Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione had predicated the scrimmage on having good practice sessions Tuesday, and following the Tuesday evening workout in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads he said that Bama has had eight good practices to lead up to the scrimmage.
The Tide coach said he would be looking for certain things in the scrimmage. He said certain players would be tested. "Obviously, I'm not talking about guys like Tyler Watts and Santonio Beard," he said. He also said he would be watching the defense for full speed tackling effectiveness.
"Honestly, you expect the first scrimmage to be a little rough, and you expect it to be not quite as physical as you want," Franchione said. "You hope it won't be like that, but it usually is."
He said the scrimmage would be about 90 plays, pretty much equally divided between first teamers, second teamers, and third teamers, although there would be some goalline drills for just the first and second groups. And, he said, some of those who have already proved themselves might have a short day. "We've got to do enough to be ready to play, but we want to have them available to play, too," he said.
A couple of linebackers missed work with minor aches Tuesday, but Franchione expects Brooks Daniels (slight hamstring) and Jason Rawls (puffy knee) back soon, perhaps for the scrimmage. "Brooks is a proven player, so if he doesn't practice much that won't bother me," Franchione said. "It will mean Mark Anderson gets more work."
"I'm pleased with what we've done and where we are," Franchione said. "There are still little things to be done that will take time, but as far as installation of the offense and defense, I feel very good. We've worked a lot of situations–two-minute drills, goalline, and so forth–and I feel good about it."
He said he also thinks Bama's conditioning is good, but was thankful for relatively mild weather thus far in fall camp.
In Bama's first full gear practice Tuesday morning, Franchione said, "I thought we got a lot done. It was pretty taxing with passing under pressure and goalline work."
He said that Alabama has come a long way since last year, pointing out that in his first season he would not have been able to have as much work in shorts. And Wednesday evening, Alabama will forego practice for a walk-through and a meeting. "We can get a lot done in shorts and helmets this year, which keeps them fresher," Franchione said. "And last year we could never have sacrificed a practice as we will Wednesday."
He attributes that to good carryover, the squad (except for newcomers) having gone through the system last fall, then in the spring, and again this pre-season. He said that while "some recall" is needed for everything to be done right, that the players know what to do.
In answer to a question about the progress of redshirt freshman Brodie Croyle, Franchione said, "Brodie has made progress. He understands the offense better, he is throwing well, and he is running the offense well. He's not where he needs to be, but he's on a nice pace." He said Spencer Pennington, Bama's third quarterback, is also doing well, and added, "Tyler Watts is throwing the best I've ever seen him."
Fullback has been hurt by injury (Donnie Lowe) and defection (Marquez Dupree), but Franchione said he was not concerned about a freshman being number one. "I don't see Greg McLain redshirting," the coach said of the first year player. "He's 6-2, 246, like what I want a fullback to look like. And the best thing is he's a good learner. He asks good questions and he's attentive. Potentially, he's our starter at fullback when we go with a fullback, but we'll probably go primarily with the ‘W' (the hybrid fullback-tight end position headed up by Theo Sanders)."
Franchione announced that Dupree's place on the 105-man fall roster would be filled by walk-on redshirt freshman Ben Rose, a 5-9, 180-pound cornerback from Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Among the practice watchers Tuesday was Larry Applewhite, the father of former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite. That story is well-known. Major grew up an Alabama fan, but the Alabama staff under Coach Gene Stallings elected not to offer him a scholarship. Major went on to stardom at Texas. He is finishing up his degree work at Texas this semester, then hopes to get into coaching, perhaps serving as a graduate assistant at Alabama. Interestingly, Larry Applewhite never gave up his Tide Pride Alabama tickets, even while his son was playing at Texas.
And no practice report will be complete without mention of the "Play of the Day," when 6-9, 365-pound nose tackle Bart Raulston caught a deflected pass and returned the interception with some niftiness down the sidelines for 10 or 12 yards.