"It has been a really good camp," Franchione said Saturday morning after Bama had gone through about an hour-long kicking scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide was to be back on the field at the stadium Saturday afternoon for a full gear workout that included some scrimmage work.
Franchione complimented his players for their "chemistry, attitude, work habits, and their ability to handle the grind and push through." He said defensively the Tide was a little ahead of where he expected to be and that the offense was not behind, "but we need every day to get synchronized." He added, "We're much further along this year than last year. Last year our coaches had to teach everything. This year the older players are teaching the younger players, so its like having extra coaches."
In summation, Franchione said, "There are far more positives than negatives."
Alabama will take Sunday off except for meetings and a short walk-through. Franchione said original plans had been for the Tide to return to Bryant-Denny Stadium Monday for a final scrimmage, but said Saturday the team has progressed to the point that won't be necessary to have a 90- or 100-play scrimmage. Two-a-day practices will be held Monday and Tuesday and there will be some scrimmage work in those practices. Classes and one-a-day practices begin Wednesday.
Alabama is working towards an August 31 opener against Middle Tennessee State at Legion Field in Birmingham. The game will kick off at 11:30 a.m. CDT with regional television coverage by Jefferson Pilot.
The Saturday morning workout was a unique scrimmage, one concentrating almost exclusively on kickoff and punt coverage and returns. However, there was also field goal kicking, and with the job of placekicker up in the air it was probably the most interesting. Sophomore Michael Ziifle was by far the most successful of the field goal kickers. He hit four of his five opportunities, including kicks of 40, 43, and 45 yards. Mike McLaughlin was good on a 33-yard try, but missed at 43 and 45. Brian Bostick was the victim of a bad snap on one try, then missed on attempts of 40 and 45 yards.
Franchione said he would agree that Ziifle is "a little ahead," and said Ziifle is hitting the ball well. But, the coach said, no one had won the job yet. "The others are not far behind and all have had their ups and downs," Franchione said. He said a number of situations would come up in work over the next two weeks to determine the placekicker.
Assistant Coach Mark Tommerdahl said he saw some good and some bad in the kickoff return segment of the scrimmage. "We had three touchdowns, but we also had a few where our man was stopped inside the 20 and we had a fumble." Actually, there were two touchdown returns. Brandon Brooks had an 82-yard return and Ray Hudson a 100-yard return. Shaud Williams had an 82-yard return, run down by walk-on flanker William Hold.
Punter Lane Bearden appeared to have a good day. And though he had one "low liner" on a kickoff, his kickoffs were mostly into the end zone. He also had a couple of tackles on kickoff coverage, one of those tackles forcing a fumble by return man Ramzee Robinson. And on a bad snap in field goal work he completed a touchdown pass to tight end Donald Clarke.
Franchione said the kicking scrimmage "was good work; not always pretty or clean, but efficient work." He said it was good for some players and would help the staff make some personnel decisions on coverage and returns. And, he said, "the players need this for the realization of what they are doing well and what they are not doing well."
Franchione said that with Antonio Carter being held out with pain in his leg from the results of off-season surgery that others are getting an opportunity as kickoff and/or punt return men. He named Shaud Williams, Brandon Brooks, Triandos Luke and Ray Hudson as possibilities and said "Anthony Madison needs a longer look." Roberto McBride, who might be in that group, missed the scrimmage for a family matter, Franchione said.
Bama coaches will also have to make some decisions on some freshmen who did well in the coverage area, notably Juwan Garth and Chris Harris. The coach said he would probably not use a freshman just for special teams work, but added that Garth–who was one of the stars of last Wednesday's scrimmage–could be a help on both defense and special teams. Garth was not the most highly-publicized of Alabama's signing class by any means, but he has had an excellent fall camp. Franchione said, "I'm not surprised, but I am pleased. Some freshmen make the transition to college football more quickly, and Juwan and Greg McLain (fullback) are in that category."