What A Difference

Alabama will begin fall practice on August 9. But as has often been pointed out, a football team's preparation doesn't begin with pre-season camp. It starts with the off-season program in January, goes through spring practice, and continues with summer voluntary workouts, before 105 players gather to start preparing for the first game.

Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle said, "It's been a busy summer. The strength and conditioning workouts are at either 7:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. Two days a week we had pass skel (pass skeleton workouts in which the offensive skill position players run pass plays against defensive backs and linebackers). And then every night the receivers and quarterbacks watch film. So a couple of days a week the receivers and quarterbacks spent about eight hours together and three or four hours the other days."

But as an adage of former Coach Gene Stallings has it, "Don't confuse activity with accomplishment."

Croyle said, "This has been a lot more productive summer than last year. We had so many young receivers last year that we were spending all our time teaching them the routes. This year we have all that down and it's a matter of fine-tuning. So it has been a lot better for me."

He said that last year the receiving corps was considered a weakness going into the season because there were four freshmen who would be a part of the regular rotation. This year, he said, the receiving corps is a strength of the offense.

He said, "I'm excited about two-a-days (fall practice). I'm ready to go. I'm looking forward to the season. I haven't played football in a while."

Croyle said he has spent much time in the summer with freshman quarterback John Parker Wilson, who entered The University last January and went through spring practice, emerging from spring drills as the number two quarterback. "He's watching film and throwing every time I do,"Croyle said. "John Parker is going to be a great quarterback."

When Croyle and a handful of his teammates met with sportswriters late last week, the Tide quarterback said that he understood that Crimson Tide fans are concerned about his health. Croyle injured a knee and missed his senior year in high school, was redshirted as a freshman, and played as a redshirt freshman without injury as a back-up to Tyler Watts in 2002. But he was out much of the year with a shoulder injury that required surgery in 2003 and suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game of last season.

"I'm out of knees," Croyle said. "I've got no more excuses."

Croyle doesn't really need to make excuses. Even when injured in 2003 he became the first sophomore in history to pass for over 2,000 yards–2,303 to be exact, with 16 touchdowns. Last year he had passed for 534 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions before being injured.

It's a sad commentary on some "fans" that Croyle had to address another subject. A couple of weeks ago Croyle and his father, former Tide player John Croyle, were on a dove hunting trip in Argentina. Rumors were started on the internet message boards of a rival school that Croyle had been involved in a fatal traffic accident or that he had been run over or kidnapped or shot.

"We quit calling home," Croyle said. "We wanted to enjoy our trip."

He added, "I guess those people get some sort of kick out of spreading a rumor like that."

Croyle has high hopes for the 2005 season. He wants a championship ring. "There's not an opponent on our schedule we don't believe we can beat."

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