Shula Sees New Challenge

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said on Sunday that Saturday night's crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium for Alabama's 41-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe was the loudest he's heard Alabama fans this year, and that his players feed off that.

The coming road trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas offers the Crimson Tide its first chance to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. On the road in the SEC is the definition of a hostile environment, and it will be the case when Alabama plays at Arkansas Saturday at 2:37 p.m. in a game that will be televised nationally by CBS.

"The communication in the huddle is going to have to be sharper than it's been," Shula said Sunday in his normal teleconference. "If one guy hears it wrong you've hurt yourself. You're going to have to look at possibly doing a silent count when you're in the shotgun."

Shula will bring out the artificial crowd noise this week during practice for the first time in John Parker Wilson's tenure as the Tide's starting quarterback. Shula said Wilson needs to "keep playing the way he's been playing" when the Crimson Tide goes on the road.

Crowd noise is one thing, and better talent of the opponent will be another. Darren McFadden had 95 yards on just eight carries against the Tide in Tuscaloosa last year, including a 70-yard touchdown run.

"He's got great speed and he's a big back," Shula said. "He's probably bigger than all of our DBs. I know he was last year. I can't get that out of my mind - the stiff arm on our sideline. He stiff-armed Roman Harper, one our best tacklers and then went the distance.

"We're going to have to get more than one guy around him as fast as we can."

The coming week also calls for considerations for the travel roster. Only 70 players are allowed to travel with the team. That might sound like a lot considering the past week's blowout in which 70 players played, but Shula will have to have plans for backups who haven't played.

"It's definitely going to factor in," he said. We'll look at the ones who are in key backup roles, even if he hasn't been in because of how the starter has done, and on special teams, the guys that are contributing on special teams. There will be more of a discussion of that."

For instance, you would think a backup snapper would have to be on the travel squad, even though he has not played yet. The same is true for a backup punter.

After watching video of Saturday night's game, he said, "I thought KD (Kenneth Darby) ran the ball better. I think each game he's gotten better. I thought the offense adjusted to some of the inside run blitzes we've been seeing better. Now is that because Louisiana-Monroe was not quite as good as Vanderbilt, I don't know, but the important thing is it's better, but run efficiency was better."

Shula noted that for the third week in a row the defense has played good in all but a few sustained drives. Shula said tackling was poor in ULM's 83-yard drive that went for their only score.

"We had some plays to be made and we didn't tackle well," he said. "There was one play we had a blitz on and messed up a blitz against the run. Give the offenses credit, too."

He said that Justin Woodall and Rashad Johnson played well on special teams, and noted the job of Terrence Jones and Demarcus Waldrop did on defense. Waldrop started in place of suspended linebacker Juwan Simpson.

Overall, Shula said he thought the offensive line did well.

"I think one of the goals each and every week is to improve and I think we've improved, Shula said. "I don't think we're quite where we want to be. We were a little better last night in the plus territory. A couple of games in a row we've had some real good field position with our offense and settled for three points or no points, and that is critical. When you get the ball down inside that scoring zone we've got to keep that momentum and score points. That was a little disappointing.?

The team came through the game relatively healthy. "I think we came through okay. I think everyone should be listed as ready to go for this week."

Shula said B.J. Stabler and Marlon Davis would continue to rotate at right guard more to rest Stabler's knee, where he has soreness from time to time where he had arthroscopic surgery in the spring.

"I think we're going to try to do that," Shula said. "That's going to be our goal every game. You have to be careful about giving B.J. too many snaps unless his knee is just feeling really good."


BamaMag Top Stories