Tide prepares for Commodores

Alabama Head Football Coach Dennis Franchione had his Crimson Tide on the practice field for a spirited two-hour practice in brisk weather Wednesday. "It was nice weather to practice in," he said. "Football weather."

Bama will go to Nashville to meet Vandy in a game that kicks off at 1 p.m. CST Saturday. The game will be telecast on a Pay-Per-View basis on most cable systems in Alabama and through satellite systems. Alabama is now 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference play, tied with LSU for the best record in the SEC Western Division, and ranked 12th in the nation. Vanderbilt is 2-6. The Commodores are winless in four previous SEC games this year.

Franchione is having to get his team ready for the Commodores while the memory of last Saturday's 34-14 thrashing is still on the minds of many Alabama followers. He said that both Tuesday's full gear workout and Wednesday's practice in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts had been good ones.

"We're recovering nicely physically from the (Tennessee) game, and I'm pleased with what we've accomplished so far," he said.

There is a likelihood that the Tide will have an extra captain for Saturday's game. While the announced captains are guard Justin Smiley and wide receiver Sam Collins on offense and end Kindal Moorehead and strong safety Waine Bacon on defense, Ahmaad Galloway may be able to join his teammates at midfield for the coin toss. Although Galloway, who suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this year, will not be on Alabama's 70-man travel squad (the SEC limit for a road team), he is making plans to travel to Nashville and serve as a captain.

Franchione said, "Ahmaad is still a leader on this team. The players have tremendous respect for him. When he's on the sideline, he is in the middle encouraging people. I think he has helped make all of our running backs better. He has a level of respect for the way he handles himself, the kind of leader he has been, and the way he has worked. If I was a young running back, I'd model myself after him."

Galloway has received an invitation to the Senior Bowl, which is played in Mobile in February. Franchione said, "I don't know if he can play, but it's a great tribute to him." The Tide coach said Galloway is working hard on his rehabilitation and hopes to have an opportunity to be in a National Football League training camp.

Franchione answered questions on a variety of subjects other than this week's game. He said that among freshmen who are being redshirted who could possibly have been a help to this year's team are linebacker Juwan Garth, tailback Kenneth Darby, and defensive linemen Jeremy Clark, Chris Harris, and Kyle Tatum. And, he said, there might be others.

He noted that wide receiver Marcus McKnight, who was a late addition to the squad, "needed this redshirt year to get stronger." But, he said, McKnight plays the role of the opposing team's best receiver as a member of the scout team each week.

The Tide coach said sophomore Thurman Ward, who made the switch this year from cornerback to wide receiver, has played himself into the two deep and that he will be getting more work in upcoming games.

Franchione said freshman fullback Greg McLain has been a valuable addition to the Tide offense, filling the gap created when Donnie Lowe had to give up football because of recurring concussions Franchione said, "Every week we see Greg McLain take steps. He's very good for a freshman...or a sophomore. But he's not as good as he's going to be."

Alabama seems to have evolved into a team with a three-man rotation at cornerback­Gerald Dixon, Charlie Peprah, and Hirchel Bolden. At one time Anthony Madison was in that mix. Franchione said it is not necessarily a reflection on anyone who is not playing. "You get into a rhythm when things are going good and you don't want to make a change just to change things," Franchione said. He said that is particularly the case at cornerback and center, and sometimes quarterback.

And Franchione said if Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, a 6-4, 208-pound redshirt freshman, reminds Tide fans of another quarterback, it might be Bama's own Tyler Watts. Cutler has 85 rushes for 322 yards and seven touchdowns this year. He has also completed 74 of 137 passes for 1,049 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions.


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