Alabama vs. Alabama

Alabama is preparing for Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl, but part of the Crimson Tide's practice is not specific to getting ready for the Red Raiders. Bama Coach Mike Shula is also giving his football team some Alabama vs. Alabama work, scrimmage work that includes the first team offense against the first team defense.

Alabama's two-hour workout in full gear Tuesday included scrimmage time with the first offense against the first defense, the second offense against the second defense, and "the young guys at the end," Coach Mike Shula said. It pronounced the practice as "okay."

"That was Alabama against Alabama," he said. "That's to get us playing at (game) speed and tackling. We wanted to get some tackling in. It has been awhile since we were live."

Still, Shula said, "We've got a lot of the stuff in for Texas Tech."

Alabama, 9-2, will meet Texas Tech, 9-2, in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on January 2. The game will be televised by Fox with kickoff at 10 a.m. CST.

Bama will not go on the practice field Wednesday. The Tide will have a day of lifting and meetings, then return for a Thursday practice and a shorter Friday workout. Shula said the Thursday and Friday workouts would offer an opportunity to repeat some of the work that has been done. Additionally, the staff is evaluating and Shula said there could be game plan changes, things added or taken out.

After a break for Christmas the team will reassemble in Dallas on December 26 and resume preparation on December 27.

A bowl game is a reward for the players, and the Cotton Bowl has long been considered one of the most enjoyable of bowl games for players and staff, as well as fans. Shula said that after practice each day in Dallas the players would be involved in "early evening" functions, then have free time. He said there would be a curfew that would get earlier as game day approached. And, he said, "We'll have local (Dallas) people talk to the players about where they should go and where they should not go."

Although having a bowl game does not mean that a team gets "an extra spring practice," as has often been suggested, the additional work time is valuable for a football team's future. Shula said, "Even though we had more practices last year, the way we are practicing this year the younger guys are getting about as much work. At the end of the practice we are not just scrimmaging them. We are giving them work in individual drills, run drills, and pass drills. And these young guys are also getting reps to spell the older guys in practice."

This is the first work on Alabama schemes many of the scout team players have had since game preparation began in August, Shula said.

The Tide coach said that redshirt freshman quarterback Jimmy Barnes, who has been the scout team quarterback most of the year, "had one of his best days Monday," but said Barnes wasn't quite as good Tuesday. Shula noted that Barnes reported in August having been ill with mononucleosis, which had robbed the freshman from California of energy. The coach said Barnes needs to have a good off-season.

Shula said that he had been impressed with scout team defensive linemen and linebackers and on offense with center Evan Cardwell, tackle Mike Johnson, halfback Theo Townsend, and Trent Dean, who worked at both quarterback and wide receiver.

Shula said that wide receiver Keith Brown missed a second day of work with a sore hamstring. Freshman defensive end Bobby Greenwood suffered a hand injury in Tuesday's practice. Middle linebacker Matt Collins has been out with illness and a sore knee.

Every day Shula is asked about progress at center, where Taylor Britt and Antoine Caldwell are both working. Britt replaced J.B. Closner at the end of the season after Closner suffered a broken leg. Caldwell was a starting guard who may move to center in the future. Shula said they are "still doing a good job."

Several players have been rumored to be academically ineligible for the Cotton Bowl. Shula said, "I have no announcements yet on who may or may not be going to the game. When I have that information, I will announce it."

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