Straight Ahead Shula

The college football nation has an eye on Alabama after the Tide's 31-3 victory over fifth-ranked Florida that moved the Tide to 5-0 overall, 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference Saturday night, and the Crimson Tide has an open week to revel in the dominating performance before going on the road to face Ole Miss.

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said Sunday that he's expecting the same leadership that got the Crimson Tide to 5-0 to maintain the squad's focus in the second half of the season.

"Am I worried about it? I'm not sure," Shula said when asked about the perils of the possibility of lagging concentration. "I feel good about our seniors and the leadership they've shown. In this uncharted territory be focused and be as disciplined as they have been."

"We were hoping to get off to a start like this and our guys have responded. The confidence that we thought it would give our football team will help us."

There is potential for Saturday night's win to be more significant that just one game or one year. Scores of top-rated high school prospects witnessed the romp of the upstart Gators, and the passion for football in Bryant-Denny Stadium. It couldn't have hurt Bama's recruiting efforts.

"The whole atmosphere- once you got on the campus and found out what football means to our fans, how our players responded to the enthusiasm and how our fans responded to them. It's an incredible atmosphere. Hopefully some of these guys can see that and feel good about putting themselves in a crimson jersey."

Of course there was one sour note. Alabama will enter the second half of the season without the multi-threat of Tyrone Prothro, the Heflin native who broke two bones in his leg in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's game. Prothro had surgery Saturday night, and is out for the rest of the year.

"It was similar to Wesley Britt's (injury) a couple of years ago. It's going to be a while yet for his rehab," Shula said. "He's not going to be back this year but hopefully during spring practice we can see where he is and go from there."

In addition to lining up at receiver, tailback and quarterback in the Tide offense, Prothro was Bama's best punt and kickoff returner. He had a touchdown called back due to a questionable penalty Saturday night. Shula said several candidates will be used to fill in for Prothro in difference roles.

"In (punt and kickoff returns) probably DJ Hall has been the guy that has been the number two guy in both," Shula said. "Matt Caddell, Keith Brown and Brandon Brooks are also there. At the wide receiver spot Ezekial Knight's role will pick up. We'll still have a good rotation with at least four guys."

As for the off week, Alabama will work out and have a light walk-through on Sunday, take off on Monday and practice Tuesday through Friday.

"We do a self-scout of all three of our systems: offense, defense and special teams," Shula said. "We look at some personnel, look at how we can look at some guys either down the road this year or in the future, after that. We'll get at least one good day in, probably two in our preparation for Ole Miss."

Alabama second-half slate includes games at Ole Miss, Tennessee, Utah State, at Mississippi State, LSU and at Auburn.

"Overall it's good to have the bye week and get rested up a bit," Shula said. "Obviously it was difficult to lose Prothro, but we have to move on and other guys are going to have to step up."

Alabama was ranked 10th in the USA Today Coaches Poll Sunday, with the AP and other polls expected out later Sunday.

"We feel like there's so much work left to be done," Shula said. "The biggest things the wins have done for us is given us confidence that we're going to need for second half of the season. As far as the polls, the only reaction is that it gives us a chance to get to where we want to go. Hopefully if you have success it's going to put you at the top toward the end of the year where we want to be."


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