Shula Looks Ahead

Alabama Football Head Coach Mike Shula took a break from recruiting to answer a variety of reporters' questions Saturday afternoon. Shula has a handful of prospects visiting the Alabama campus this weekend, but recruiting is winding down and spring training will begin in a month.

Among the hottest questions on the list were about the status of Kenneth Darby. Darby was severely limited in Alabama's final two games by a reported abdominal injury and fractured pelvis.

"Ken Darby is still going to be, as of right now, not at 100 per cent. Hopefully he will be for spring, but it's going to take time to heal. We do think it's going to heal," Shula said.

"I know it's a difficult (injury) for him to bounce back quickly on. Anything in the stomach/pelvis area is going to take time. We hoped it would be quicker but it looks like it's going to take a little bit longer. If he's not ready for spring we're not going to rush that."

If Darby is unable to participate in spring drills true freshman Aaron Johns will be the only halfback on scholarship. Shula indicated that walk-ons Theo Townsend and Brandon McAway would receive the bulk of the remaining work at the halfback position if Darby was out. Shula said he wasn't sure if Vic Horn, who joined the Alabama team in the fall before suffering a broken leg, would be healthy in the spring.

Having limited bodies at the position for practice won't be anything new however, and Shula said he would handle it "about like it was last four five weeks of season including getting ready for bowl preparation with the guys that we've got."

"We don't want to overwork the guys that we've got," he said. "Especially Le'Ron (McClain) at fullback. We don't want to overwork him."

Addressing Questions on Quarterbacks

Shula also talked about the departure of Spencer Pennington and addressed questions about his physical condition during the Music City Bowl, which arose when Pennington's mother told reporters her son was playing hurt in the second half of the game.

"I don't read articles, first of all," Shula said. "I don't have a reaction and if I did I wouldn't express that in the media."

"I listen to my trainers. My job depends on listening to trainers and doctors," Shula said. He added that there was no indication from the staff's trainers that Pennington should be prevented from returning to the game. "There was no indication of that," he said. "That's why we played him."

Shula did say that at one point he considered inserting Marc Guillon into the game. "When we thought Spencer was hurt I told Marc to get warmed up and ready to go in. Spence said he was okay and I said ‘get ready to go and get back in the game.'"

Shula would not respond to comments in the press made by Guillon questioning why he was not put into the game, but Shula did say, when asked if there was a rift between he and Guillon, "None whatsoever. Nothing like that."

Shula said that there had previously been talk of Pennington playing baseball full time, but that he was somewhat surprised.

"But Spence has been a two-sport guy basically his entire life. He wants to pursue his dream of putting everything into it with baseball and I understand that," Shula said.

As for how the quarterback position will shake out in the spring, Shula said Brodie Croyle is expected to participate fully and that Guillon is still ailing.

"Marc Guillon is another one who is still not 100 percent," Shula said. He is closer, like he was before the bowl game, but it's been an injury that's been frustrating for him. Hopefully he'll get it healed but the doctors tell us and tell him it's going to take time and we'll go from there."

"We're thinking that Brodie's going to be ready to go, 100 per cent," Shula said.

"We've got John Parker Wilson, who got work for us in December, and there's still Adam Thrash and A.J. Milwee," he said.

Wilson, who is currently practicing at third base with the Tide baseball team, is expected to participate fully in the 15 days of spring training practice according to Shula.

At a Bama baseball scrimmage on Saturday, Wilson was 2-for-4 at the plate with a double, a triple and three runs scored. He also drew a walk during the 15-inning scrimmage.

"The best way to describe it is we have a clear understanding," Shula said.

Shula said Earnest Nance has not been cleared to return to full participation with the Alabama football team, but he did not elaborate on the statement to rule out a possible return for Nance.

Nance was suspended indefinitely on September 1, 2004 after an incident at a Sheffield night club that led to his arrest. At the time of the suspension Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said, "we suspended Earnest Nance indefinitely for violating team policies. We'll handle it in-house and we won't handle it any other way."

The Decatur Daily interviewed Nance for a story earlier this month where Nance said, "Everything is going to be back to normal." The Daily said Nance received the news of his reinstatement in a meeting with Shula.

Recruiting Winding Down

Shula is restricted from talking specifically about prospects, but he did say that his staff is still pursuing five or six players to round out his class of 2005.

"We're looking at some guys that are just good athletic guys regardless of position. We're still looking at guys that play defensive line, defensive back, tight end and running back," he said. "As far as how many we'll sign, it's still up in the air. Like last year, guys we're looking at as verbal commitments we feel decent about. We're recruiting them real hard and we've got room for a couple of more."

Shula has 30 public verbal commitments, five above the number of 25 players that will be able to enroll on scholarship in August. Shula said that he would only over sign prospects in the case that "we have a plan for every single person. We did that last year and we'll do it this year."

Last year Alabama signed 27 players on signing day and added one signee during the summer. Bama was only allowed to bring in 19 scholarshipped players last year.

Also, asked if he was considering making any staff changes Shula said, "No."

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