Defense Continues To Impress

Two things were particularly noticeable at Alabama's Thursday football practices. It was obvious that the defense was continuing the good play it had exhibited in Wednesday's scrimmage. And one could not fail to notice that first team quarterback Tyler Watts was not throwing any passes. Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione had compliments for the defense and an explanation for the inactivity of Watts.

"We had two pretty good workouts today," Franchione said. "The defense is making more statements. They are getting better. They are in the right places to make plays and they are playing well. I've been encouraged. They've had some nice interceptions and they break on the ball well."

As for the offense, the coach said, "They are taking small steps forward."

Watts, the senior quarterback who is number one on the depth chart, had not been demoted Thursday. "We rested Tyler today to allow his arm to rest," Franchione said. "We think it's important to give each quarterback a day off from throwing so the arm will have a chance to get its zip back." He said that Brodie Croyle, the number two quarterback, would take off from throwing on Friday and that Spencer Pennington, number three, would be rested either Saturday or Monday.

Alabama continues in two-a-day practices through Tuesday. Classes begin next Wednesday as the Tide prepares for the season-opener August 31 against Middle Tennessee State at Birmingham's Legion Field. Alabama is working in full gear in the mornings and in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts in the evenings. Saturday the Tide will have a morning "kicking scrimmage," which is primarily to work on returns, coverage and protection.

As Franchione has explained before, he said the good work by the secondary was in great part because of the performance of the defensive front. "Pass defense is so interwoven," he said. "The front is giving a good rush and that allows the secondary to play better and with more confidence."

The Tide coach noted that good competition has probably helped in the secondary, too. He had praise for Bama's returning starting cornerbacks, Gerald Dixon and Hirchel Bolden. He said that Dixon, particularly, had been a good leader for the team and helped coach the younger players. "They are competing, but they help each other and they compliment each other," Franchione said.

Franchione said an examination of the films of Wednesday's scrimmage showed that the offense, which was dominated by the defense, "had been close a number of times to doing good things." And, he said, "I still feel good about the defense and those aspects of the kicking game we worked on."

Franchione said the defensive line "was a force," and said added, "the second defensive line is improving to where we will be able to play eight to ten men, which is what you need against a passing team." The coach singled out middle linebackers Derrick Pope and Freddie Roach, strong safety Carlos Andrews, and, particularly, rover Mark Anderson, who moved from defensive end. He said Anderson "is a smart player with good instincts who has made the change from playing with a hand on the ground to a stand-up position faster than I would have thought he could. He is going to be a fine player."

Anderson and cornerback Anthony Madison turned in nice interceptions in Thursday night's work.

Franchione said "There has been a little separation" at placekicker, and said if Alabama had to play today he would name the man who has moved out front. But, he said, he is not going to do that because there is too much time remaining and they are all still close.

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