Scrimmage Grades

Alabama followed up Monday's scrimmage with what Crimson Tide Football Coach Mike Shula called a good practice with a Tuesday morning session. Bama was to return to the practice field in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts Tuesday night as Alabama has the second of its five two-a-day practice dates.

Alabama Coach Mike Shula said, "I thought we had a good practice," after Tuesday morning's two-hour workout in full gear. "We had talked about getting better in things like lining up and tempo, and it was much better today. I thought our practice went really well. We did get a little sloppy at the end."

Bama continues to be in reasonably good physical condition a third of the way into pre-season camp. A handful of players have missed work, but none are seriously injured. Defensive end Mark Anderson, who has not practiced as he recovers from orthroscopic knee surgery performed just before the start of drills, "is doing more," Shula said. Anderson could be back in practice this week.

Most of the attention Tuesday morning was on the performance of fullback Tim Castille, who has been held out of team work as he recovers from knee surgery. The 5-11, 231-pound junior "was much more involved in team work," Shula said.

Offensive Coordinator David Rader said seeing Castille back in the lineup "was exciting. He made some nice cuts. If that was me, it would give me a great deal of confidence."

Among those missing work Tuesday morning was walk-on middle linebacker Matt Collins, who has been outstanding in goalline work. Shula said Collins would be known as a "phone booth guy" in the NFL. "That's a guy you wouldn't want to get in a fight with in a phone booth," the coach explained. Collins, a 6-1, 241-pound sophomore from Pinson, is being treated for a foot blister.

Shula said that other scrimmage casualties were redshirt freshman guard Antoine Caldwell with a bruised leg ("not too bad") and wide receiver Will Oakley with a sprained knee ("he also should be back soon"). Shula added that Oakley had a history of injuries, and that in the past week had been injury-free and had good practices, with the scrimmage his best day yet

He also noted that a few players were pulled out of work due to the heat.

True freshmen running backs Roy Upchurch and Glen Coffee continue to be impressive, too, Shula said. "Glen ran pretty well. Yet I don't think what we saw out there was anywhere near where his potential is, either he or Roy (Upchurch). Roy didn't get quite as many carries but (he) actually ran the ball pretty well, he ran the ball well on the goal line with the first team at the end. We're pretty pleased with both of those guys."

He said the two freshmen and Tim Castille need to get more carries in practice to get up to speed.

Shula said two standouts in the scrimmage among the true freshmen were safety Chris Keys and middle linebacker Prince Hall.

One of the big questions is the offensive line, where three 2004 starters are being replaced and where there have been some players missing work because of slight injuries. Of the offensive line, Shula said, "We got off to a slow start, but we got better as we went along. B.J. Stabler got some reps with the first team too. That's open competition there. Overall I thought the guys did a good job because we got some guys nicked up. Antoine Caldwell got a little nicked up and some other guys did. Mark Sanderson did a nice job moving right guard to left guard and playing some different positions. We couldn't have done that two years ago."

Shula added that freshman offensive tackle Mike Johnson "is coming along. He got a lot of reps with the twos in the scrimmage."

Shula said the defense had a good day in the blitz session. "The offense has to work harder," he said.

There are a number of young defensive linemen, but none has made a real move up the depth chart, even with tackle Jeremy Clark and end Chris Harris out nursing injuries. Shula said the staff would be watching the young defensive linemen this week to see which ones might be ready to help.

Most of the talk following the scrimmage concerned quarterback Brodie Croyle, who completed 13 of his final 16 passes for 266 yards and five touchdowns. Shula said, "I was real pleased. He was moving around well and making good decisions."

But Shula said back-up quarterback John Parker Wilson "had a nice day except for the one interception. He made a bad decision and then a bad pass."

Rader said Wilson's development has been good. "I wanted him to be further along after spring practice," the coach said. "But I have to remember that he is a freshman and will make freshman mistakes, which seem to stand out more. But he's making fewer and fewer of those freshman mistakes. I'm impressed by how much he has learned."

Rader said that Wilson's participation in bowl practice last January and in spring practice had been a "huge help" for the true freshman quarterback. "It helped him and it helped the team to have him participating."

Rader said there is a lot of information to be processed as Alabama goes through the season-building period in hot weather. He said, "We have to work through the mistakes and correct them." He noted the coaches must use "aggressive voice nature," but not undermine the confidence of the players.

Rader has seen good things, and he mentioned the work of fullback Le'Ron McClain, and receivers Oakley. D.J. Hall, and Marcus McKnight.

Rader said viewing tapes of Monday's scrimmage, "As many mistakes as we thought we had made, we had made more. Our players need to understand how many positive plays it takes to overcome one negative play, such as a fumble or a holding call. And our players have to understand that we can't have a slow start like we had in the scrimmage."

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