Bama prepares for hostile environment

There wasn't much talk about quarterbacks during Alabama's football practice Wednesday. In fact, there wasn't much talk about anything. That's because the practice was held in the indoor practice facility with amplified speakers blaring crowd noise, making conversation impossible.

Alabama was forced indoors by rainy weather, the result of Tropical Storm Isidore heading towards the Gulf coast. However, the storm is not expected to influence the weather in Arkansas Saturday.

Alabama, 3-1, opens Southeastern Conference play Saturday in Fayetteville against the Arkansas Razorbacks, 2-0. Kickoff will be at 6:45 p.m. CDT with national television coverage by ESPN.

Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said, "It was good to get to go indoors and work with the crowd noise. That's something the two young quarterbacks and Tyler need to go through. In fact, it's good for the entire offense and defense to work on communications in that atmosphere."

He called the two-hour workout in shorts "good and sharp."

The two young quarterbacks are Brodie Croyle and Spencer Pennington, both redshirt freshmen. Tyler is Tyler Watts, the fifth-year senior quarterback who had to go out of last week's game against Southern Miss. Watts is recovering from a sprained foot and his status for Saturday is not known. Franchione said it was also possible that Bama would travel a fourth quarterback­true freshman Brandon Avalos­on Saturday.

No matter who starts at quarterback, almost everyone expects Croyle to get plenty of playing time. Franchione said, "Every day and every game is a tremendous learning experience for Brodie. That's true for any young quarterback. I didn't think he had a bad game last week, but he'll do things better this week. The more he plays the more he learns. I think he'll continue to grow."

Quarterback is not the only position where there is a question about the depth chart. Ahmaad Galloway, Alabama's leading rusher the past two years, was back at practice Wednesday, but he was there on crutches as a spectator after having undergone season-ending knee surgery Tuesday. Franchione was among those who made his way over to speak to Galloway. "Ahmaad is very close and special to the players and coaches on this team," Franchione said. "I think today may have been a day in which our players were concerned about demonstrating compassion for Ahmaad."

Franchione said there was not yet a decision on who might be "the guy" at tailback Saturday. He said that both Santonio Beard, Galloway's backup, and Shaud Williams, who has been playing the "A-Back," would play early. "I couldn't say we're going to have one guy who will carry it most. Both are capable and have confidence in both." He said he would probably rotate Beard and Williams and see if one gets into a good rhythm as Galloway did last week before being injured.

Although a decision on a fourth tailback is not expected to be made before Thursday, Franchione indicated it could be freshman Kenneth Darby. And he also said if it is a true freshman, it would not necessarily mean Darby would play. "Ordinarily," Franchione said, "you can make it through the year with three tailbacks, but not always."

One true freshman who will play Saturday is expected to get more and more playing time as the year progresses. Franchione said he is very pleased with the progress of Greg McLain at fullback.

Franchione said he was not yet ready to make an announcement on placekicker. Michael Ziifle opened the year as the Tide's placekicker, but he has had one long attempt blocked and has missed three short field goals. Last week Brian Bostick was used to kick two fourth quarter field goals. The kickers are charted in practice each day, and the decision will be based on practice performance.

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