Tide Has Minds On MTSU

Alabama Head Football Coach Dennis Franchione doesn't expect his football team to be looking past Middle Tennessee State, but he won't be surprised or concerned if Crimson Tide players aren't watching Bama's second opponent on Friday night.

When Alabama's football team goes to Birmingham Friday evening prior to the Saturday game against Middle Tennessee, it is expected that players will get some leisure time Friday evening. And one thing that will be available to them is the ESPN telecast of the Oklahoma-Tulsa game. Bama goes to Norman to meet Oklahoma in the Tide's second game of the year.

"I have no problem with our team watching," Franchione said following Wednesday's practice. He said that he knows his players have been concentrating on MTSU and that Bama has great respect for the Blue Raiders.

Alabama and MTSU open their seasons at 11:30 a.m. CDT Saturday at Legion Field in Birmingham, a game that will be regionally telecast by Jefferson Pilot.

The Tide coach likes the 11:30 start time "because you get up, you play the game, and then it's almost like having eight days to get ready. You can get that game out of your system more quickly and get on to the next one." He said his routine would include watching a little college football Saturday evening. Any particular game? "I'd guess the replay of the Oklahoma game will be on at my house," he said, smiling.

Players get up at 7 a.m. for an 11:30 a.m. game. Franchione said, "For everyone involved, including the fans, 12:30 might be a little better, but I like 11:30."

Alabama will work out in Tuscaloosa Friday afternoon, then bus to Birmingham for a short walk-through at Legion Field. Bama will dress "about 100" players for Saturday's game, Franchione said.

There is a natural sensitivity within the Alabama team to talk of Oklahoma before the Middle Tennessee State game has been played. One question Franchione got was whether the Tide game plan would be to hold back some things so they could be used the next week against the Sooners. The Tide coach said that Alabama will go to Legion Field with "everything in the bag we think we need to win the game." He did say that "if you are behind by 30 points or ahead by 30 points in the fourth quarter, you would probably hold something back rather than use it." During two-a-days Franchione had noted that the entire game plan for the season would be installed in fall camp, and then those parts of it needed each week would be "recalled" in game week preparation.

Following Wednesday's two-hour practice in shorts and helmets, held in the indoor facility because of bad weather, Franchione said, "I think we are ready to play. We have been doing a lot of clean up work on things like substitutions and we've gotten better each day. They have some spring in their legs; we've got them back physically. and their focus has been good. We're right on track."

Franchione announced the final starter for the game, and it was no surprise. Michael Ziifle, a 6-1, 253-pound sophomore will be Bama's placekicker on field goals and extra points. He will wear number 40.

Other starters (depending on the formation or scheme) had been established earlier, but Franchione wanted to give all the placekickers an opportunity to win the job.

Franchione discussed the philosophy of rotating players. He said "There are a lot of factors," and added, "You can't say for sure in advance of the game that you are going to do a certain thing at a certain time" because circumstances can change such plans.

He said that "for most positions" he hopes to get the back-up man in the first half. "If you wait to the second half, sometimes it's harder because the game is on the line and you don't have as much time." He noted that at several positions there were two men considered starters, "but you have to put one down as first and one down as second." He said middle linebacker was an example, where Freddie Roach is expected to start, but Derrick Pope is also considered first team.

Asked if he would be surprised if only one quarterback played Saturday, Franchione said he expected to play two, but that nothing would surprise him at any position. Tyler Watts will start at quarterback and back-up Brodie Croyle is expected to see playing time.

Franchione said the Saturday routine would have Coaches Les Koenning, Melvin Smith, Lee Fobbs, and Graduate Assistants Rick LaFavers, Woodrow Lowe, Jr., David Bobo, and Paul Hogan in the press box, while he is joined on the sidelines by Kenith Pope, Carl Torbush, Mark Tommerdahl, Stan Eggen, Jim Bob Helduser, and Chris Thurmond.

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