Alabama was to return to the practice field Tuesday for the first time since last Saturday's 20-7 win over Southern Mississippi. Alabama, 3-1, will go to Arkansas Saturday to take on the Razorbacks in the first Southeastern Conference game of the year for both schools. Arkansas is 2-0 and was idle last Saturday. Kickoff is shortly after 6:45 p.m. with national television coverage by ESPN.
While it is possible the state of Alabama will get very bad weather later this week from Hurricane Isidore, the long-range forecast for Fayetteville is very nice for Saturday, a high of 73during a mostly sunny day.
Watts, a fifth-year senior, was injured in the first Alabama offensive series against Southern Miss. He was unable to return to the game after suffering a sprained foot. Watts has suffered season-ending injuries each of the past two years.
When Watts went out, redshirt freshman Brodie Croyle took over and finished the game. While the loss of Watts was serious, Franchione said it was beneficial to Croyle to get the playing time.
In his regular Tuesday press briefing prior to practice, Franchione said "You can't hand them experience. Brodie got a whole game of experience last Saturday." While Croyle had seen limited action prior to Saturday, it was always when Alabama was ahead or behind. On Saturday, Franchione pointed out, he went in with no score in the game and was, for all practical purposes, the starting quarterback.
The coach said that Croyle made some mistakes, but they were not mistakes that were so expensive as to cost the ball game. Franchione said Croyle would be able to learn from the mistakes. And, the coach added, "For the most part, he played pretty good."
Franchione said the Tide would prepare this week with the strengths of each quarterback in mind. News reports from Arkansas had it that Razorbacks Head Coach Houston Nutt said Arkansas would prepare for both quarterbacks, which is precisely what Franchione would want to hear. The Tide coach said that third quarterback Spencer Pennington would get more repetitions in practice this week.
The Tide coach noted that Alabama's players aren't concerned with who is playing quarterback. He noted that offensive guard Justin Smiley had pointed out that Smiley didn't worry who was at quarterback or tailback because he had his own job to do regardless of who was behind him.
While Franchione would not talk about Watts, he did discuss the loss of tailback Ahmaad Galloway, who was to have knee surgery Tuesday afternoon. Galloway suffered tears to both the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament against Southern Miss, ending Galloway's college football career.
As he had in a Sunday press briefing, Franchione was very emotional in his praise of Galloway as a "fine young man with great character and a great leader." He said Galloway, Bama's leading rusher the past two years, was a "solid player, someone who loves and who has given a lot to The University of Alabama." He added, "You go into coaching to coach guys like Ahmaad."
Alabama will take four tailbacks to Arkansas. They will include Santonio Beard, who was the back-up to Galloway; Shaud Williams, the number one A-Back and now thought by many to be the most likely successor to Galloway; and Ray Hudson, the back-up A-Back. The A-Back is an extra tailback and both Williams and Hudson know all of the tailback assignments.
The fourth tailback could be freshman Kenneth Darby, although previous plans had been to redshirt Darby. Franchione spoke of Darby's great potential and admitted it would be possible to take Darby, who has had a lot of practice time with the first and second units. It could also be walk-on sophomore Josh Smith, which would save a year of eligibility for Darby if the fourth tailback had to play. Franchione noted that Smith is also capable of playing fullback (or "W") and that he can play on special teams.
Beard has excellent talent, as proved last year by his 141 yards in just 10 rushes against Tennessee and his 20 carries for 199 yards and two touchdowns in the 31-7 humiliation of Auburn in Auburn. Franchione said, "I hope Santonio is going to raise his level of focus, pay attention to things when he's not carrying the ball. He's a strong back who is capable of carrying the ball 25 times a game."
Franchione said that both the Alabama defensive front and the Tide offensive line "would have to rate very high" among the nation's best. He noted that, "The D-Line has taken control. Anytime you defend the running game as we have and pressure the quarterback as we have, you give the defense a chance to play well." He added that the defensive line has "a host of guys doing a fine job."
As for the offensive line, the coach said, "Any time you rush for over 300 yards against Southern Miss, your front has done a job." He also said the offensive line is also doing a better job in pass blocking.
The placekicking job is expected to be decided in practice this week. Michael Ziifle had started the season as Bama's placekicker, but he has missed three short kicks and had one kick blocked. Last week with the game still in doubt, Bama went to Brian Bostick, who kicked two fourth-quarter field goals. "We'll probably take two and could take three, although that's difficult to do with travel limitations," Franchione said. Because Alabama is the road team in an SEC game, meaning the Tide is limited to 70 players.
Franchione was quite complimentary of Arkansas. He called the Razorbacks a very good football team featuring good athletes who are well-coached. Additionally, he noted that Arkansas, which has won eight of its last 10 games since Alabama defeated them 31-10 last year, should be well-rested and in good physical condition
Looking ahead, it was announced Monday that Alabama's October 5 game against Georgia will be telecast from Bryant-Denny Stadium by CBS with kickoff shortly after 2:30 p.m. CDT.