It also means that some players who have not been on the roster will be added. Prior to the start of classes the practice roster is limited to 105. Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said some 40 more players are expected to join the team.
Franchione said, "We're all reasonably pleased with what we have accomplished," citing the work ethic, attitude and chemistry of the team. He was also satisfied that Alabama completed most of the tough work of fall practice with most of the squad healthy.
"Certainly, there are things we still need to improve," Franchione said. "We'll continue to work against each other, but then we'll have time to turn our attention to the first game."
Alabama is a week and a half from that season-opener. The Tide will host Middle Tennessee State at 11:30 a.m. CDT August 31 at Legion Field in Birmingham, a game that will be regionally telecast by Jefferson Pilot.
"We're all glad when two-a-days are over," Franchione said, noting the cheerfulness of his squad leaving the practice field Tuesday afternoon. The afternoon workout was in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads. The coach said, "It's something you have to go through. It's part of building a team. It bonds you together. You have to have sacrifice, dedication, and commitment. There are no rewards without risk. But," he added, "we need to get out of it. We need to keep them healthy and let them get their legs back. And the coaches need time to evaluate."
Although Alabama had only one game-type scrimmage practice this spring, Franchione noted, "We had elements of scrimmage in a number of practices. We had scrimmaged a lot in the spring. If we had needed more, we would have done more. We may continue to have some, but I think we're in good shape."
He said having little scrimmage work was not unusual. "You have to find ways to get ready and not get players hurt," he said.
While the first game is over a week away, the annual "mock game" is this weekend. Alabama's players will head to a hotel Friday night, just as they will the night before regular season games. The team will go through the same meetings and the same meals and the same routines in preparation for a game on Friday night and Saturday morning. Then shortly after 11:30 a.m. Saturday the "game" will kick off. It will be in shorts and completely scripted and it will be completely closed to all but players and staff. Those players and staff will go through every possible situation, including substitutions and other organizational features.
"When we are finished, there will be nothing that can happen in a game they have not already experienced," Franchione said. "When you go into battle you need to be confident in what you are doing. Everyone has to be on top of things. This is very serious. If you don't practice these things, it may bite you. It may anyway, but the chances are better they won't if you prepare."
Franchione said he would give number one quarterback Tyler Watts "an A-plus in all areas" for his fall work. While Watts has strong competition from Brodie Croyle, Franchione said it wouldn't matter if there was no other quarterback in camp. "Tyler doesn't need motivation," the coach said.
Franchione said he is more confident in the passing game than he has been. "The understanding by the quarterbacks and the receivers is better," he said. "I think we'll have productivity."
Two receivers are injured. Antonio Carter continues to have difficulty with pain associated with off-season surgery, even though he has healed. Franchione said it would now be a goal to get Carter ready for 25 or 30 plays in the first game, that he would not be able to go 65 or 70 plays. Thurman Ward suffered a slight hamstring injury that Franchione said did not appear to be serious.
The coach said that practices will be closed to the public beginning Friday. And in a continuation of his practice of not discussing injuries (other than possibly season-ending injuries) during the season, there would be no more medical updates beginning Friday.