Alabama's fifth practice of the spring will be the final practice before Saturday's scrimmage. Originally, a Friday workout in shorts had been scheduled. However, plans were changed because heavy rains forced the postponement of Tuesday's practice until Thursday. Franchione said, "Since we have gone hard the last two days and we have the scrimmage Saturday, we decided to postpone the Friday practice. I don't know when we'll make it up; maybe next week, maybe after spring break. It's the third mandatory non-contact practice of the spring."
Alabama will practice through next week, then have the final week off as The University has its spring break. Practice will continue the first two weeks of April, ending with the A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 13.
Thursday's work included some scrimmage work on goalline. Another segment was a third down and four yards to go situation. In the final five-play series there was a lot on the line. If the offense made a first down on at least three of the five third-and-four opportunities, the defensive players would have to do 50 push-ups. If the defense held the offense on at least three of the five plays, the members of the offensive team would have to do 50 push-ups. "We were competing hard at the end," Franchione said. For the record: the offense did the push-ups.
Saturday's scrimmage will feature the first offense against the first defense and the second offense against the second defense. Kicking will be limited: no kick-offs and no punt returns. Franchione hopes to get in at least 80 plays.
Franchione continued to praise his team for its attitude and work ethic. He noted that the team had learned "the trick of working hard and being productive, and still having some feeling for your teammate that you are going against. You don't do something that might get someone hurt. Good teams do that."
The Tide head coach also noted the continued good play of the secondary. "They are playing better," he said. "Marvin Harper had some hits. We got a nice pick or two. Anthony Madison had a great interception. But," he added, "we're still not where we want to be."
He said he was not disappointed in the wide receivers, even though he has mentioned dropped passes. Franchione said that Alabama skill players dropped 38 passes last year, and indicated he expects improvement this year. But he is more concerned at this point in the wide receivers showing improvement as blockers. And he is anxious to see what receivers like Tarry Givens and Dre Fulgham can do since they had little game action last year.
Franchione is also watching the progress of junior tailback Santonio Beard; not as a runner, but as a blocker and pass receiver. He said he had talked to Beard about "setting the table" for the pro scouts in the upcoming season. He said Beard has more confidence and is improving, but said "I want him to go farther." He also said senior Ahmaad Galloway is still the Tide's best blocker among the tailbacks.
One area in which Franchione said there is "no comparison" between this year and last year is the offensive line. "They are about where they were in the final month of the season," Franchione said. "It took them a long time to get there . They made a lot of mistakes along the way. Sometimes it was almost comical. But they have confidence now and they are getting better." Alabama's offensive line last year was made up of redshirt freshmen Wesley Britt, Evan Mathis and Justin Smiley, who were all redshirt freshmen, and Alonzo Ephraim and Marico Portis, who were juniors.
Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Freddie Roach was involved in all drills Thursday. He had been out of contact work since suffering a slight concussion in Bama's first practice. Senior Marvin Brown, a converted fullback, continued to get most of the work at middle linebacker, but Roach is expected to be ready to scrimmage Saturday.