GA's prepare for Thursday's game

Though the Tide will play a junior varsity game this Thursday against Georgia Military Academy, for most of the squad and staff this will be an off week. Most of the Bama assistants are on the road recruiting, but Graduate Assistants Rick LaFavers and Woodrow Lowe are working harder than ever.

With four previous years experience working with Dennis Franchione, the title of "head coach" this Thursday will fall to LaFavers. But fans shouldn't expect any visor-tossing antics. "Being head coach is kind of overrated," was his joking assessment. "Woodrow is every bit as much of a head coach as I am. One guy has just got to end up making the decisions. As far as I'm concerned we're both co-head coaches."

"I don't know what my title is," Lowe said laughing. "I'm just an assistant.

Lowe (right) talks with Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard.

Both Franchione and his assistants have been in and out this week, taking care of a variety of commitments. As coordinators Carl Torbush and Les Koenning generally stay on campus, so those two have been able to help with preparations for Thursday. And any assistants in town have stopped by to assist as well.

But the responsibility of getting a team prepared to play this Thursday falls mainly to the graduate assistants. "My responsibility is mainly organization," LaFavers explained. "I've got to make sure special teams are organized."

Though he played before Franchione arrived, LaFavers was a four-year letterman at Texas Christian, good enough to earn second-team All-Southwest Conference recognition as a senior. He worked as a graduate assistant on Franchione's staff the three years he was at TCU. When Franchione moved to Alabama, LaFavers came with him in the same capacity.

Lowe, of course, is the son and namesake of Tide legend Woodrow Lowe (‘72-'75). Lowe Junior's playing career was cut short by injury, but he has coaching experience in the XFL and arenafootball2. He also coached on the high school level in Alabama before joining Franchione's staff in May of 2001.

During the game itself, LaFavers and Lowe will be on the field with other Tide coaches spotting in the press box and helping with sideline control. "My main responsibility during the game will be calling the defense," LaFavers said. "Coach Lowe will be handling the offense. The assistants that will be here will help out, but they've given us the reins."

Players like safety Hamid Haqq will get a chance Thursday to show the coaches what they can do.

As the top-rated junior college program in the nation, Georgia Military will field a practiced, cohesive unit. Alabama will counter with talented athletes, but molding them into a productive team in only four days is a daunting task.

The Tide will utilize several scholarshipped players in the game, including every Thursday starter on the offensive line. But the majority of athletes participating will be walk-ons. Lowe explained, "Some will be true freshman walk-ons that want to forgo their redshirt year and actually play. Also there will be guys that are older that have something to prove."

With the squad having practiced since last August, fans might assume that schemes would be no problem. But LaFavers pointed out that most of the players have been scout teamers, running the other team's plays each week. "We'll run Alabama's base offense and defense, but most of these guys have been running off cards and other people's schemes," LaFavers said. "It's been awhile since they've heard some of our terminology.

"We're working this week on a few run plays and pass plays, a few base fronts, coverages and blitzes on defense."

"Time is the most difficult thing," Lowe added. "You want to get these guys enough reps so they'll be solid in the mental aspect, knowing their responsibilities and what they need to do executing. These guys are used to reading their play off cards (as the scout team during practice)."

"Alignment and assignment is what I get concerned with," LaFavers said, "on offense and defense. Just making sure guys line up right and they know what to do."

Shown working with Derek Sanders, who will play Saturday, LaFavers will be Bama's "head coach" versus Georgia Military.

With regular games, scouting the opposition is rarely a problem. Usually by Saturday night after the game the staff already has exchanged film with next week's foe and coaches immediately get to work breaking down offensive and defensive schemes.

But Georgia Military's budget isn't quite that of Division 1A schools. Lowe commented, "We actually got one film on them, but it's not very good. Looking at what we have it looks like they're going to blitz every down. They're a good team. Their defense is going to be a lot like Mississippi State's but a lot more blitzes."

LaFavers has been working hard every day this week, just making sure that the athletes are lined up correctly. But perhaps surprisingly, he's not particularly worried about the kicking game. "Sometimes special teams doesn't scare you that much," LaFavers explained. "We had a kicking scrimmage last fall, which helped a lot.

"This game was set up to get some playing experience for some of the guys that haven't been playing as much as well as the walk-ons. It's a chance for them to make a statement. I think on kickoffs and punts we'll be fine. They'll have that all-out attitude, so I don't worry about that."

As any football coach will explain, creating order out of chaos is no easy feat--and accomplishing the task in only four days can be almost impossible.

But LaFavers is looking forward to the game. "We've got some good guys playing. As long as they know where to line up, they'll go tackle the football."

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