Tide practices in the rain

There is a chance of rain Saturday, and if it does rain the Alabama football team got in a little extra preparation. Thursday's workout in shorts, which lasted less than two hours, included some time in a shower, at times a very heavy shower. However, there was no lightning, and so the team stayed outdoors.

"It was no problem," Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said of the rain. "It could rain Saturday, in which case it was probably good to get in a little more practice in it today."

Alabama hosts Middle Tennessee State at 11:30 a.m. CDT Saturday at Legion Field in Birmingham, a game that will be regionally telecast by Jefferson Pilot.

Alabama will work out in Tuscaloosa Friday afternoon, then bus to Birmingham for a short walk-through at Legion Field. Bama will dress 101 players for Saturday's game.

Franchione said that Thursday's work was much like Wednesday's practice. "It was almost as if we had two Thursday practices this week," he said. "We put in a lot of time on a lot of situations."

Franchione said Alabama's squad is now at the limit of 80 scholarshipped players. This week he was able to award scholarships to two former walk-on players, junior snapper Nick Ridings and senior wide receiver Joel Babb.

Ridings has been Bama's snapper on placekicks the past two years and added the duties of long snapper on punts last season. Babb has never seen game action, but with Alabama's somewhat depleted wide receiver corps could be a factor this season. Although Franchione is not speaking officially about the recovery of wide receiver Antonio Carter, there was confirmation that Carter could be out another three to five weeks. He has had problems recovering from off-season surgery to insert a rod in a stress fracture in his leg.

With Wednesday's announcement that Michael Ziifle will be Alabama's placekicker, the only mystery about Alabama's starting line-up Saturday is which line-up will start. On offense will the combination be one with three wide receivers or an A-Back or a W or a tight end? On defense, is it possible the Tide would start with something other than a 4-3?

Listing all the possibilities, which is 13 offensive and 12 defensive positions, the starting lineup Saturday is likely to be:

On offense, split end Sam Collins, tight end David Cavan, quickside tackle Wesley Britt, quickside guard Justin Smiley, center Alonzo Ephraim, strongside guard Marico Portis, strongside tackle Evan Mathis, quarterback Tyler Watts, tailback Ahmaad Galloway, "W" Theo Sanders, A-Back Shaud Williams, flanker Triandos Luke, and slotback Dre Fulgham.

Defensive starters will be right end Nautyn McKay-Loescher, tackle Jarret Johnson, nose tackle Kenny King, left end Kindal Mooehead, middle linebacker Freddie Roach, strongside linebacker Cornelius Wortham, rover Brooks Daniels, right cornerback Hirchel Bolden, left cornerback Gerald Dixon, strong safety Waine Bacon, safety Charles Jones, and nickel back Roberto McBride.

Lane Bearden is expected to punt and kick off, Michael Ziifle will handle field goals and extra point kicks, Nick Ridings is the snapper, Lane Bearden the holder, Shaud Williams and Triandos Luke will return kickoffs, and Shaud Williams will return punts.

Franchione was hurrying away from the practice field in order to watch his daughter, Libby, play in a volleyball game for Tuscaloosa Central High School. His older daughter, Ashley, is a parttime volleyball coach in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is in college.

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