Veteran QB returns

Normally Tuesday practices are the players' least favorite day of the week. But having missed all of Bama's last two games and most of a third nursing a badly sprained foot, senior quarterback Tyler Watts was thrilled just to be out there taking snaps.

"It really did feel good," Watts said. "I was so eager to get back out here as soon as possible. I had a lot of help in the training room, but I'm happy to be back with the team."

Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione assessed his performance. "I think Tyler moved pretty well. He threw pretty well. He still has great recall and good command of the offense. It was good to see him back out there. We missed him on the field and his presence in so many ways. We need him."

Happiness, is a return to the practice field.
Tyler Watts, Brodie Croyle and Spencer Pennington walk off following practice.

Watts' injury had kept him from doing anything more than some flat-footed throwing until late last week. But Tuesday he looked as good as new. "Your skills maybe erode a little bit," he explained, "but you ought to be able to pick back up pretty quick. Mentally is where the challenge is. You have to stay mentally focused or you'll lose your edge there. You want to progress with the offensive schemes and stay in tune with what's going on out there on the field."

Extended time off can wreak havoc with an athlete's mechanics, but Watts was confident in his passing. "My throwing felt good today," he related. "I had a couple of bad reads, but I felt fine throwing the football. Lord knows we work enough in practice, so you'll be able to come out here and fine-tune your mechanics. But the mental part is most important."

Watts spent the entire practice directing the first-string offense, but Franchione wasn't yet ready to proclaim him officially back. "There is no timetable for his return," Franchione said. "We'll just have to see how this week and next week goes. I would guess that it'll be next Wednesday or Thursday before as coaches we are fully prepared to make that decision."

The injury occurred three weeks back during Bama's first offensive series against Southern Miss. Seven plays into the drive, a Golden Eagle lineman landed on Watts' foot, sidelining him for the rest of that game and the next two contests against Arkansas and Georgia. "It's always tough sitting out," Watts said. "As a competitor you want to be out there. But when you're not able to you just have to do what you can to help out.

"Whether you're on the sideline or on the field, when you're a part of a team and you lose, it hurts. You're eager to get back out there on the field and prove otherwise."

Coach Franchione talks to Watts during the game. (Associated Press)

There was nothing he could do on the field to help his team, so Watts played the role of sideline coach with his replacement, redshirt freshman Brodie Croyle. "I tried to help out in any way I possibly could," Watts said. "But Brodie did an outstanding job, and there wasn't a whole lot that I could give him as far as advice or anything that would increase his level of play. He was doing a great job."

Watts actually practiced a little last Thursday, but had Croyle been injured versus Georgia Watts may or may not have been available. "I don't know," he revealed. "It didn't happen, thank goodness, so we weren't put in that situation. That would have been the coaches' decision. You always think that you can go out there. But until you actually play and have people chasing you full speed, it's a whole different story. We were very fortunate that didn't happen."

Assuming Watts continues to improve, both he and Croyle should be available for Ole Miss. But Franchione isn't telling who will start. "I don't have an answer right now," he said. "There's nothing automatic. We'll watch and see how practice goes the next week and see how Tyler continues to develop.

"I won't be able to answer that for awhile, and I probably won't answer it on the record. You may not know before you see somebody run out there for the first snap versus Ole Miss."

Franchione is clearly enjoying the luxury of having two talented quarterbacks to utilize in his offense. He explained. "We're fortunate in the situation where we have two guys now that we have a lot of confidence in. It's a win/win situation. I would say that we'll play both of them in every game.

Assuming his rehab continues to progress, Watts should be back for Homecoming versus Ole Miss. (Associated Press)

"Who runs out there at the beginning may be immaterial."

Homecoming and Ole Miss will mark the first of six straight conference games for the Tide, and Watts' experience as a fifth-year senior should be invaluable. "We're in SEC play now," he said. "There is no easy week. We just have to make sure that we don't get complacent with where we are. We have to constantly strive to get better."

Whenever Croyle was interviewed the past two weeks, he always made of point of insisting that this was "Tyler's team," and that he was just filling in until his friend could return.

Watts appreciates the sentiment, but he views the situation differently. "I definitely feel like it's not my team--it's our team. It's something that I've very happy to be a part of. There are a lot of guys that work hard and put it on the line every day for each other. That's what makes it special."

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