Summertime, and the practices are HOT

Thursday marked the second day of fall term classes at The University, and also the second practice session for Alabama with the full complement of 145 players. Afterwards, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione talked about the grueling session. <br><br>"It was hot. This is a grinding week. The game is not quite in their focus, and the coaches know that. This is a week where you are kind of half way in between.

"You're still working on Alabama, but you're starting to get ready for Middle Tennessee. It's a juggling in that regard, and it's juggling the physical rate today."

Practice will continue tomorrow with a short session beginning at 4 pm. Alabama is working towards its 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.

In addition to preparing for MTSU, the Tide coaches are backing off some physically to keep the team as fresh as possible. "We did not throw a single pass with our three older quarterbacks today," Franchione said. "This was designated a day to work on the running game and to rest their arms and the receivers' legs. Tomorrow will be a shorts and helmets practice and not real long. Saturday is not a real long practice. We'll come back Sunday pretty hard and then take Monday off.

"We're working to make sure we get a good recovery with our legs as we approach the game."

Evaluating personnel is an important part of fall camp, but at this point decisions regarding potential redshirts have not been made. "We won't really talk in complete earnest about that for a few days," Franchione said. "You have to make careful choices every year. There are some older guys that we could make a decision to redshirt as well as younger guys. You don't have to be a freshman.

"If you have some depth at a position or two, then it creates the ability to do that---if you stay healthy. We will spend a good bit of time on Monday talking about those situations."

Franchione talked about which positions he's fairly comfortable with. "We have good depth at tailback. I feel good about quarterback. I feel solid about our tight ends. We're probably a little thin with game-ready people at receiver. D-Line depth I think will be okay, and I think linebacker will be okay. The secondary is not too bad, also. We could get thin at linebacker, if we had some injuries so Juwan Garth would have to play as a freshman."

Franchione's pattern has been to redshirt most true freshmen, but there are a couple of newcomers who could see playing time this year. "Juwan Garth is right on the line," Franchione said. "If I were betting right now, I think DeMeco Ryans is going to play. Mentally he's a very good learner. That's always a key for freshmen. The quicker they get confident mentally, the more they can play physically. We're looking at him as a personal protector on punt teams, which is a big responsibility. We're working him on several special teams, because we don't want to just play him a little to take a redshirt off of him. Jeremy Clark will be close. Right now I'd see him helping at defensive tackle. And of course Greg McLain will play."

One older player facing a potential forced redshirt is Antonio Carter. Still suffering pain from off-season surgery, right now Carter's situation remains unsettled. "We re-evaluate him daily," Franchione said. "He got another shot last night for pain in a different spot. It seemed to help, but he didn't practice much today. It takes about 36-48 hours for that (shot) to fully kick in. We'll see how it is tomorrow and Saturday."

Heading into the season Carter was expected to be a team leader, and taking the season off is not what he wants to do. "He's had that attitude all along," Franchione said. "It's nice to know that in your pocket you've got a redshirt year available, but he wants to play. He wants to help this team. That's what you want his attitude to be. The doctors are very optimistic that the pain will continue to subside and he'll become productive. We haven't given up hope yet. We've got two or three games to make a decision on what to do medically."

Sophomore Thurman Ward is another receiver currently limited by injury. In his case a hamstring pull is the problem. "Thurman is a guy that having changed positions needs to work to be productive," Franchione said. "It will be difficult for him to be productive in the first game right now. If he gets back soon there might be some hope for spot duty."

On the positive side, defensive end Todd Bates has made progress and Franchione is now optimistic that he'll be able to play this season. "I think Todd will be okay. He's going to go through some soreness days, where he'll need a little rest. But I think the more we get to one-a-days our feeling is that he'll be okay."


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