Bama Shows Great Improvement

A day after a practice in which Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione had been disappointed with the lack of physical play, the Crimson Tide football team made great improvement Thursday. "It was better today," Franchione said. "Much better. The players made a commitment to being physical at the right times. It was much better work. They came out with a purpose to take a step back in the right direction."

Thursday's practice, the 11 of 15 spring training dates, was conducted before a crowd that included some 180 high school, junior college, and college coaches from around the region. They are the lead contingent on what is expected to be as many as 600 coaches in Tuscaloosa for the annual spring coaching clinic Friday and Saturday. Bama's next practice will be Saturday when the Tide goes to Bryant-Denny Stadium for a scrimmage. That will begin at 2 p.m. CST.

Bama worked for a little over two hours in full gear with some scrimmage work Thursday. "It was a good learning session," Franchione said.

The end of practice had the Tide working on overtime strategy. That, Franchione said, points out a big difference in this team and his first Alabama spring practice last year. This year's team has spent time on "milking the clock," that area of strategy in protecting a lead with the ball late in the game and on overtime strategy. "Last year we could barely break a huddle, and this year we got most of our offense and defense in before the 10th practice," he said.

The Tide coach said that redshirt freshman safety Roman Harper had a good day. He said that defensive end Antwan Odom "stuck out," and that defensive tackle Anthony Bryant is "getting better." Also on the defensive line he had praise for the showing of former offensive tackle Atlas Herrion, just in his third day at defensive tackle. "Of course, he's not near ready," Franchione said, "but he picks things up quickly. I'd like to have several like him." The coach noted that Herrion's move is not necessarily permanent, that the decision to put him on offense or defense will be made after spring practice. But, the coach said, "We want him to have a defensive foundation. He already has an offensive foundation."

Franchione said that back-up defensive lineman Gerard Clark had a slight leg injury in Wednesday's practice and missed Thursday, but should be back soon. Thurman Ward, a cornerback who is getting work at wide receiver, missed Wednesday with a slight groin injury, but was back on a limited basis Thursday.

Franchione announced that this year's A-Day Game, a week from Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on April 13, is likely to include all live kicking. He also said the teams would be selected by the players with two or three "draft captains" selecting the squads on April 10. After the "draft," the captains will have a few hours in which to make trades. The "commissioner," Franchione, will have the right to make any adjustments he feels necessary.

In addition to the visiting high school coaches, among other spectators Thursday was Father Ted Hill, a Roman Catholic priest who was the unofficial chaplain of Alabama football teams in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1990 Father Hill was posted back to his native Ireland, and he saw his first Bama football since the early 1990 season Thursday.

Father Hill's most famous moment may have come in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 1973 season, Alabama vs. Notre Dame. The camera caught him from the side and Keith Jack-son remarked, "There's no doubt who that man's for." Just then, as if on cue, Father Hill turned face towards the camera, revealing the large "Roll Tide" button on his lapel.

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