Shula On A-Day

A given is that players think spring football practice lasts too long and that coaches wish it could go longer. Mike Shula is on the side of the coaches now, but can remember 20 years earlier when he would have been in agreement with the players.

Alabama completed its 15 days of spring practice Saturday with the annual A-Day Game, which was an offense vs. defense scrimmage. And Coach Mike Shula said he wished it could continue because the Crimson Tide had momentum in the final week of practice.

Shula said, "In general, the older guys did a good job of going out and playing. We had good leadership. We had a great Thursday practice and then today. We have to build on this."

"I thought it was a good way to end spring practice," he said. "And what a good crowd. It was the best we've had. I can't say enough about our fans. I told our players we have great fans who are interested. And I think we showed our fans some good things."

Shula said, "The effort was good and the execution was good–real good–at times. For the most part the young guys kept their poise in front of a crowd."

And one of the most important things for Alabama. "No one was seriously injured," he said. He also gave an update on back-up quarterback Marc Guillon, who missed the game after suffering a knee injury in Thursday's scrimmage. He said Guillon should be able to resume workouts in June "or earlier."

He said, "Offensively, the first group moved the ball okay. But turnovers can be critical. (Quarterback) John Parker Wilson had two mistakes; otherwise he had a nice game. But as I told him, if he makes two mistakes that cost a game, that's all anyone will be talking about. It won't matter about the good things he did."

Shula said that Wilson needs "to continue his leadership mindset and his worth ethic. Physically, I think he needs to continue to get stronger with his arm and quicker with his feet. But what a quarterback has to do is make good decisions. That's hard to improve when you're not practicing, but he can do things in watching tapes."

The Tide coach was pleased with the day by wide receiver D.J. Hall. "D.J. had a nice day," the coach said. "The best thing about him this spring is that he has been competing for the ball."

Hall missed Alabama's Cotton Bowl win to cap the 10-2 2005 season. The upcoming junior was held out for disciplinary reasons. Shula said, "Guys make mistakes and have to be accountable. And when that happens, they have to show me and their teammates and the coaches they are going to do things right."

Shula said that defensive end Wallace Gilberry did a good job on pass rush. "He would have had a couple of sacks without the quick whistle," Shula said. Also getting praise was walk-on safety Bryan Kilpatrick, who had two interceptions. "He had a great day," Shula said.

And placekicker Jamie Christensen, who was good on two long field goals, a good day that capped a strong spring for the junor.

Shula said his biggest concern following the game is the turnovers. "We didn't have many last season. But we're not going to coach negatively, ‘Don't make mistakes.'"

A big question for Alabama is the offensive line, and Shula said he thinks the unit is ahead of where it was last year and the best it has been at this point in his three springs. "And we should be with four of five starters back," he said. "But we still have only one senior. We're going to be back to 85 (the overall scholarship limit allowed) this year, but we'll still be very young. We had a good mix of run and pass today and I thought the offensive linemen stayed on their blocks a little longer and protection was a little better."

Shula said that one area of need going into the fall will be depth at wide receiver. He noted that Nikita Stover and Will Oakley, who had pulled muscles in the spring, should be ready to go in August.

Shula noted that things have gone fast with the Cotton Bowl game played January 2, followed by off-season conditioning work, then spring practice. The team will get a week off, then have a month of strength and conditioning work before taking a couple of weeks off following the completion of the spring semester. Virtually the entire team will be on campus beginning in June for the summer off-season program.

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