Lowe's Career Ends

The medical report was the big news after Alabama's first day of football practice with the fall camp squad, and the worst of that news is that Donnie Lowe, Bama's starting fullback last year, has had to give up playing. Lowe, who missed time last fall and again in the spring with concussions, did not pass his physical examination, ending his career. He is expected to remain at Alabama on a medical scholarship, which does not count against scholarship numbers.

There was also a scare during the Friday morning practice session as defensive tackle Ahmad Childress, a junior college transfer, overheated. Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said Childress was taken to the hospital as a precaution. Childress was back on the practice field sidelines for the evening practice and Franchione said it is possible Childress will be able to return to practice as early as Saturday.

Also missing or limited in work were linebacker Jason Rawls, who has had a stomach virus for a few days, and wide receiver Antonio Carter and defensive end Todd Bates, both recovering from off-season surgery.

In addition to Friday being the first day of practice for the entire fall camp squad, it was the last day of summer school final examinations for a number of players. The morning practice started late in order to allow some 25 players to take a morning examination. The afternoon practice went about two hours. The players were in helmets and shorts. Full gear work does not begin until Tuesday.

Franchione called the workout "a good first day. We got a lot done," he said. By way of contrast from last year, Franchione's first as head coach at Alabama, he said, "At the end of practice we worked on our two-minute drill. Last year we didn't get to that until the sixth or seventh day of two-a-days." He said the squad showed "great carryover" from last year.

The Tide coach also noted the competitive nature of the first practice, particularly when first offensive and defensive lines were pitted against one another, giving them the opportunity to work on sophisticated aspects of line play, including stunts and twists.

Although the loss of Lowe is not insignificant, it was also not unexpected, Franchione said. "We knew it ]was a possibility, so it was not a surprise," the coach said. He said that freshman Greg McLain, who had been working at linebacker and at tight end in the two days of work the freshmen had before the rest of the squad reported, would be moved to fullback.

Ironically, in his pre-practice address to the media Thursday, Franchione had mentioned that Alabama would be using a new "safe" helmet and noted that Lowe would be one of those wearing the new headgear.

One factor easing the loss of Lowe is that in the spring Alabama created a new position, "W," which is a hybrid of fullback and weakside tight end. Theo Sanders, a back-up tight end last year, is the top man at "W" with redshirt freshman Clint Johnston moving up to number two behind him.

A team is allowed to have 105 men on its roster prior to the start of classes (August 21 in Alabama's case). Bama will be allowed to bring in another player to take Lowe's spot on the roster.

Alabama had a new student coach on the field Friday. Neal Thomas, Bama's placekicker the past two years, was working with the Crimson Tide's three placekickers (Brian Bostick, Mike McLaughlin, and Michael Ziifle). Franchione said, "Neal knows all the technical aspects, and he also has a great demeanor and the respect of those guys, so they'll listen to him."

Alabama will have shorts practices again Saturday and Monday. The Tide is working towards the season-opener on August 31 against Middle Tennessee State in Birmingham's Legion Field. Kickoff will be at 11:30 a.m. CDT with regional television coverage by Jefferson Pilot.

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