The Thursday practice will include some scrimmage work on goalline and first down situations. A non-contact practice had been planned for Friday, prior to the first scrimmage of the spring at Bryant-Denny Stadium at 1 p.m. CST Saturday, but that Friday shorts practice may be postponed so the players don't have four consecutive days of practice.
Thursday is also scheduled for Pro Day when players whose eligibility is complete work out for NFL scouts. That workout is ordinarily in the indoor practice facility, but work continues on the installation of an AstroPlay surface and so the pro prospects will be worked on one of the outdoor grass practice fields.
Alabama has now completed four of 15 spring practice dates. Spring training concludes with the annual A-Day Game, which will be held at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 13, in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Wednesday's practice was observed by a number of area high school coaches and a handful of prospects. The visitors list also included signees Kyle Tatum of Prattville and Chris Harris of Tuscaloosa Central. And former Tide quarterback Walter Lewis was on hand to check out the current Bama quarterbacks.
Franchione said, "We got a lot done. We had a lot of reps, we taxed them, and it was good work. We did have a few too many mistakes, including mistakes before the snaps like jumping offsides. But it was a pretty good, physical practice. We've had good contact working against each other."
Franchione said that Saturday's practice would be physical. "We want to see how we tackle and how we block," he said. He said coaches will also be watching to see how certain players perform. Franchione is sure of one thing. "The scrimmage will be better than our first one was last sprin," he said. "I'll never forget that. Afterwards I called TCU to see if they had filled the job yet." Franchione, of course, had come to Alabama from TCU at the conclusion of the 2000 season.
The Tide coach said he expects the players to perform differently in a scrimmage. "We'll want to see who has made improvement," he said. "Every day counts, but we put a little more weight on a scrimmage."
Senior Tyler Watts continues as the number one quarterback and redshirt freshman Brodie Croyle is clearly number two. Spencer Pennington, also a redshirt freshman and a member of the Bama baseball squad, is number three. However, Franchione disputed the suggestion that Pennington is falling behind. The coach said Pennington is doing well, but that Croyle is moving faster than expected. It is difficult to give three quarterbacks enough work, the coach pointed out.
Although Wednesday was the first day of head-to-head competition for the place-kickers and there is no leader, Franchione did note that sophomore Michael Ziifle made one more kick than the other candidates. Ziifle was three-for-three, the others all two-for-three.
Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Freddie Roach was back at practice after having missed a couple of workouts with a slight concussion, but converted fullback Marvin Brown continues to get most of the work there. Franchione said, "Marvin is doing a good job. He has some good instincts. He can run to the football and he will strike you. It depends on his learning curve, and I hope he can do it."
Franchione said he was pleased with the competition and the execution in the secondary. "We're in better position and we're catching more balls," he said of the defensive backs. "We're not anywhere near where we need to be, but I feel pretty good about the steps we're taking."
He also has high hopes for the new "A-Back" position, a designation for quick tailbacks Shaud Williams and Ray Hudson. "Both can be pretty exciting," Franchione said. "We knew Shaud could catch the ball, and Ray is catching it well, too. But both of them have a lot to learn. We're asking a lot of them–maybe too much–but I think it's got a chance to work out." He said he also expects both Williams and Hudson to be involved in kickoff returns.
While Franchione said he is not displeased with practice, he did note that the running game is behind the passing game both offensively and defensively, primarily because there have not been many days in full gear. He also said he'd "like to see the receivers have fewer drops." He also said there have been too many offsides penalties, but added the players know their assignments. And he said it's not a disappointment yet, but he wants to come out of spring practice with an established place-kicker.
"There are not a lot of disappointments," he said. "The players have a good attitude and they work hard. They know the drills, they know the pace, they know the offense and defense, and they are pushing themselves. A year ago we were having to push them."