Defense Best In Scrimmage

Dennis Franchione has seen a lot of "first scrimmages" in his life as a football coach, and so Alabama's head coach was not surprised when the Crimson Tide's first scrimmage of fall camp was finished at Bryant-Denny Stadium Wednesday.

"It was probably about like you would think a first scrimmage would go," he said. "The defense was ahead of the offense, which is what you would expect. The offense was out of sync, but had some good plays. It was not as physical as you want, which is normal for a first scrimmage. And there were too many penalties."

The coach added, "We got to see some things in the kicking game and we had some goalline work. It will be a good film to watch to evaluate and get better. You have to get to this point in order to progress."

The scrimmage was about 90 plays, a dozen of them goalline work before the game-type scrimmage started. It was Alabama's ninth practice of the spring and second in full gear. Franchione elected to forego the afternoon practice Wednesday. Players and coaches were to have a one-hour walk-through and a one-hour meeting instead of an afternoon practice.

The Tide will return to the practice field in full gear Thursday morning. Two-a-day practices continue through Tuesday as Alabama prepares for its opening game August 31 against Middle Tennessee State at Legion Field in Birmingham.

Franchione said, "We have a lot of work to do on our offensive timing." He added, "We were out of sync in our passing game, which is is what might be expected in the ninth practice. We've got 20 or so practices to see what we can do to correct it."

He said he was not concerned about lackluster statistics from starting quarterback Tyler Watts, who completed only three of nine passes for only 13 yards. Brodie Croyle had a good day statistically, completing five of eight passes for 71 yards. Franchione said, "Brodie has come a long way. He did well." But, the coach said, he thought the day was more valuable to Croyle in that he was able to run the offense with a 25-second play clock running. Southeastern Conference officials worked the scrimmage and Franchione noted, "In the SEC, they put the ball in play faster than anywhere else. It sometimes seems like a game with some of them to see how many delay of game calls they can get. You sometimes don't have time to huddle and get to the line. But we had no delays."

Franchione said that rather than single out individuals for good play, he thought "The defense stood out."

He noted that the secondary had a good day. Quarterbacks completed 10 of 22 passes for 93 yards and one touchdown. While there were no interceptions, Franchione said, "The secondary is much further along than it was last year. Today if there was a completion, there was generally someone very close to the receiver."

Among defenders who caught Franchione's eye were Jawan Garth, who had two tackles, a sack, and a pass broken up, and Mark Anderson, who had four tackles, a sack and a pass broken up. He also noted that strong safety Carlos Andrews, who came into the season listed third team, "has a chance to be a starter. He made a nice open-field tackle, a punishing tackle."

There were only three scores in the scrimmage, two touchdowns and a field goal.

Freshman fullback Greg McLain scored the first touchdown on a five-yard run to cap a five-play, 57-yard drive by the second offense against the second defense. Brodie Croyle hit back-to-back passes, 13-yards to Zach Fletcher and then a 35-yarder to Thurman Ward, to set up the touchdown. Mike McLaughlin kicked the extra point.

Franchione said, "We tested Greg McLain today, giving him opportunity to make runs and to make blocks. I think he probably graded okay. At 246 he's a big load, and we expect him to be able to drag a guy."

The other touchdown came on the final play of the scrimmage, Spencer Pennington completing a four-yard pass to Tarry Givens. That was the third offense against the third defense. The big play in the drive was freshman quarterback Brandon Avalos scrambling for 34 yards to the 23-yard line. McLaughlin kicked the extra point.

The field goal was a 33-yard kick by Michael Ziifle.

A-Back Shaud Williams, who saw duty with the first, second and third units, was the leading rusher in the scrimmage with seven carries for 60 yards. He also caught a couple of short passes. "Good things happen when the ball is in Shaud's hands," Franchione said.

Freshman Kenneth Darby had six carries for 46 yards. "He had a good day," Franchione said. "He's caught everyone's eye. He's a good learner and he runs hard."

Bama's top tailbacks didn't get much work. Ahmaad Galloway had five rushes for 25 yards and Santonio Beard two carries for two yards. Both had one pass reception.

Other than Williams, the only player with more than one catch was Dre Fulgham, who had two receptions for 15 yards. Antonio Carter did not play in the scrimmage as he continues to nurse his leg, still sore from the insertion of a rod as part of off-season surgery.

Franchione also expressed satisfaction with the punting of Lane Bearden ("He had a solid day.") and the punting and place-kicking of Michael Ziifle. "We got a lot of work on the kicking game and all the kickers were doing some good things," Franchione said. He also was satisfied with the return game, even without Carter. "We let one punt roll, but we didn't have any drops," he said, adding that Brandon Brooks and Roberto McBride had done nice jobs on returns.

The coach said all four junior college transfers had played well enough. One of those, middle linebacker Derrick Pope, was the leading tackler with six and Pope also had a sack. Leslie Williams, who returned to the team as a wide receiver last spring after having left the squad the year before, had five tackles and a sack from his defensive end spot. Antwan Odom had three tackles and two sacks.


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