Pre-scrimmage football notebook

Bama's first scrimmage of the fall will be held today, giving the coaches (and fans) their first good look at the squad's potential. So today seemed as good a time as any to clean out the football notebook. <br><br>Topics include praise for "the Moose," a "skinny" lineman, speculation about Atlas and rotating linebackers.

"Moose" carrying the load

Greg McLain better than expected.

When lingering symptoms from past concussions forced Donnie Lowe to give up football, true freshman Greg "Moose" McLain was moved from linebacker/tight end to fullback full time. Brandon Dean, a linebacker, was brought in to fill McLain's spot on the 105 roster.

But interestingly, the recent departure of Marquez Dupree (who was also working at fullback) did not prompt a similar roster move by the Tide coaches. Instead, Ben Rose, a cornerback, was brought in, replacing Dupree on the 105.

It's one thing for coaches to praise a player to the media, which Coach Franchione has done. But Franchione himself could probably do a better job at fullback than the 5-9 Rose, which speaks volumes for the staff's confidence in McLain's potential at fullback.

Franchione said yesterday that he doesn't expect McLain to redshirt, meaning he could be the only true freshman to see playing time this year. He then added that he could even see McLain starting at some point this season. Quite a turnaround for an athlete that only months ago was told he probably would have to ‘blueshirt,' delaying his enrollment at Alabama until January of 2003.

No illegal supplements here

Leslie Williams (at far right)

Overheard on the practice field:

A photographer was focusing to take a picture of Leslie Williams as the slender defensive end walked off the field. Listed at 205 pounds (soaking wet), "skinny" might be a more appropriate adjective. As he snapped the picture, a sideline wag leaned in and suggested a caption for the photograph.

"Proof Positive that the Tide Squad is Steroid Free"

Note, fans should update their roster. Williams, who wore # 83 last year during his abortive attempt to play wide receiver, is now sporting his old # 48.

A redshirt still chasing Herrion?

Last spring when few were confident that Ahmad Childress could get eligible and in shape for the fall, Atlas Herrion was securely listed at defensive tackle. At the time, it was hoped that events would play out so that the Daphne native could be redshirted, thereby providing an extra veteran defensive tackle in 2003.

Atlas Herrion

Since then of course Childress is eligible and looking good, while offensive tackle Dante Ellington (a former starter) is ineligible this season. Bama's coaches quickly made the obvious decision to move Herrion back to offense to provide depth on the O-Line.

But interestingly, speculation about a redshirt year for the Daphne native has not ended.

Alabama will lose two starting offensive linemen to graduation after this season, Alonzo Ephraim and Marico Portis. If Herrion could redshirt AND Ellington can get himself eligible, then Line Coach Jim Bob Helduser would have two quality senior athletes to plug into the two holes. (Neither Herrion nor Ellington would be good candidates for center, but current strong tackle Evan Mathis could easily handle that position)

For Herrion to redshirt, Alabama's current starting tackles (Mathis and Wesley Britt) must stay healthy. And some combination of Lannis Baxley, Von Ewing and/or Matt Lomax must step up to provide backup minutes at O-Tackle.

Redshirting Herrion would be something of a long-shot, requiring good things to happen with several athletes. But at this point it would seem more likely than Ellington reporting both eligible and in shape next fall.

Linebacker rotation alive and well

Derrick Pope can play inside or out.

Last January immediately after the team reported back for winter term, did an interview with Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach Carl Torbush. At the time of that talk, Torbush had just gotten a strong indication from Saleem Rasheed that he intended to return for his senior year. For much of the interview, Torbush talked about dual goals. First, he said he was making it a personal task to turn Rasheed into a first-round draft choice. And second, he explained how he intended to implement a linebacker rotation in 2002, allowing Rasheed to work inside and out while also providing experience for Freddie Roach.

Of course within days Rasheed had changed his mind, and those plans went out the window. In fact, for the next couple of months with Jason Rawls still recovering from knee surgery and Derrick Pope not yet signed, Torbush worried about filling out his two-deep roster.

Freddie Roach is a versatile athlete.

But three positive developments have Torbush dusting off those rotation plans.

Obviously Derrick Pope, a former junior college All-America, signing and joining the squad is big. Jason Rawls has returned healthy, providing solid back-up play behind Cornelius Wortham on the strong side. And redshirt freshman Mark Anderson has taken big strides at Rover.

It's early, but right now it looks like Torbush would count on Brooks Daniels at Rover, with Anderson providing solid relief. And a rotation is probable at the other two spots. To accelerate his learning curve, now Pope is working exclusively at middle linebacker, but he has the physical tools to play outside as well. Wortham is the solid starter on the strong side, but he will play at 235 pounds this year, easily big enough to handle snaps at ‘Mike.' And in recent days, Freddie Roach has taken some practice snaps at strongside backer.

Torbush has a well-deserved reputation for developing outstanding linebacker units, and it looks like he's got talented pieces to work with.

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