Bama Ready for Full Pads

Attendance was up during the second of Alabama's 15 spring practices as scores of high school coaches surrounded the field for the first day of the high school clinic being put on Head Football Coach Mike Shula and staff Thursday through Saturday.

Rising junior and Bama's leading rusher in 2004, Kenneth Darby, attended the practice but spent most of the day with strength and conditioning coaches in the indoor football facility. Darby was severely hampered by a fracture in his pelvis for the Tide's bowl game, and Shula has said Darby is nowhere near ready to practice.

"It's wait and see. He has an evaluation coming up," Shula said of Darby's status. "He's not near ready to practice."

Shula said Darby would have another X-ray toward the latter part of next week in order to evaluate his status. Asked if Darby's injury was similar to the one which forced the end of offensive lineman Travis West's career earlier Shula said, "It's similar, but it's hard to pinpoint. That's why we want to evaluate it more."

"We want to do whatever we can to get it healed and if it's not getting better we look at every avenue," he said.

In Darby's absence the bulk of the work, at least through the first two days of spring practice has gone to walk-on freshman Theo Townsend. At least momentarily, Townsend has surpassed scholarshipped sophomore Aaron Johns in the top tailback spot currently on squad. Asked if Johns had been disappointing in off-season workouts Shula said, "Theo has been dependable and that's why he is getting more work that Aaron right now."

Shula said the second day of practice, held again in shorts and helmets, "went pretty good. We had real good effort again. The older guys are starting to get into a groove with what we are doing. But it hasn't been that long since we played."

Shula said less experienced players such as offensive guard Antoine Caldwell, quarterback John Parker Wilson and defensive back Lionel Mitchell were picking up the system well through the early workouts.

Shula said Wilson "does a lot of good things" in taking virtually all of the 11-on-11 team repetitions under center. Wilson has a strong arm, but is working on mechanics, drops and speeding up reads.

"Through spring that's why we do a lot of individual drills. Hopefully toward the last week of spring we will see him doing things better mechanically. He needs to speed up his drop and get the ball out quicker, but he does a lot of good things," Shula said.

Brodie Croyle had another good practice, working in everything except the team drills. He said his body was sore from practicing for the first time in months, but said his knee did not bother him at all.

"Brodie was a little better," Shula said. "He has to work on getting the ball out faster. Seven-on-seven is very dangerous because we don't want him to hold on ball."

Shula estimated that he has put in "three times more" of the offense that at this point a year ago.

Marc Guillon responded better in his second practice and was able to go through the entire workout and make more throws. On day one, Guillon was visibly ailing and had to withdraw from some drills.

"Marc made some good throws going against the number one defense," Shula said.

Shula said that Anthony Madison, who is close to completing classes required for graduation, has class on Tuesday and Thursday which caused him to miss practice on those days. "He will be out here tomorrow," Shula said.

Friday afternoon's practice will be the first in pads for the team, and the Tide will be in pads again Saturday morning at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Shula said he "might do some live tackling at the end," but scrimmages are not expected until the following Saturdays.

The annual A-Day game is schedule for March 19 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Receiver Zeke Knight drew praise from Shula for his effort in the first two days of practice, saying, "He looks more fluid in what he's doing. He understands more. We didn't give him much last year because he got in late. After the early work he missed those other guys were continuing to play well and we didn't ask him to learn a lot positions."

Shula said Knight will remain at receiver, and will learn more of the receivers' assignments than he did in 2004.

B.J. Stabler will be for "at least another week, so he's going to be behind," Shula said. Stabler had arthroscopic sugery on his knee before spring practice began.

Shula also said Will Oakley has been better in practice both days, noting the important thing for Oakley is to remain healthy in order to improve.

Shula said, "There are some freshmen who are starting to understand what it's going to take to get better. Keith Brown has been really good in off-season workouts, and Zeke Knight.

He also said that true sophomore DJ Hall, " Hall has become a leader" with his work ethic in the off-season.


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