Curtains previously left open at the entrance gate were pulled taut to obscure the view of walk-ups and signal the seriousness of preparation for Middle Tennessee at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night at 6 p.m. Players weren't available for post-practice interviews because of obligations at a student-advisory board meeting, but Tide Head Coach Mike Shula said his squad's sights were clearly set on the opener.
"We got a real good day of conditioning and we wanted to do that," Shula said. "We're going to pull off the conditioning for the rest of the week. We're full speed into Middle Tennessee and we're still getting some work against each other and that has been great." We'll do that all year."
"They were refreshed and yet we were still a little bit tired. Sometimes that happens, too, when you give them a day off. I think they understand where we're going with our schedule and how we're going to get them ready for Saturday. We had real good work when we went ones on ones."
In the preseason, Shula indicated a willingness to consider using two quarterbacks early in games as an attempt to build depth at that position, and following fall camp Shula said that option is still being weighed.
"It's something that I'll look at heavier than I ever have, as far as possibly getting another guy in there early," he said about the signal-calling spot. "I know other teams have done that. We talked about that over the course of the off-season and we'll talk about it again this week but I'm not going to hold myself to it one way or the other. If we do it, we do it. That guy's got to be ready anyway."
"I think it's something I'm more interested in doing, but I'm not used to having another guy in there early in a game. I've never done that before, so there's a little bit of unknown for me that way. I've seen a lot of coaches do it and it work," he said.
With game preparation in full swing, an eye is also being kept on the impending weather situation that is expected to slam the Louisiana Coast and eventually pass near Tuscaloosa.
"We've gotten a lot of work in already on Middle Tennessee if we have to miss just based on power outage or whatever, we'll make the best out of it," Shula said. "But we do have to talk about that. There's a lot of different scenarios based on the severity of the weather on how we might have to adjust things."
As has been the norm during game week, the squad will take Monday off and practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thurdsay. Friday's walk-through practice will be closed.
The offensive line had its best week last week, and cohesiveness is beginning to form with Antoine Caldwell back in the lineup at left guard and Cody Davis providing depth at left tackle after a hamstring injury. Shula said true freshman Marlon Davis and Mark Sanders were both likely to play at right guard.
"Even though it was a little frustrating early, and we're probably not as far along as group as we would have liked to have been, we're a lot further along as a group than even last week," Shula said.
Shula said Roman Harper (hamstring) and Ramzee Robinson (back), who both just recently returned to action, practiced more than they had previously on Sunday and looked good. Mark Sanders dislocated his finger during practice, but returned to practice later.
Jeremy Schatz was in the orange jersey after being checked out for a heart arrhythmia condition discovered last Tuesday. Shula said he's still waiting for word on Schatz's condition.
"I haven't gotten those (results) back yet," Shula said. "I still haven't talked with the doctors on all that. But he is as of right now, everything I've said, he was going to be questionable for the game and he's that at best right now. I guess I'll hear more today or tomorrow."
Cornerback Eric Gray (hamstring) was also in orange and is questionable for Saturday's game.
Shula covered a list of 48 situations with his team in Friday's mock game with situations ranging from surprise onside kicks to taking a safety to two-point conversions to substitutions and turnovers. The goal of the mock game was to try "to make sure guys get the have the understanding of how important it is to stay in the game at all times because you never know what's going to happen with a quick turnover, or somebody getting hurt, things like that. It was good."
Shula said there are about three or four areas where the starting unit remains to be finalized. Shula said Simeon Castille would start at cornerback and Justin Britt at defensive tackle if the game were today because of additional repetitions in fall camp because of another's injury.
"We'll probably come Tuesday with announcements for some of those other positions," Shula said. "There's a few position we see as, if we could list more starters we'd list them. Both (Britt) and Jeremy (Clark) we consider starters."
Overall, Shula has been pretty happy about his squad's advancement in fall camp.
"We've answered some questions on the depth chart on defense as far as playing time. We've found guys like Marlon Davis on the offense. I think Nick Walker, Travis McCall and Charles Hoke have all gotten better and they'll all see playing time," he said.