Alabama Coach Mike Shula put the Crimson Tide through about a two-hour practice in full gear Thursday, the last heavy work Bama will have in Tuscaloosa in preparation for the Cotton Bowl. The Crimson Tide will return to the practice field for a "Thursday type" practice Friday morning, then be released for Christmas holiday.
Alabama players will reassemble in Dallas Monday and resume practice for the Cotton Bowl. Alabama and Texas Tech, both with 9-2 records, will meet in the 70th annual Cotton Bowl on Monday, January 2. Kickoff will be at 10 a.m. CST with national television coverage by Fox.
Friday's practice is expected to be a brief one.
Shula said he feels better this year about the work than he did last year at this time. "I feel a lot better this year than I did last year," he said. "I think the players do, too. We've gotten some good work in this past week."
In Dallas, after the first practice, Bama workouts will be "a little earlier" to approximate the early kickoff time.
In Dallas, Shula noted that the Tide would have what would have its normal Tuesday and Wednesday practices, then somewhat repeat those practices on Thursday and Friday. The Saturday practice will be a typical Thursday workout and the Sunday walk-through similar to a normal Friday. Bama practices will be at SMU.
Shula said the Tide had a good Thursday practice, although there was some bad news. The head coach announced that sophomore cornerback Simeon Castille, who has been the Tide's nickel back in passing situations this season, would not make the trip because he did not meet Southeastern Conference rules for academic eligibility for a bowl game.
Shula said that Eric Gray could be expected to get work as a back-up to starting cornerbacks Anthony Madison and Ramzee Robinson and that back-up strong safety Jeffrey Dukes, who split time at nickel with Castille in 2004, would be the likely fifth back against the Red Raiders. Alabama can expect to see a lot of passes from Texas Tech, which threw 60 times in its bowl game last year.
Shula also announced that Bobby Greenwood had undergone surgery for a broken hand, suffered in Tuesday's practice. But he said doctors are optimistic Greenwood will be able to play in the bowl game with a padded cast on the hand.
Shula noted that wide receiver Keith Brown, who had not practiced because of a sore hamstring, had been able to practice Thursday and is expected to be full speed for the Cotton Bowl.
As has been the case every day since it was learned that Antoine Caldwell is working at center, Shula was asked about the offensive line. Caldwell, Bama's starting left guard much of the season, and Taylor Britt are working at center. Shula has been coy about what the final alignment might be. He said there were a number of combinations being looked at, including Mark Sanders and Justin Moon at left guard, along with Caldwell and Britt at left guard. He noted that Moon "is one of our hardest competitors."