Alabama has had only two practices since the final game of the 6-6 season. Since then Mike Shula has been fired as head coach, Joe Kines has been made interim coach, and Bama has been unsuccessful in filling the head job with a permanent replacement. The biggest news in the search came Friday when Crimson Tide players, along with the rest of the college football world, learned that West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez had turned down the Alabama job.
Despite that distraction, along with players being involved in preparation for final examinations that begin Monday, Kines said the Crimson Tide "had a good pracice. And along with that, the (team and position) meetings went good. We got to look at tape of Oklahoma State and talk about them."
Alabama is preparing to play in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport on December 28 against Oklahoma State, which also has a 6-6 record.
Alabama has had only two practices. The first was a week ago. The third and fourth practices will be Friday and Saturday, following final exams.
In the first practice, back-up quarterback Jimmy Barnes suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will have knee surgery. He is out of the bowl game and will miss spring practice. Kines was asked who would back up starting quarterback John Parker Wilson.
"I know who it won't be," Kines declared. "I wouldn't do that to that young man." Kines was referrring to the only other quarterback on scholarship. Greg McElroy is a true freshman who did not play in the regular season. He will not play in the bowl game, thus preserving a year of eligibility. He will have four years of eligibility beginning with the 2007 season, but would lose that year should he play in the bowl game.
Kines said that halfback Jimmy Johns, a quarterback in high school and occasionally put into that position over the past two seasons, would be Bama's first option behind Wilson. One problem: Johns has a cast on his right hand.
Johns was a bit vague about the injury, saying only that it happened "a few weeks ago" and that he has his hand in a cast with hopes that he will soon be ready to go. He said surgery was not anticipated.
Behind Johns are a couple of walk-ons, true freshman William Vandervoort (the brother of walk-on linebacker Kenneth Vandervoort) and sophomore Trent Dean, a defensive back who runs the Bama scout team offense. Dean saw mop-up action in the Florida International game this year.
"We'll work a couple of guys, see how it goes" Kines said. "We don't have to make that decision today."
Kines admitted he likes Dean, whom he watched working against the Bama defense when Kines was the defensive coordinator.
Kines said that he, personally, "is a little behind on the game plan. We have to figure out some way to slow down their option. They are full-blown with it. They know what they are doing." He said Oklahoma State's offense compares to Florida's.
"They are a really fine football team," Kines said. "I'm glad we have the extra time to work. And the guys are working hard."
Kines said the tempo had picked up in practice, and added that was important because "It's going to be a fast-paced game."
He said that practice would continue to stress fundamentals "all the way through to Shreveport. You can't get enough of that. We're going to do it every day." Saturday's work was in full gear.
Kines said, "The guys are having fun. That's why they do this. I have been very proud of them. They are really thinking about the bowl game. And two or three of them have to take care of things academically."
He said he had been impressed "by the running backs" in Saturday's practice. As defensive coordinator, Kines doesn't enjoy seeing good runs. As interim head coach "it's kind of fun to look that those guys running well and like it."
Kines said he is flattered to be mentioned by players as a potential permanent head coach, but said, "I don't have time to worry about that. I've got tapes to look at. I got a report that we had two guys miss study hall. I still haven't bought my wife a Christmas present.
"If it's not the option or going to class, I'm not worrying about it."
On the recruiting front, Kines said the staff had continued to do a good job. "It has always been a good recruiting staff and they are out there now where people are shooting bullets at them," Kines said of Tide coaches having to battle the attacks of rival recruiters while Bama is without a head coach.
Kines said none of the prospects previously committed to Alabama had said "count me out." But, he said, about half had said they are still committed and about half had said they intend to wait to see how the coaching search works out before affirming their commitments. "But," Kines stressed, "none have said to count them out."
He said Tide coaches were not offering any prospects other than those already committed. He said there were "five, six, eight players we would offer right now, but we're trying to hold what we have." Presumably the staff will wait for a new head coach before making new offers.
Kines said the staff spent time this week at the Super Six Coaching Clinic. The Alabama High School Athletic Association championship games were held at Birmingham's Legion Field and the coaches conducted a clinic. "We are blessed in this state with the high school coaches," Kines said. "They do as good a job as any coaches anywhere."