It has been a hot pre-season camp, and Alabama Coach Mike Shula, speaking after the Monday morning practice in full gear, noted "It was a hot morning." The Crimson Tide was to work in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets in its evening practice to mark the end of two-a-days.
At 2:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday, Bama will go to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the third and final scrimmage of the pre-season. The scrimmage will be open to the public, the final open practice of training camp.
Classes at The University begin Wednesday. That means the beginning of the six-day work week and timed practices and limited meeting time. It also means that additional returning and new players may be permitted to join the squad. Prior to the beginning of classes teams are limited to 105 participants. Alabama ordinarily does not add a large number of additional players at the start of school.
Wednesday's practice will be the beginning of the Crimson Tide beginning preparation for the opening game against Middle Tennessee State. Bama will host MTSU in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 3. The game is sold out, but will be available on a Pay-Per-View basis through most Alabama cable systems and on satellite receivers.
A handful of players were back in full gear Monday, and Shula hopes that more will return to action this week.
The position with perhaps the biggest change Monday was defensive end with both starter Mark Anderson and top back-up Chris Harris returning to full gear participation. Middle linebacker Juke King has also returned, and he's returned to stiff competition behind Freddie Roach and battling surprising walk-on Matt Collins and freshman Prince Hall.
On the offensive line, tackle Cody Davis saw his first full gear work of camp.
Cornerback Travis Robinson was scheduled to return Monday night with starting safety Roman Harper back by mid-week, offensive guard Antoine Caldwell expected back by late-week, and starting cornerback Ramzee Robinson "hopefully soon" Shula said.
Shula said an examination of videotapes of last Saturday's scrimmage didn't change the overall picture, that the defense had won the day. But he saw some good things by the offense, albeit things that were negated by errors. For instance, a player runs a good pass route and achieves separation, the offensive line protects the quarterback, the quarterback makes a good pass, and…the usually sure-handed receiver drops the ball. That means three things were done well, but the play is a minus because one phase is not executed.
"We've got to throw and catch better," he said. He also noted that the scrimmage was "not as good at the end as we'd like it to be."
He named some players who did well in the scrimmage, including back-up defensive tackle J.P. Adams, back-up linebacker Terrence Jones (who had been out last week with full body cramps), and freshman strong safety Cory Reamer. Shula noted that Reamer had a chance to make two interceptions in the scrimmage. "He didn't make them, but he was heads up to be there," the coach said. Freshman cornerback Lionel Mitchell "had a really good day," Shula said.
He noted that walk-on middle linebacker Matt Collins "is in the mix. He gives us some more toughness inside."
Shula said that freshman halfback Roy Upchurch "was a little better. He can be better, still. He needs to turn it loose more. But he had some good runs."
He added, "Jimmy Johns is a physical guy with good size and good speed. He can make things happen." Johns, who came to Alabama as a quarterback, worked at halfback and is expected to be on special teams.
He noted that sometimes the "second offense" was really a combination of seconds and thirds going against the first defense. "That's tough competition," he said.
Shula said no determination had been made on how many true freshmen might play this year. Prior to the start of camp he thought "about eight," and had revised it up to double digits. He said he thought it would probably be "10 or 11, but the parameters are probably 8-12." He added, "We won't make a public announcement on which freshmen might be redshirted, but we have some guys in mind."
Shula said the defense had another good day Monday.
He said the Tide worked on a number of different drills–"plus territory, blitz drills, where the offense is backed up and defense tries to keep them from making a first down, and the end of the game period, where the offense is trying to keep the ball away, make first downs and stay in bounds. There was some real good competition there."
Shula said, "Our football team is getting in good shape. We are a little bit tired right now, but compared to last year or the year before, I think we are in much better shape and I think that is going to pay off for us."