Back-ups Get Opportunities

Although it's bad news when a football player suffers an injury, Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione can find the silver lining in the cloud. No fewer than four Bama regulars are now on the sidelines for the spring. While they are not getting work, players behind them are getting more practice time, which could pay benefits when it matters, next fall.

There was good news Wednesday morning concerning an injury to All-SEC defensive tackle Jarret Johnson suffered in Tuesday's practice. Head Trainer Rodney Brown said, "The results of the MRI revealed that Jarret sustained a badly sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament) in his right knee. Jarret was chasing down quarterback Tyler Watts and when he planted, his cleat got hung up in the grass and he went down. We took him off the field and had the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan done last night. The MRI showed there was no tear of the ACL. There will be no surgery required, but Jarret will be out for the remainder of spring practice."

While Johnson, who was on crutches as he watched practice Thursday, is sidelined, junior Anthony Bryant has moved up to the tackle position alongside Kenny King.

Also on the defensive line, end Kindal Moorehead, who had undergone some maintenance work on his shoulder prior to the start of spring practice, had his left knew cleaned out in an arthroscopic procedure earlier this week. Franchione said it was "50-50" whether Moorehead would be able to practice when the Tide resumes work after spring break.

Working at Moorehead's end spot is redshirt sophomore Antwan Odom. Franchione said, "Antwan has gotten better every day. After missing last fall, he started off a little slow, a little soft, a little hesitant, but he is more in rhythm and making plays." The 6-5 Odom has also been a hard worker in the weight room, and has grown from 247 to 283.

Pre-spring injuries to cornerback Hirchel Bolden and wide receiver Sam Collins have also resulted in increased practice time for younger players. Redshirt freshman Anthony Madison has gotten the lion's share of work at right cornerback. Several receivers, including Triandos Luke, Dre Fulgham and Tarry Givens, have gotten extra work during Collins' absence.

Extra work for those players is not the only thing that had Franchione in a good mood as Alabama reached the halfway point of spring practice Thursday. The Tide head coach was pleased with a physical Thursday practice and with the first eight practices of the spring.

"We had a good day and got a lot done in different situations," Franchione said of Thursday's two-and-a-half-hour full-gear workout. "We had goalline, third down, and two-minute situations. There was some good and some bad. But the effort was good and it was physical."

Franchione said the team had rebounded well from a disappointing Tuesday practice.

He also praised the "effort, attitude, carryover from last season" the team has displayed in the first half of spring drills.

Players will join their University classmates in spring break, returning to the practice field April 2. Franchione said, "I told them to enjoy the break, but that we needed to build on where we are when they return. We don't want them back sunburned and we don't want them back rusty where we have to start over." Bama is working towards the April 13 A-Day Game.

The Tide coach said he was pleased with the progress that has been made, even among "the young redshirt freshmen," naming offensive linemen J.B. Closner, Von Ewing and Matt Sanders; tight end Clint Johnston; quarterbacks Brodie Croyle and Spencer Pennington; and defensive backs Charlie Peprah, Anthony Madison and Roman Harper.

Defensive end Todd Bates, the only true freshman to play last season, has missed spring work with a groin problem, but Franchione said he is optimistic Bates will be able to practice after spring break.

Franchione said the passing game has improved. He said "We've added some things, some new wrinkles, and they've worked hard at it."

The coach said that returning starting quarterback Tyler Watts has demonstrated "knowledge and understanding of things, an ability to adjust and adapt, and confidence. He's missed some things, but he's working with a lot of different receivers and we're doing a lot of passing under pressure. His experience level is high."

The coach also said he was optimistic about the future of the "A-Backs," Shaud Williams and Ray Hudson. "Both are fast and both can catch the ball," he said. "They have some things to do in blocking and in routes. They've got a lot to do to get where we want them, but both are learning quickly. I'm very encouraged."

While the "A-Back," which is a tailback who can also split out to a wing or wide, and the "W," the combination tight end and fullback being used this spring, have not been in the lineup together in the first half of spring, Franchione said after spring break that combination will be added to the offensive package.

Thursday's practice was watched by Clemson Head Coach Tommy Bowden, an Alabama assistant coach in the late 1980s...Among upcoming high school senior prospects watching practice were tailback-defensive back Corey White of Bessemer Jess Lanier and defensive tackle King Dunlap of Brentwood (Tennessee) Academy...Quarterback Spencer Pennington couldn't make the trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, with the Alabama baseball team Thursday morning, but Pennington was to be on an early morning flight Friday to join his baseball teammates for the next 10 days for games at Arkansas, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.


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