Alabama Picks Up the Pace

After a "tired" practice on Tuesday and a good workout on Wednesday in shorts and shoulder pads the week of the biggest game of the season to date the Crimson Tide football team will have tomorrow off – from school.

No, it's not a special perk given to the athletes, but a fall break which suspends classes at the University of Alabama on Thursday and Friday. Because of the out-of-class day, the Bama football team will move up its Thursday practice time.

"We can kind of get the best of both worlds – letting them sleep in a little bit and getting them off their feet a little bit earlier before Saturday," Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said. "It comes at a good time. We've got to play catch-up a little bit because they had a week off to prepare."

Alabama plays the Tennessee Vols Saturday afternoon at 2:34 p.m. in Knoxville's Neyland Stadium. The CBS nationally-televised game features four of the top wide receivers in the country, including two of the top-five combinations nationwide. Alabama's duo of Keith Brown and DJ Hall currently rank second in the country with a combined 1,116 yards and 12th with 66 catches. Tennessee features the duo with the fourth highest receiving yards for the season, Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain, who have teamed up for 1,053 yards.

Brown and Hall are both on the mend from injuries. Hall has been nursing a bruised shoulder which got banged again last Saturday against Ole Miss, and Brown strained his left knee. Hall returned to the game, and logged more practice time than Brown this week. Halfback Jimmy Johns missed the second half of last Saturday's game with a sprained ankle, but Shula said Wednesday evening that all three are likely to play Saturday.

"They're still limited in practice, but I think all three of them will play right now," Shula said. "We just kind of took it easy on (Brown) because he's a wide receiver and they are doing a lot of running."

Johns, who is on three different special teams units, practiced with all the units on Wednesday, and Shula said "we hope he can" play on all the special teams in addition to running back on Saturday.

Former Tide Coach Gene Stallings, who led Alabama to the 1992 national championship, was at practice today. "It's good to see Coach Stalling," Shula said, adding that the coach didn't speak to the team, but "just wishes us all good luck and lets us know that he's rooting hard for us."


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