"In some instances like cornerback, even our three-deep has been very competitive."
Fans always focus on the starting lineup, but being able to go two deep at every position is absolutely crucial for a team to be good. "What you hope for as a coach is to have five for two positions," Franchione explained. "For instance at cornerback, you hope you've got five (athletes) that you feel good about. That lets you withstand one injury and still be two deep. You're always looking for that ‘two for one plus one' situation to withstand a season.
"That's what you hope for when you balance your depth chart, and in most instances we have that--maybe not every one of them, but in most instances."
Franchione was in a hurry following practice, as he and the entire squad began a "mock game weekend" in preparation for next weekend's season opener. "We're getting ready to go through our Friday night meal and our team meetings," he said. "This entire weekend will be a dress rehearsal for us, so we'll do all those things tonight. I'm getting ready to take them through everything that can happen."
"Hopefully we'll be practicing singing the fight song after finishing the script tomorrow. That'll mean we've won. I know how the script ends up. We win."
The Tide will practice again Sunday, before entering their regular game-week pattern and taking Monday off. 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.
There were relatively few surprises on the depth chart, as three of the four junior college signees made second string: Derrick Pope (middle linebacker), Ahmad Childress (defensive tackle) and Zach Fletcher (wide receiver). "I'm happy with the junior-college guys," Franchione acknowledged. "David Scott is the one name that isn't on the (two deep), but at cornerback we really could have (named more players). So they really all four made the two deep."
David Cavan is listed ahead of Donald Clarke at tight end. Shaud Williams is first-string returning both punts and kickoffs. And true freshmen Greg McLain and DeMeco Ryans were listed as backups at fullback/W and strongside linebacker respectively.
"Right now DeMeco deserves to be there," Franchione said. "He was one guy we were going to have to make a decision on. He could play Sam (strongside) or Mike (middle). He's very intelligent and knows the defense well for a freshman. Most new players' learning will have three or four good days and then a bad day where they short-circuit with the game plan. DeMeco doesn't do that. He knows what he's doing."
Some fans will be surprised to learn that as of now all four defensive backfield starters from last season have held onto their jobs. Franchione commented, "The competition is very close at that position. They fought off the challenges, and I admire and respect them for that. Just as I respect those guys just behind that fought so hard to take those positions. But experience won out. They deserve to be where they are right now."
Though the final decision has not yet been made, sophomore Michael Ziifle is listed No. 1 at placekicker. "If we had to play today, that's the way it would be," Franchione said. "I wouldn't say that by Wednesday that we couldn't make a change on the depth chart. We want to give those new guys an opportunity. They're not ahead of Mike today, but by Wednesday or Thursday maybe somebody could be."
Notable for his absence was senior receiver Antonio Carter. Still limited by pain from off-season surgery, Carter was left off the depth chart. "Today I do not expect him to play (versus MTSU)," Franchione said. "That's not to say that by next Saturday there wouldn't be a dozen plays in our offense that he would be comfortable doing. But AC just really hasn't practiced.
"I don't care who you are, if you haven't practiced at all it's very difficult to think you're going to be game ready. The speed of the game would be very difficult for him right now."
With some leeway to juggle the normal game-week schedule, Franchione has arranged the next several days with an eye toward keeping his team fresh. He explained, "This Sunday will be a Tuesday practice, and next Tuesday we'll practice as if it's a Wednesday. Those days are our hard-work days during the week. We wanted to get those out of the way a little bit earlier so that we are fresh and fully recovered for the game.
"We're trying to get our game plan installed and still have an opportunity to get our legs back under us."