Tide Returns To Practice Field

The Alabama football team returned to the practice field Tuesday, 12 days after the Crimson Tide's final practice prior to The University's spring break. Bama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said the Tide was a little rusty for its ninth of 15 spring practices, but he wasn't surprised by that.

In fact, prior to the break the schedule called for a pads practice Tuesday and the final of three mandated shorts-only, non-contact practices on Wednesday. Instead, the Tide was out in shorts and helmets for that non-contact work Tuesday.

The Crimson Tide is working towards the Saturday, April 13, A-Day Game.Alabama will continue practice this week with a full gear workout with some scrimmage Wednesday, a Thursday practice either in full gear or in shoulder pads and helmets, and a scrimmage Saturday. Alabama will host some 500 regional high school, junior college, and college coaches Friday and Saturday for the annual spring coaching clinic. The Saturday scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium will begin at 2 p.m. CST.

Franchione said Tuesday's return to the practice field was "a good workout," although he said there were more mistakes than he would prefer.

Alabama worked on all facets of the kicking game Tuesday. Franchione said the team would continue work on special teams this spring.

Some experimentation is taking place in the second half of spring practice. Back-up senior offensive tackle Atlas Herrion was at defensive tackle, back-up sophomore cornerback Thurman Ward was at wide receiver, and redshirt freshman tailback Marquez Dupree was at "W," the fullback-tight end hybrid position being implemented this spring. Franchione said the three would work at those spots for the remainder of the spring and then decisions would be made on final positions.

Although sophomore defensive end Todd Bates was doing some work, it was obvious his groin problem is far from healed. Franchione speculated that Bates might miss the remainder of spring work. "Fortunately," he said, "Todd played last fall, but I think we'll have a tough time getting him back this spring. I do think he'll be back in the fall."

It is also possible that fullback Donnie Lowe, Alabama's starter last year as a sophomore, will get little or no further practice time this spring after suffering a concussion in the first half of spring practice. Franchione said Lowe still has some effects of the injury and Alabama will be cautious in bringing him back.

While defensive tackle Jarret Johnson, who suffered a sprained knee in the first half of spring work, and defensive end Kindal Moorehead, who had his knee "cleaned out" in an arthroscopic procedure just prior to spring break, were not practicing, Franchione said it was "possible" one or both might return this spring. However, he also noted that both are seniors who have gone through several springs and he would be "surprised" if they returned to practice this spring.

In answer to questions, Franchione discussed several positions.

At quarterback, he said senior Tyler Watts "is pretty consistent day-in and day-out" and that Watts is "comfortable and confident." He said redshirt freshman Brodie Croyle "is on a nice pace, getting a little better every day. He's not completely confident, but that will come with more reps." The third quarterback, Spencer Pennington, also plays for Bama's baseball team and suffered a slight injury while playing baseball over spring break. He was limited in what he could do Tuesday, but should be able to go full speed by Saturday. Franchione said he was also satisfied with Pennington's improvement. He said, "Last year all the quarterbacks started at square one. This year Tyler was way ahead." The coach said that as he watches practice he compares Croyle to where Andrew Zow was at this time last year, and said, "Brodie is picking things up very quickly. He's further along than Andrew was at this time last year. In fact, he's further along than Tyler was." Watts won the starting job last year, although Zow finished up the season following an injury to Watts in the ninth game of the year.

As for redshirt freshmen defensive backs, cornerbacks Charlie Peprah and Anthony Madison and safety Roman Harper, Franchione said, "They are a little like the three redshirt freshmen offensive linemen (Wesley Britt, Justin Smiley and Evan Mathis) last year. They bring a little fire and competitiveness to practice each day. I think that elevates the older guys. (The redshirt freshmen) are mature, purposeful, and intent. All the coaches are excited about them." He added that he thought the returning players showed the effects of a year of experience and were more confident.

Franchione said he "would like to see a little more consistency" from the receivers. He did say returning starter Anthony Carter had been consistent. The coach said, "I have high hopes for Triandos Luke and Dre Fulgham." He said that Sam Collins, who is out this spring recuperating from shoulder surgery, is a known quantity as a quality receiver. He said that Tyler Greer "has had a good spring," and that Tarry Givens "has improved."

He said it may be there is no leader for a new place-kicker to replace the graduated Neal Thomas. But, he said, it may not be necessary that one has emerged after only nine practices. He said that all the candidates -- Brian Bostick, Mike McLaughlin, and Michael Ziifle have been the three most used -- have had more good than bad and that it is a competitive position. "I wish there was more consistency," the coach added.

There were a handful of interesting practice visitors. Signee Chris Harris was there, as he is nearly every practice after he finishes classes at Tuscaloosa Central. University President Dr. Andrew Sorensen checked out the Tide practice. Brandon Washington, a former Tuscaloosa Central star now playing at LSU, came out to watch Bama and promised he wasn't scouting. Bama goes to LSU in the next-to-last game of next fall on November 16. Former Alabama Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator Homer Smith was watching Bama quarterbacks. Smith said he had also visited Georgia this spring. He said, "Georgia is serious about their football this spring." Alabama hosts the Bulldogs on October 5.

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