Good First Day

There was a new assistant coach, a handful of new players, a few position changes, and some unexpected injury news. But as Alabama got spring football practice underway Friday, the main thing Crimson Tide Coach Mike Shula was starting to look for were new starters. Bama lost nine men who had been two- or three-year starters from the 2005 team.

Although most of those lost to graduation were on defense, it was one of the two offensive positions where a new starter must be found that draws most of the attention. Shula said that sophomore quarterback John Parker Wilson, who is starting out number one to replace Brodie Croyle, "did a good job throwing the ball. And at times he made good decisions."

Shula has said that the quarterback must throw to the right receiver, and then deliver the ball accurately and on time.

"Whoever is the quarterback is going to be young, or at least not have a lot of experience," Shula said.

The Tide coach said that Wilson, an upcoming sophomore, "had a decent day," but said the offense had too many interceptions, too many turnovers. In Alabama's 10-2 season of 2005, the Crimson Tide led the Southeastern Conference in fewest turnovers.

Alabama was in shorts as mandated by NCAA rules. The Tide will return to the practice field Saturday morning with parents of the players invited to the workout. The Saturday practice will also be in shorts. Bama goes into full gear Tuesday. The Crimson Tide will conclude spring practice on April 1 with the A-Day Game.

"This was a pretty good first day," Shula said. "I thought the tempo and enthusiasm from our guys was real good. We have a lot of positions that are open, nine positions specifically. We've talked to our guys about leadership, about having young guys step up."

Shula said, "We have to get used to reacting faster and playing better as a group. We're not a fast team right now."

Safety Jeffrey Dukes and linebackers Juwan Simpson and Terrence Jones were singled out for defensive work. Shula said Dukes "had two or three interceptions."

On offensive Shula noted that all of the experienced running backs–halfbacks Kenneth Darby and Jimmy Johns and fullbacks Le'Ron McClain andTim Castille–had performed well.

David Turner, who was hired to replace Paul Randolph as defensive ends coach, was on the job for his first day on the field. Shula said that Turner would also work with David Ungerer coaching special teams.

There were a few injuries with running back Glen Coffee out indefinitely with a pelvic injury, wide receiver Will Oakley suffering a hamstring injury, and linebacker Juwan Simpson turning an ankle "right at the end of practice," Shula reported.

There was also news about previously injured players. Roy Upchurch, a running back who missed all last season after having surgery for a foot injury, was back at work. And Shula said that Justin Britt, a co-starter at defensive tackle last year who is recovering from late season shoulder surgery, would work at offensive guard this spring.

Shula stressed that Britt's move "is not set in stone." He said that Britt, whose older brothers, Wes and Taylor, were offensive linemen for the Tide, would take part in drills, but would "miss about all the contact work." He said, "We're just going to look at him in the spring."

The most publicized position change going into spring was wide receiver Ezekial Knight moving to defensive end. Shula said, "He showed some good athleticism. It's going to take time, but I'm excited (about the move)."

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