Franchione said, "We talked to the players the last couple of years and they felt some of those things [that were done in the past] were distractions. They had to get by the hype in order to concentrate on their assignments."
And so there is no blaring "Rocky Top," the country music song that Tennessee has allowed to become its school theme, and no orange jerseys on the scout team. Things are normal at Crimson Tide practices this week.
Alabama goes to Knoxville Saturday to take on Tennessee in a game that will be nationally telecast by ESPN. Kickoff will be about 7:45 p.m. EDT (6:45 p.m. CDT). Tennessee with a 4-2 record, including a 1-2 mark in Southeastern Conference games, is ranked 16th in this week's Associated Press poll, while Alabama, with a 5-2 record including 2-1 SEC mark, is ranked 19th. Bama is coming off a 42-7 win over Mississippi, while Tennessee (as usual) had an open date to prepare for Alabama after having lost to Georgia two Saturdays ago.
Franchione said that conducting practice the week of the Tennessee game the same way it is conducted before every game is a reflection of Bama coaching philosophy regarding consistency. And, he said, the fact that the players want it that way tells him that "the guys like the way we build. The other took away from the substance. What matters is how they play and what we give them. We want to make them comfortable in their routine, not take them out of their routine."
The Tide coach said that attitude does not take away from the importance of the game. "I know the game has great meaning to both sides," he said. "I love these rivalry games as a part of the tradition of college football."
Franchione said that Bama's practice had been a good one. He said, "We've had two good days. The players have had good attention. I've been pleased."
He said Alabama worked with the piped in crowd noise in order to work on "communications, cadence, the huddleall the things that occur in a setting like that. We have to be good at that part so we can have a chance to be good physically."
Franchione said he expected to take three kickers to Knoxville. They will be punter Lane Bearden, field goal and extra point man Kyle Robinson, and Michael Ziifle, who will kick off and who is back-up man on both punts and placekicks.
Bearden made his return to action last week, three weeks after having suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right (kicking) knee. In answer to a question, Franchione said the risks of having Bearden punt are that he isn't likely to be able to make a tackle if needed and that if the snap was bad he wouldn't be able to run it down. Then the coach added, "But I'll say this. If anyone had to get there and knock someone down to get it, it would be Lane Bearden who would find a way." He added that the coaching staff believed the pros of Bearden punting outweighed the cons.
Franchione was asked if he was surprised that Tennessee had a 1-2 conference record. The Alabama coach said he had not been aware of Tennessee's record, but he knew "they have had more than their share of injuries they've had to work through and they've played some tough games."