Not Bad in Pads

The Alabama football team padded up for the first time on Thursday, and Tide Head Coach Mike Shula's evaluation of the faster-paced contact work was generally positive.

As is the usual, Shula broke down the practice down into two categories, effort and execution. Both were lacking for the first hour of Wednesday's practice, when Shula made that call to re-start things from the beginning. Thursday he seemed much more pleased.

"We had a much better practice today," he said, "definitely the effort was better than yesterday. I told the team afterwards, that's what its going to take from here on out, day in and day out."

"Execution was real good at times and at other times we lost discipline. We got tired then we fought through it and did some good things. We've got to be a little more consistent that way."

The hitting heated up about mid-way through practice with what Shula calls "compete" drills. Running back simulated pass protection against a blitzing linebacker and linemen worked against linemen.

Two players Shula has continually praised since practice began, fullback Le'Ron McClain and linebacker DeMeco Ryans, provided one of the most anticipated match-ups of the day. Ryans got the best of McClain on one hard-hitting play, discarding McClain quickly after contact to get to the spot representing where the quarterback would be.

Ryans was the first name Shula called as individually as a notable performer Thursday, saying that the upperclassmen on defense, guys like DeMeco, have come to work each day."

The Crimson Tide tight ends were also involved in full contact blocking for the first time Thursday, and the trio of young tight ends Nick Walker, Travis McCall and Charles Hoke weren't quite ready for it.

"I think the tight ends got a little bit of wake up call today," Shula said. "…we've got guys that think they're going to be good receivers that have not had all that experience blocking. We like to use our tight ends blocking. There will be some good tape for them to watch and learn from. I thought their overall effort was pretty good and the pad level was pretty good.

Shula said his quarterbacks looked better Thursday than Wednesday, but needs more work.

"We've got to throw and catch a ton of routes," he said. "A couple of times today with John Parker--you've got to throw it and trust it instead of waiting for it to come open. That's probably one of the biggest things for a young quarterback. He has to learn to trust his receivers.

Shula said Wilson and Marc Guillon are competing for the back-up spot, although it appears to be Wilson's to lose. Shula said he was still not sure if Guillon's back was 100 percent, but that the junior had done some good things. "We do a lot of throwing," Shula said. "During the team period he's made some good decisions and for the most part got the ball there on time. There were a couple that hung up there that he needs to get out there a little better."

Shula said both Guillon and Wilson need to be more consistent, especially in anticipation of the defense employing more blitzes and complex coverages as fall camp progresses. I think the offense has a feeling that the defense is getting ready to throw some more blitzes at them so those quarterbacks better be ready," Shula said.

Jimmy Johns continued to look talented athletically, while raw at the same time.

Shula also gave a nod to Prince Hall, Brandon Deaderick, Marcel Stamps and Byron Walton for Thursday's practice.

The squad will work again tomorrow afternoon in shorts and shoulder pads, and will be in full pads for the first time on Saturday. The first two-a-day practices begin on Sunday.

Alabama's first scrimmage of the fall will be on Monday at Bryant-Denny Stadium at 2:15 p.m. The scrimmage will be open to the public.

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