Developing Situations

Mike Shula is protective of his players, which means we rarely, if ever, get full disclosure regarding player discipline: punishments, suspensions and the like. So there's no surprise we had heard nothing from the fourth-year Crimson Tide coach in the case of D.J. Hall.

I caught up to him leaving his office Thursday, following the conclusion of Alabama's heavily attended camps, and he addressed Hall and various other topics.

Shula unequivocally stated Hall will be back with the team in the fall. We still don't know what all has gone on with the rising junior receiver, whose presence is desperately needed by an offense in transition.

The last six months have been full of peaks and valleys for Hall. He was suspended for the Cotton Bowl for an academic-related issue, though it was apparently not his grades. Hall bounced back from that personal setback and had a big spring. His playmaking was wildly apparent in the A-Day Game as he beat top-notch corner Simeon Castille for a pair of touchdowns and earned MVP honors.

Hall has the upside to be one of the best receivers in the Southeastern Conference.

Word is he's attending to family issues while spending the summer at home in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., but we don't know if they're his issues or his family's. The angst of Alabama fans who worry he won't be back with the team is understandable. Without him the Bama offense would drop significantly in firepower, similar to its loss of pop without Tyrone Prothro.

Shula and star linebacker Juwan Simpson have met and discussed some of his disciplinary requirements based on his traffic-stop arrest back in May. We can assume the punishment Simpson already knows about is the physical part, as in extra running and the like.

What we don't know is the length of a suspension, if any, Simpson might face. Shula would not enlighten on that issue, and even said, "Oh, I don't know about that" when I asked if missing a game or games was a given.

I contend the charges were serious enough to warrant a multi-game suspension. Even though his receiving stolen property charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, carrying around a handgun is serious business and dangerous stuff. I have more tolerance for the misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge, as I remember going through college. Yet there's still a price to pay for breaking the rules.

I like Simpson. He's been one of my favorite players to interview since he showed up on campus. I hate it for him that he lost a chance to represent the Crimson Tide at SEC Media Days and he lost whatever chance he had at winning the Lott Trophy for which he was on the watch list.

What Simpson can do this season is try to reassert his NFL potential while taking a greater leadership role on the defense.

A potentially great Tide linebacker was lost, however, when Shula finally got fed up with Chris Keys and gave him the boot.

Keys has vast potential, but he was also the biggest risk Shula has signed in his three classes. Based on comments from people close to the program, Keys was an agitator who couldn't stay out of fights with his teammates. He might go on to be a stud – and somebody else's headache – somewhere, but for Alabama's case, this might be addition by subtraction.

Jim Wells has gone underground when it comes to public commentary on his candidacy for the LSU job.

Some folks around campus thought Wells was on the brink of pulling his name from consideration on Wednesday after the 12th-year Tide baseball coach met extensively with AD Mal Moore. But Wells didn't pull his name Wednesday or Thursday, leading us to believe he's committed to hearing LSU AD Skip Bertman's best pitch for this job.

Those Tide fans who are infuriated with Wells' seeming intention of hearing Bertman out should chill out. Wells is a Louisiana native and a Bertman protégé, and he deserves to make a thorough examination of this job. Case closed.

I think some Alabama fans get livid over the prospect of losing a top-shelf coach to a division rival, and there may be self-image issues at play.

I have always enjoyed covering Wells' teams and being a party to his high-I.Q., bone-dry humor.

It's my personal belief that bunting with his three-hole hitter in the first inning was way too conservative, but it doesn't change my feeling that he's a sharp mind and an excellent, but tough, coach. As many a former, and current, player will tell you, you've got to have tough skin to play for Wells, but he's going to make you better.

My guess at this point: Wells is 65-35 for staying at Alabama, but if this situation stretches into the middle of next week, it will be closer to 50-50.

Ed. Note: Thomas Murphy is the Alabama beat writer for the Mobile-Press Register. He writes a weekly column for

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