Dawn of Spring Early at UA

It was the first of 15 Alabama 2005 spring practice sessions on Tuesday, and it seemed like only weeks ago that the Alabama football team suited up for a bowl game against Minnesota. That's because it was.

"For the first day it went pretty good – better than we thought," Alabama Head Coach Shula said. "Everyone has to get used to the way we do things. We have to identify playmakers. Some of the details we need to do a better job with."

Brodie Croyle looked sharp in seven-on-seven and one-on-one passing drills in the first day of work without pads, and showed no visible effects of the knee injury that ended his junior campaign.

"Quarterback-receiver wise I think it looked a lot better than last season at this time," Croyle said. "We have been working hard in the off-season to get our timing down and a little of that showed today."

Shula did say Tuesday that Croyle would not participate in any 11-on-11 team work throughout the spring, including the A-Day game unless there was a change of plans in consultation with he and Croyle's doctors.

"We're going to hold him out of all 11-on-11 team stuff just to keep from having someone step on his leg or something," Shula said.

Shula said he was impressed by Croyle's practice performance but cautioned, "It's easy to hold on to the ball and wait for a receiver to come open when there are no pads on, but it doesn't happen like that during a game."

Shula said that many of the redshirted players were understandably behind, but would be able to get into a pattern as practice progressed.

Dominic Lee was one of 11 in the orange jersey, indicative of a player limited due to injury. Shula said Lee had screws removed from his foot in the off-season and was "nursing some soreness. We're going to find out if he can go on Thursday."

Marc Guillon was also limited in the first day of practice by a continuation of the back injury he suffered throughout most of 2004. Bama offensive coordinator Dave Rader said Guillon's injury was "disappointing."

"The reason it is disappointing is because I was hoping he could ease his way into it and then cut loose a couple of times and he couldn't do that. It will be critical to see how he responds Thursday, and to find out if today's work set him back," he said.

Rader said Guillon had to pull out of some of the throwing Tuesday.

John Parker Wilson got a majority of the repetitions in the team period at the end of practice, with the rest of the work going to walk-on Adam Thrash. Rader said Wilson had good retention of the short list of plays, but lacked in timing and mechanics.

Wilson said, "I was a little rusty but I thought it went good. I need to work on getting out of a baseball throw. It was kind of side-armed. The other things I needed work on were my drops and timing."

Rader said that, without pads, it was difficult to make substantive judgments on many of the positions. The squad is required three days of work without full pads. "In just shorts and helmets you can get away with bad mechanics. If we were scrimmaging today we would have had a lot of picks," he said.

The only true surprise on the Tide's depth chart was at halfback, where redshirt freshman Antioch, Tenn. walk-on Theo Townsend has supplanted rising sophomore Aaron Johns on the depth chart.

"Theo is slotted number one," Rader said. "He has been very consistent from bowl practice and throughout off-season workouts and Aaron has not been as sharp in off-season workouts. But the evaluation will continue."

Shula said the three offensive line positions left vacant by departing seniors from 2004 would be "wide open" to see who would fill them. Antoine Caldwell worked with the first teamers and left guard Tuesday, while Mark Sanders occupied the other guard position. Chris Capps was working as first-string left tackle.

Shula noted the youth on both lines and said, "Our football team needs to get stronger, and when I say that I'm specifically talking about the offensive and defensive lines."

Simeon Castille was also in orange. Shula said the younger Castille twisted his ankle earlier in the week, but it was nothing serious.

Others in orange were: Tim Castille (knee), Vic Horn (leg), B.J. Stabler (knee), Justin Britt (feet/ankles), Jeremy Clark (knee), Kenneth Darby (pelvis), Forress Rayford and Morgan Garner.

The next spring football practice is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

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