Practice Changes

Something was missing in Alabama's football practices this week. Pads. And while it is unusual for Bama to go out without shoulder pads on Tuesday or Wednesday, that was the procedure this week as the Crimson Tide prepared for Auburn.

Alabama Coach Mike Shula said, "We're a little beat up. We want our guys feeling fresh. There's good and bad in it. When you don't go out in pads, it's easy for guys to lose their edge. But we're a veteran team, particularly on defense, so they can handle that."

The coach added, "If we win it was a good decision, and if we lose it was a bad decision."

Alabama is preparing for the final regular season game of the year. The Crimson Tide, 9-1 overall and 6-1 in Southeastern Conference play, will be at Auburn (8-2, 61) Saturday. Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. CST with national television coverage by CBS. Alabama is ranked eighth in the nation and Auburn 11th.

Something else was different about Alabama practice. For the second straight day the Crimson Tide worked in its indoor facility. The practice lasted just under two hours Wednesday. Bama was working with crowd noise and Shula noted that the noise "is even louder in here."

Shula said the changes weren't to make the practices special for the Auburn game. "It may do that a little bit," he said. "But we communicate with our team. We tell them what we're going to do, why we're doing it, and how we want them to respond."

Weakside linebacker Juwan Simpson, who had to leave last Saturday's game with a sprained ankle, has been back on the practice field this week. "I think he's going to be ready to go," Shula said.

"We've had two solid practices," Shula said following the Wednesday work. "With a game like this, you just try to reinforce, with the young guys especially, how important it is to prepare and go over their stuff, because you don't know, there might be younger guys called upon to come in and play because of an injury or play because a coach feels like he's ready to play.

"I talk about the younger guys because I feel like the older guys understand that. You don't want to have any regrets after this game as far as ‘I wish I'd have prepared better,' or something like that. We've been good with that all year. You just want to make sure you keep hammering it home each week, especially this one."

It was noted that Alabama has a number of younger players and that some of the nation's top teams are heavy with seniors and fourth-year juniors. Shula said his young players "keep showing up every day. They have been busting it and they are getting better every day."

So how do you build a veteran team?

Shula said, "Keep practicing hard, coaching hard, playing hard, and recruiting hard."

Reporters noticed a tennis ball machine in the indoor facility. Shula said, "Yeah, we've all read how that helps receivers. We've been using it for four or five weeks." He added, "I even saw Freddie Roach using it." Roach is Alabama's senior linebacker who leads the team with eight passes broken up, at least half of which probably should have been interceptions.

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