour Tuesday-like in sweats and shoulder pads at the Vanderbilt University practice facility.

"I thought practice was good. The energy was good," Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said. "Our execution wasn't quite as good as it needs to be. The good thing is that we've gotten some reps on it. This is kind of our second time through the game plan."

"We've tweaked a couple of things from last week and we'll probably do it again tomorrow," Shula said. "It looks like our guys have a good understanding of what we're doing and hopefully that will show up on Friday."

Alabama plays Minnesota at 11 a.m. Friday morning, and less than 4,000 tickets remain for the contest. The game will be televised by ESPN.

The most upbeat news Monday(other than the warming weather) was the status of punter Bo Freelend. Freelend injured his knee during a conditioning session before the squad left for Tuscaloosa. Freelend still limped Monday in Nashville, but his punting was solid.

Freelend said the biggest thing driving his return to the field were reports doubting his ability to overcome the injury in time for the bowl game.

"My mom called me one night and she said, ‘They said on the news there's no way you're playing.' I said ‘Whatever'. So I started running stairs in my townhouse and kicking around a pair of socks, so hopefully that helped a little."

Shula said after watching Freelend kick Sunday and Monday, Freelend has a full go-ahead to play in the game.

"That's kind of a pleasant surprise," Shula said. "Hopefully he'll kick well in the game because we weren't sure earlier if he was going to punt at all."

There was no new indication on Kenneth Darby's status for the game.

"KD is just about the same. He took about 30 per cent of the reps and he's still about 50/50," Shula said.

"If you want to call it two game plans, we kind of have two game plans ready (depending on Darby's availability)," Shula said. "Obviously we're going to do the things that have helped win the games we've won. But we do have certain things in mind if he's in and certain things if he's not. Now how much that's going to be different is not going to be as much as people might think."

With Darby limited Aaron Johns has taken most of the practice repetitions, with Tennessee native Theo Townsend taking back-up reps.

"I don't think we've seen the Aaron Johns yet that a lot of us saw in high school, with some of those highlights that he had," Shula said. "I think that's because he's a freshman with not a lot of reps. Hopefully, the reps that he's gotten the last couple of weeks of the season in practice, as well as since we started practice for the bowl game."

Shula said Wesley Britt's foot was "a little bit sore" from practicing on the hard artificial surface, but he expects Britt to be ready to play. With back-up Chirs Capps not making the trip, Shula said Mark Sanders would be the next lineman in the game if Britt is limited. Shula said Sanders could either play left tackle, or possibly guard, allowing Evan Mathis to move to the tackle spot.

Shula said that defensive lineman Todd Bates left the field because he got stepped on, and that "he'll be fine" for the game.

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