Tide ahead of schedule

With only one more day of two-a-days left, Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione was pleased with Monday's effort. <br><br>"We had two very good workouts--very spirited," Franchione said following the evening session. "This morning I had to grind on them a little bit, but they worked their way through it.

"We got a late start this evening, and it was cooler, which was nice. I don't think we ever had a day like this in Fort Worth until November."

The original schedule called for a scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but following several good workouts in a row Franchione decided to ease up. "I didn't feel it was necessary to scrimmage," he explained. "We worked a little scrimmage work into our offensive and defensive sets, but we didn't really need the full scrimmage work to get better. I believe we're where we thought we'd be at this time."

Tuesday will mark the end of double daily sessions, and with the start of classes Wednesday the squad will practice only once a day in the afternoon. 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.

Franchione is satisfied with what his squad has accomplished during his second fall camp at Alabama. "I'm pleased with a lot of things. We've been multiple in what we've practiced on both offense and defense. We'll start to pull back now, but the players will have that base to draw from during the year. We've established a good foundation, a good attitude, a good chemistry and work ethic."

College coaches invariably complain about the constraints on practice time, but Franchione is different. "I'm fairly pleased with where we are physically," he said. "In a way I wish we had ended two-a-days today and started school. We need to get the players fresh to play a game. Part of that will be a juggling act for me. You want to push them to get better but not so they don't stay fresh."

Franchione said that the squad would continue working on general skills and techniques through Wednesday, and start practice specifically for MTSU the latter part of the week. He expects to develop a depth chart by the end of the week. "We wanted to get through two-a-days before we sat down and evaluated the players," he said.

Two-a-days are a strain physically, but generally the Tide squad has avoided major injuries. Kenny King missed part of today's workout with tendinitis in his knee, but he's expected to be fine. Santonio Beard is nursing a lower-leg bruise. Backup linebacker Jason Rawls missed practice today, but that was mainly precautionary to rest his surgically repaired knee. And freshman tailback Ken Darby, who sat out the last few days with a shoulder strain, is expected to be back next week.

"We're reasonably healthy," Franchione acknowledged. "I know that I'm a lot better coach when I have the entire squad available to play. To a degree it's a juggling act, keeping everyone healthy and fresh."

Following last week's kicking scrimmage, Franchione said that sophomore Michael Ziifle had a slight lead in the battle for the placekicking job. And that hasn't changed. "Ziifle is still ahead, but no final decision has been made," Franchione said. "We'll drag that (competition) out until next week, but there is no deadline. We want to see if (Ziifle) can stand the test of time--not just do better for awhile and then fall back."

Franchione had said earlier that placekicker is the one position where an athlete could conceivably arrive following two-a-days and win the job. When classes begin Wednesday, three walk-on kickers will join the competition, including junior college transfer Kyle Robinson.

Beginning with Friday's session, football practices will be closed to the public.

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