Good And Bad

Alabama's Wednesday football practice was one of those "good news and bad news" days that took two hands to describe. On the one hand this was good, but on the other hand we've got to improve this. One thing that definitely improved was the weather.

Everyone talks about the weather when it's in the 100-degree range as was the case at Tuesday's Alabama football prctice. On Wednesday the first thing Crimson Tide Coach Mike Shula noted following the two-and-a-half-hour workout in shorts was the roughly 20-degree cooldown with overcast skies and a breeze.

"Obviously, it was a lot cooler today and the guys moved around better," Shula said. "We spent a little bit longer conditioning today than we did yesterday for that reason." But the movement wasn't always good. The coach said, "We were still a little sloppy at times, still a little slow getting lined up. But the tempo was good."

Shula had a relatively long list of players who had good practice days Wednesday, quite a few of them players who had also done well in the first practice on Tuesday.

Quarterback John Parker Wilson was given praise for both days of practice, as were freshmen defensive backs Justin Woodall and Javier Arenas.

"Justin Woodall is an interesting guy," Shula said. "He's got good size and athleticism and it's just a matter of him learning the position." Woodall is working at srong safety where Shula said Rashad Johnson, Marcus Carter and Cory Reamer are also doing well.

The Tide coach said Arenas had another good day at cornerback and that he also caught punts and was "decent" for the first day in that job.

Shula also gave praise for the second consecutive day to wide receivers Will Oakley and Matt Caddell. "You can tell they've really worked hard in the off-season," Shula said. He said that Keith Brown also had a good day Wednesday.

Safety Jeffrey Dukes "was better today," Shula said.

Alabama will step things up a bit Thursday and Friday when the uniform of shorts and helmets is joined by shoulder pads. That serves two purposes, Shula noted.

"That gets us a little more involved in the inside drills," he said. "There's still no tackling, but you get a better idea of the big guys." He sid the other reason coaches don't like to practice without shoulder pads is that players tend to get more and more physical even without the pads and there is a risk of injury.

The graduation in football equipment is mandated by NCAA rule to help players get acclimated. Bama can begin work in full gear on Saturday.

Although it is difficult for the linemen and linebackers to show much until the pads go on, Shula fielded questions on several big guys and was complimentary. He noted that the freshmen were doing "okay. They had more thrown at them today and there were a few more busts (broken assignments) and we have to get those straightened out. But we're not going to go at the pace of the freshmen. We're going to go at the pace of the older guys.

He said that highly-regarded freshman offensive tackle Andre Smith "moves well for a guy over 300 pounds."

He seems pleased with early experimentation at the guard position with Michael Johnson moving from left tackle to number two right guard. The first team right guard the first two days is also a man who has moved, Justin Britt coming over from the defensive line. "The move of Justin Britt has been good so far," Shula said. "He brings some toughness to the position. Physically, he can handle it, but he has to get caught up mentally."

In answer to questions, Shula was complimentary of defensive end Wallace Gilberry and tackles Dominic Lee and Jeremy Clark and linebackers Terrence Jones and Juwan Simpson. He noted that Jones had played well as a back-up for three years and now he had to be the starter and a back-up needed to be found for him. The coach mentioned Zach Schreiber for that second team job.

Alabama is working towards the season-opener at 6 p.m. CDT against Hawaii in Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 2. The Tide will have two scrimmages open to the public at the stadium: Monday, August 14, and Saturday, August 19.

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