"Much, much better than this time last year," Shula said Saturday when asked for an overall assessment of the first week of spring drills. "We're better with the talent level, with the stuff that we've been able to put in and how they've handled it."
"Still, there is a long road ahead of us," he said.
Alabama wrapped up its first week of spring practice Saturday morning with a workout of just over two hours at Bryant-Denny Stadium which included about 25 plays of 11-on-11 team work with ‘thud' tackling (live drills with the exception of not tackling the ball carrier all the way to the ground).
"It was a good day with us being able to get some of the live work in at the end of practice," Shula said.
"Nick Walker has a much understanding if what we're doing. He's a good athlete. The biggest thing for him is getting an understanding of the offense," Shula said.
Shula also said that Oxford, Ala. walk-on halfback Brandon McAway, who had been at practice since the opening day of spring, had decided to give up football.
Shula said, "John Parker Wilson had a good practice, but he's holding on to the ball too long. When we're not live that is a tendency and we have to keep preaching that to him. One of the things he's doing will is he'll sit in the pocket. A lot of young guys will flush out of there right away. We've been doing blitz drills and that's been good for everyone."
Redshirt freshman Antoine Caldwell worked some at center Saturday, but took most of the snaps at left guard. When Caldwell was at center, JB Closner moved to the left guard spot.
Alabama practices have been visited by several former Tide players during the week, including Todd Bates, Scott Hunter and Andrew Zow.
Alabama will continue next week with practice on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Tide's first of three scrimmages is tentatively scheduled for Saturday.