But the bottom line as seen by Head Coach Dennis Franchione is probably the most accurate. Franchione, who watched Alabama's previous 14 practices up close and viewed the A-Day Game from the press box, said, "I think we have a chance to have a better football team. I'm always cautiously optimistic, but leaving spring practice I'm thinking we're better than we were last year."
He added, "The team had a great spring." He pointed out that spring practice can be drudgery, but that his squad showed enthusiasm, a good work ethic, and a positive attitude throughout the spring. "I admired the way our guys stepped up," he said.
On Saturday, the Crimson used a strong running game to achieve victory. Ahmaad Galloway was near-unanimous winner of the Dixie Howell Award as he ran 16 times for 107 yard and one touchdown. Shaud Williams added another 95 yards on just eight rushes and got the few votes not awarded to Galloway. (The media also votes on the Dwight Stephenson Most Valuable Lineman, an award that ordinarily goes to a defensive player, but this year it went to Crimson center Alonzo Ephraim.)
Franchione said, "I thought it was a good day, all-in-all. Although we held out some starters because of injuries, I thought our front-line starters did well. Ahmaad Galloway had a good game. Shaud Williams gives us something new. Tailback is a good position for us with Ahmaad, Shaud, Santonio (Beard) and Ray (Hudson)." He added that Bama had implemented the "A-Back" this spring in order to take advantage of the special skills of Williams and Hudson, sometimes along with another tailback.
In addition to rushing yardage, Galloway had three receptions for 44 yards and Williams one catch for 10 yards. Beard and Hudson were the leading rushers for the White team with Beard running 12 times for 66 yards, including a late touchdown to avoid the shutout, and Hudson had six rushes for 53 yards.
The other Crimson touchdown was a nine-yard pass from Spencer Pennington to fullback Nick Signaigo with 30 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Crimson a 13-0 halftime lead.
Pennington completed six of 12 passes for 67 yards, but connected only once to a wide receiver, a four-yarder to Brandon Greer. He had one pass intercepted, a pick by safety Waine Bacon.
Brodie Croyle quarterbacked the White team, hitting seven of 15 passes for 118 yards with one interception. Dre Fulgham was the leading receiver in the game with three catches for 53 yards. However, the most dramatic pass of the game, which led to the White's touchdown, was an excellent 45-yard connection with Lance Taylor. Triandos Luke had a 28-yard catch.
The interception suffered by Croyle was called "a great play by Anthony Madison" by Franchione. It was also an important one as it came early in a scoreless game with the White with a second-and-two at the Crimson eight-yard line. From there the Crimson went 92 yards in nine plays with Galloway going the final 16 for the touchdown.
Tyler Watts, the upcoming senior, quarterbacked the first quarter (including the first three plays of that scoring drive), but his only stats were an "in-the-grasp" sack. Watts was protected from tackles, but redshirt freshmen Croyle and Pennington were somewhat fair game in that they could be tackled, but not below the waist. Franchione said, "I thought it was good to have the quarterbacks in a live situation. They will only gain from that experience. And it's the last time they will have it until the Middle Tennessee State game."
Alabama opens the 2002 season hosting Middle Tennessee on August 31 at Birmingham's Legion Field. The Tide will resume practice in early August.
Franchione said that he thought Croyle's execution had been good Saturday and that Pennington had a good day running and throwing. He added, "It takes a special man to juggle academics and two sports. He'll get on a plane tonight or in the morning and join his baseball teammates in Lexington. He's a fiery competitor and it showed."
While Franchione was not critical of the wide receivers, he said, "We need more consistency. We need them having fewer drops and making more plays."
Franchione said that part of the problem quarterbacks and receivers had Saturday and throughout the spring is the improved play of the secondary. While returning players come in for praise, he mentioned again Saturday that redshirt freshmen cornerbacks Anthony Madison and Charley Peprah and safety Roman Harper "have elevated the play and the competition in the secondary." Still, he said he would "reserve final judgment" on the improvement in the secondary "until the helmets (of the opposition) change color."
There were a couple of missed extra points in the game because of an interesting demand placed by Franchione. Each team had three place-kickers. In order to have a successful point after touchdown, all three kickers had to be successful. Although there were no field goal attempts, had there been points would have been awarded on the basis of how many of the three kickers were successful. It would take all three for three points (That set up the possibility of a team scoring the so-called impossible football number of "one.") The bottom line, said Franchione, is "we still need one to emerge."
Pennington took the Crimson to its 13-0 halftime lead with a 10-play, 76-yard drive. He and Galloway combined on a pair of 18-yard plays. The first was a rushing play in which Pennington went for 12 yards, then pitched back to Galloway who went six more. The second was a pass to Galloway. Galloway kept the march alive with a 13-yard run on third-and-10 and the touchdown pass to Signaigo was set up when Williams sent six yards, then the White got an addition eight yards to the nine on a face mask penalty.
Crimson linebackers Freddie Roach and Brooks Daniels sacked Croyle on a fourth down play that set up a 48-yard touchdown drive. Williams got the final 31 yards of it with a burst up the middle to make it 20-0.
The lone White touchdown came with 2:47 to play in the 10-minute fourth quarter. (The first three quarters were 12 minutes long.) Croyle started the six-play, 78-yard drive with his 45-yard pass to Taylor. Beard finished it with a 10-yard run.
Redshirt freshman Mark Anderson, who converted from defensive end to linebacker this spring, was the leading tackler, turning in seven stops, including one for a loss, for the White. Chris James had six stops for the White. Kenny King and Marvin Brown combined for a sack for the White.
The Crimson was led by safety Roman Harper, who was in on six tackles.
Franchione said, "Last year the offensive line was a concern. As the season wore on we got better and better and our confidence drew and our offensive improved 100 yards per game over the previous year. We're going to expect a lot of them this year, even though three of them are just sophomores. Last year we made improvement on run blocking and we need to make more improvement on pass protection."
Although among those missing the A-Day Game with injuries were defensive ends Kindal Moorehead and Nautyn McKay-Loescher and defensive tackle Jarret Johnson, Franchione said, "I think the defensive line can be a strength for us next year. Kenny King had a wonderful spring. Anthony Bryant made strides. Atlas Herrion (converted from offensive line) had flashes, although we'll decide later if he'll stay on defense. Antwan Odom came back from injury and improved every day."
Franchione said, "Last year at this time we were not yet a team. This year we are. This year our players believe in our coaches. They know our coaches care about them as people and as students, as well as players. Our coaches have been patient and the players have responded. We have a great esprit de corps. I'm very pleased about that."