Good Practice

Alabama's football team returned to the practice field Thursday as the final examinations schedule at The University is winding down. The Crimson Tide had a couple of practices prior to the start of finals, but is now in normal bowl preparation mode.

Alabama will play Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport on December 28. The game will be telecast by ESPN with a 3:30 p.m. CST kickoff. Both Alabama and Oklahoma State were 6-6 in regular season play. It will be the first football meeting between the two teams.

There is always some attention on Alabama during bowl season because of the Crimson Tide's unmatched bowl tradition. This will be Bama's national record 54th bowl game and the Tide will be hoping to increase its national record for bowl victories with its 31st win. Alabama's bowl record is 30-20-3.

This is Bama's second Independence Bowl appearance. Following the 2001 season, Alabama defeated Iowa State, 14-13, in the Shreveport game. The Crimson Tide is going for a second straight bowl victory,. having defeated Texas Tech, 13-10, in the Cotton Bowl at the completion of last season.

Joe Kines, who is serving as Alabama head coach for the Independence Bowl, had said that much of Bama's pre-bowl practice would be on fundamentals. But there was some introduction to Oklahoma State in the early practices and when Bama went out for an hour and a half in shorts Thursday, Kines said "It's full blown Oklahoma State now."

Kines said the team was in shorts "because we didn't want to put too much on them coming right out of final exams." Friday marks the end of the final examinations period at The University.

"They were in good spirits," Kines said of Bama's Thursday work. "I think they are glad exams are about over."

Kines said he did not know of impending academic casualties for the bowl game. Under Southeastern Conference rules, players must pass at least six hours of academic work in the fall semester in order to be eligible for bowl participation.

"You kind of hold your breath every semester," Kines said. "I hope we don't have any surprises. We don't so far." As he has said since the announcement of the bowl game, he reiterated that "a couple of guys" had to do well on final examinations. Grades will be posted Tuesday, though Kines said there is a possibility the fate of all players will be known before then.

He said the team would be in full gear beginning with Friday's practice. The Tide will practice Friday and Saturday, take Sunday off, then have practices Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in Tuscaloosa. The team will go to Shreveport on December 24 and have final practices there on Christmas day through December 27 before the bowl game.

Kines said he didn't expect any major lineup changes for the bowl game "unless someone gets nicked up." One player already more than nicked is back-up quarterback Jimmy Barnes, who will have knee surgery and miss the bowl game and spring practice. Kines said that work will be given to back-up tailback Jimmy Johns, a high school quarterback who has had a few snaps at quarterback in his two years at Bama, and to scout team players Trent Dean and Will Vandervoort. "It will be strictly for an emergency situation," Kines said.

Kines said he was pleased with Bama preparation during finals, noting that players had used free time to "work hard in the film room. We had some good checks today and I was pleased with that."

The coach said, "They were jumping around. There was some quickness out there. Concentration was good. It has gone well so far."

He said that Oklahoma State's offense "does a little of everything. Our seniors have seen everything by now. For the young guys, it's just the next game."

Alabama will be without one assistant coach as Buddy Wyatt has joined the staff at Nebraska and will work with the Cornhuskers as they prepare to meet Auburn in the Cotton Bowl. Kines said that David Turner, who coached defensive ends, would coach the Alabama defensive line for the bowl game. Wyatt coached defensive tackles.

Additionally, Kines said, Alabama Assistant Strength Coach Terry Jones would assist with defensive line work. Jones was a defensive lineman for Alabama and the Green Bay Packers before becoming a strength coach for the Tide.

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