Shula's Observations

Alabama's football team is not ready to play Hawaii. The good news is that Bama doesn't have to be ready right now. The Crimson Tide will host the Warriors in two weeks, not tonight. Meanwhile, Bama continued making preparations for that game with a Saturday afternoon scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama Coach Mike Shula said, "I thought overall we were better. I talked to the team afterwards and told them we have to make sure that we continue to take strides. We know we aren't there yet, but we're not playing tomorrow; we are playing two weeks from now. As long as we keep making strides, they'll be there. Our plan wasn't to be ready today. "We talked to the team about how things are going to speed up in a hurry. We only have one more two-a-day, which is Monday. Then we've got our last scrimmage on Tuesday and then we start school on Wednesday and start our Hawaii preparation."

Alabama will hold its next practice Sunday evening. The Crimson Tide will hold its final two-a-day practice session on Monday. Bama will go back to Bryant-Denny Stadium Monday night to get accustomed to working under the lights. The Crimson Tide's final scrimmage of fall camp will be Tuesday at the Thomas Field practice facility. Saturday's scrimmage was the final practice of the year open to the public.

Another factor comes into play beginning Wednesday. That's when classes begin at The University. It means an expansion of the practice squad from the 105 currently in camp, but it also means an end to expanded meeting and practice time.

Shula said the Monday work – the last two-a-day – would be very important as the staff will have to hone in on the players who are going to participate against Hawaii, and, therefore, be prepared for that game.

Shula said the team is tired. "But we want them to be tired," he said. "We've worked them hard the past few days. Although it was cooler today, it has been very hot. We'll continue our conditioning in this last week before getting into game week."

He was pleased that the team came out of the scrimmage with no serious injuries.

Shula complimented quarterback John Parker Wilson, but noted that he just missed connecting on some long passes that would have made it a very special day for Bama's sophomore quarterbck, who is expected to have his first college start in the Hawaii game.

Alabama scrimmage without its top two halfbacks, Kenneth Darby (who is at his home in Huntsville for a family matter) and Jimmy Johns (recuperating from a head injury). "That had an effect," Shula said.

Although back-ups Roy Upchurch, Ali Sharrief, and Terry Grant got work at halfback, it was a scrimmage in which passing was featured. Shula was pleased with the work of returning starting wide receiver Keith Brown. He also said that D.J. Hall, who missed the Cotton Bowl and summer work in Tuscaloosa, was back nearly to 100 per cent from a conditioning standpoint.

Shula noted that passes went to a number of receivers Saturday, including to three different tight ends. He said he still didn't have a clear picture of which young wide receivers might contribute this year. He said freshmen Mike McCoy, Earl Alexander, and Jake Jones lack consistency.

Shula is pleased with Alabama's depth in the offensive line, even though he pointed out "We're beat up there now." He also said he was sure some of the young offensive linemen would be redshirted. But he said from a depth standpoint – not necessarily a quality standpoint – the offensive line depth is the best it has been.

Shula said pass protection by the line has improved, that the fullbacks have been good, but that the halfbacks need to improve. "We had a chance to complete some long balls today, and to have that opportunity protection has to be good," he said.

"Some of those young guys are starting to look good, then they get hurt," he said.

One who has not been hurt is left tackle Andre Smith. Although Shula isn't ready to pronounce Smith a starter, he said, "Andre is right in the mix. We have healthy competition with Chris Capps and Kyle Tatum." He noted Tatum had returned from the injured list to participate Saturday.

Shula said the first defense had a good day. He was pleased with tackling by the secondary, said weakside linebacker Juwan Simpson had his best day of fall camp, and noted that end Wallace Gilberry, coming back from a "stinger" injury did well.

Second team cornerback Chris Rogers, who had an excellent pass break-up on a well-thrown Wilson-to-Brown pass at the goalline, "has really had a good camp. He has come a long way in a year. He's probably the hardest working guy on this team, on the field and in the classroom."

Shula said Bama needs more work on aspects of special teams play. He did compliment the punting of P.J. Fitzgerald.


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