Rain Doesn't Stop Tide Football Practice

The rains came down on Alabama's football practice Saturday morning, but it couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of the players or of Head Coach Dennis Franchione as Bama was out in full gear for the first time this spring.

"It didn't rain ALL day, and we got our teaching in before it started," Franchione said. "And it was good to get some wet-weather work." Had the Tide not been able to practice Saturday, Franchione was prepared to have the team work Sunday. "I didn't want to work Monday, because that would give us three straight days of practice, which I'd like to avoid during spring practice."

He also said that Alabama's indoor facility should be ready for use when Alabama practices next on Tuesday. That practice area was originally AstroTurf and is now being upgraded with the grass-like AstroPlay surface that Alabama's football team played on in the Independence Bowl at the end of last season. Franchione said, "The new surface is softer and will be easier on the players' knees."

The practice was Alabama's third of the spring and followed Thursday and Friday workouts with no contact. The Tide will have a total of 15 practices, including the A-Day Game on April 13 to conclude spring training.

Franchione was particularly pleased with the attitude of the players on the first day of contact work. "When we went out they wanted to start with the Oklahoma drill," the coach said. The Oklahoma drills is a very physical blocking and tackling drill. Then, the coach said, the players petitioned him to have a scrimmage. "I told them there would be plenty of scrimmage time later," the coach said. Then as Bama ended practice with a "Mayday" drill, the Tide's version of the two-minute offense, Franchione said the offensive linemen were complaining because there was no running and run-blocking.

The coach said, "It was a good first day (in pads). Everything continues to be positive. Our guys have a comfort level with everything with makes them more confident and, therefore, more physical. There has been good carryover. And I'm pleased with the way the older guys are helping the younger guys. What we've been able to see in three days is very good."

Franchione said one thing that had been impressive was the number of interceptions turned in by the secondary. "Last season we had 60 touches (on opponents' passes) and only six interceptions," he said. "We've already had a lot of interceptions with several guys making them." And, he said, "There's good competition in the secondary."

He said that returning starting linebackers Cornelius Wortham and Brooks Daniels are playing with good confidence. While Saleem Rasheed was at practice, Bama's three-year starting linebacker was only a spectator. He has elected to pass up his final year with the Tide in order to make himself eligible for the NFL draft. Freddie Roach, who many expect to win the middle linebacker job vacated by Rasheed, missed his second straight day with a slight concussion suffered in Monday's work. He is expected to return to practice Tuesday. Marvin Brown, converted from fullback, is working at fullback. "Marvin can get to the football and make the hit," Franchione said. "Right now we're throwing a lot of formations at him. He's got the mentality to be a middle linebacker, he's physical, and he's fast, but he's got a lot of learning to do."

The first players the coach mentioned on offense were tight ends Theo Sanders and Donald Clarke, saying they were "off to a good start."

Franchione said tailbacks Ahmaad Galloway and Santonio Beard "are running with confidence," and that Ray Hudson was doing better. He also mentioned transfer Shaud Williams as looking good. "Shaud is very smart and came in last fall and got a good foundation. He's building on it now. We knew he'd be able to fill different roles."

The Tide coach also complimented the work of the offensive line. He said that it was something of a surprise that a player could do what guard Justin Smiley has done. Smiley had arthroscopic knee surgery a few weeks ago and was expected to miss early practices, but has been held out of only a few drills. "I pointed out to the team that Justin is showing us the difference between pain and injury," Franchione said. "He has pain, but he is over his injury and he is competing."

One player missing work is defensive end Todd Bates, who has a groin injury. However, quarterback Tyler Watts is showing no ill effects of the groin injury that forced him to miss the last four games of the 2001 season. And, said Franchione, Watts has also been sharp mentally.

Franchione said that the search for a man to handle field goal and extra point kicks "is a work in progress. It's pretty competitive with no clear-cut leader." A handful of candidates are after the job vacated by the graduated Neal Thomas.

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