Let's Get Started

So much to do and so little time. That's the way every head football coach in America is probably thinking as fall camp gets underway. A few major colleges began work last week and most will be underway early this week in preparation for the 2006 season. For Alabama that first game is less than four weeks away.

Alabama will have 28 practices before hosting Hawaii at Bryant-Denny Stadium at 6 p.m. CDT Saturday, September 2. The first of those practices begins Tuesday afternoon. There will be five days of one-a-day practices, the first three in shorts only, as players are acclimated (my NCAA rule) to the return of football practice.

After those first five days, a team may have two practices every other day. Alabama's two-practice days will be next Sunday, August 13, then Tuesday, August 15, Thursday, August 17, Saturday, August 19, and Monday, August 21. Scrimmages at Bryant-Denny are planned for Monday, August 14, and Saturday, August 19.

Classes at The University begin August 23. That marks two events: 1.) The end of the opportunity for two-a-day practices, and 2.) an opportunity to expand the roster.

A team may open fall camp with no more than 105 players. That ordinarily includes all the scholarshipped players, including the newcomers, as well as a number of walk-ons, most of them returning players but possibly a few new men. Bama ordinarily does not let its squad get much above 120, in part because it clutters practice and in part because ir raises Title IX issues on the number of sports opportunities for men and women. (Rest assured, though, if football needed more men to adequately prepare, Alabama would find another way to compensate for Title IX.)

While official reporting day is Monday and the first day of practice Tuesday, Alabama's players (like players everywhere) have been working almost since the end of last year's Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech to prepare for 2006. There was off-season work, then spring practice, then summer work with new signees joining returning players for most of the unsupervised summer workouts.

Most interest is on the players as practice begins. But Alabama's coaches have not been idle. Head Coach Mike Shula and his staff have prepared practice plans and scouting reports on early season opponents. And while there is a limit as to how quickly a team can get prepared in the first days of fall camp, it can go a little quicker than might be expected. Returning players will be expected to have retained most of what has previously been learned from last fall and/or spring practice and newcomers will be counted on to have a quick learning curve.

Any team with a new quarterback has as a priority getting that quarterback as much quality work as possible and as quickly as possible. So sophomore John Parker Wilson will get the repetitions. Shula has said that he expects senior Marc Guillon to be the top back-up, with redshirt freshman Jimmy Barnes behind him and true freshman Greg McElroy fourth.

Wide receiver spots are areas of interest with Tyrone Prothro almost certain to miss 2006. But D.J. Hall, who was the rare absentee from summer work as he returned to his home, is expected back. He's listed as one of the players who will be available for media interviews Monday afternoon.

It will be interesting to see how the offensive line shakes out. Justin Britt is moving from defensive line to offensive line and has been listed by credible sources as both a right guard and left guard. B.J. Stabler has been rumored to be working at right tackle as well as right guard, where he started last year. Incoming freshman Andre Smith is one who will get an opportunity to be in the playing rotation at offensive tackle.

Kick return spots are open and at least one freshman, Javier Arenas, is almost sure to be a top candidate.

And one of the most important components of the 2006 Alabama team will be the secondary—be it a normal four-man or be it a nickel (five man) or dime (six men) package as the Tide prepares for pass-happy Hawaii.

And that opening game, which most think can't get here soon enough, will be here very quickly for coaches and players.

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