Andre's Coming

Andre's coming. Well, at least it seems that way to the amateur eye, which sees freshman offensive lineman Andre Smith getting more and more time with Alabama's first offense at left tackle. And that would seem to be a good thing.

Although everything wasn't good about Alabama's Wednesday practice, one could hardly help but notice the continuation of an offensive line trend of recent days. That's 2005 starting left tackle Chris Capps working at right tackle and freshman Andre Smith getting a lot of repetitions with the first offense at left tackle.

Alabama has four offensive line starters returning from last year. Capps was thje 2005 left tackle, Kyle Tatum the right tackle, B.J. Stabler the right guard, and Antoine Caldwell the center (although he was left guard most of the season). The new man in the five-man front has been Justin Britt, who has taken over at left guard. But now it appears that the 6-5, 333-pound Smith–the nation's top offensive line prospect last year–is living up to his hype and could also move into that front five.

Alabama's coaches are cautious when discussing Smith, but Head Coach Mike Shula said following Wednesday's practice, "Andre is pushing Chris. And Chris has the ability to play right tackle, too."

Not to get too far ahead, but a scenario in which Smith is the left tackle and Capps is the right tackle would probably put Capps in the swing position, alternating in for Smith, with Tatum taking back over. Cody Davis is also in the mix as a likely player. Further behind are Drew Davis and Taylor Pharr.

Shula was not thrilled with Wednesday's practice. "Today's practice actually started pretty good, but it was real sloppy at the end," said. "We had some penalties and some mental errors. We just had too many mistakes, especially with our veteran players, so it didn't end quite as well as we wanted."

Alabama will practice twice Thursday, once Friday, and twice Saturday, with the second Saturday practice an open-to-the-public scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium beginning at 3:30 p.m. That is the only remaining practice that will be open to the public.

Alabama is 17 days away from its season-opening game. The Tide will host Hawaii at 6 p.m. CDT Saturday, September 2, at Bryant-Denny.

Shula said that part of the reason for mistakes may have been that a lot is being installed. He also acknowledged from a question that it's hot. "But," he said, "it still shouldn't happen."

The late part of Bama's two-=and-a-half hour practice in full gear was team work in plus territory. "We need the work, particularly on offense," Shula said. "The effort was good, but we need to not make the mistakes."

He said he knows more about his team than he did when practice began nine days earlier. "But we need to keep working," he said.

He said the offensive line has improved. "I think we're going to be able to run the football," Shula said. "And in the (Monday) scrimmage pass protection was better. We're seeing signs of improvement."

Shula said the defense is "eager, but they have to know what they are doing. Last year we had a defense that worked well together. Right now we just need to make sure that we're all doing our job and then it will come together."

He said that backup outside linebackers Zach Schreiber, Travis Sikes, and Eryk Anders "need to step up." He said Schreiver was a little ahead since Anders and Sikes are working at a new positions. Anders was formerly a defensive end and Sikes a safety.

He said the three should play on special teams. He also expects safety Justin Woodall to be on special teams, as well as in the secondary. "He runs like a safety and hits like a linebacker," Shula said.

The coach noted that while placekicker Jamie Christensen is on the mend that freshman Leigh Tiffin is kicking with the first unit and Andrew Friedman with the second group.


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