Andre Smith Glad To Be Back To Work

Wow! I didn't see that coming. At least one member of the Alabama football family professed to have missed the sportswriters who cover the Crimson Tide. And after giving his first interview of fall practice following Friday's opening workout, there was a group hug.

Sort of. Alabama All-America offensive tackle Andre Smith can get a lot of sportswriters in his grasp. And after completing his time with sportswriters Friday evening, the 6-5, 335-pound star moved into the throng, arms spread wide, and gathered us up. "I've missed you," he said.

Smith, an upcoming junior, is easily pleased. He also said that he was happy to be back at practice. "It was great," he said. "We worked on techniques, our plays, fundamentals."

There's little doubt that Smith would do a good job in the practice, in which players were in shorts and helmets. Smith was in the afternoon group, representing about half the squad, including most veterans. An evening practice with the other half of the 105-man reporting squad went out in the evening. Smith was the Jacobs Award winner as a sophomore. The Jacobs Award is voted on by Southeastern Conference coaches and is awarded to the league's best blocker. He was All-SEC last year and has been named to every pre-season All-SEC team.

Smith was also one of four players to be featured on a cover of Alabama's media guide. Alabama had a unique presentation of its press guide this year with four players featured, each on approximately one-quarter of the guides. (The others were seniors, quarterback John Parker Wilson, center Antoine Caldwell, and safety Rashad Johnson.) "That was an honor," Smith said.

Had he ever been involved in a photo shoot like the one the players did for the covers? "Yes," he said. Asked to explain, he said, "The Playboy All-America team this summer."

Oh yeah. He's pre-season All-America and a nominee for the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's top offensive lineman.

"That was great," he said of his trip to Arizona with the other Playboy All-America members. "There weren't any Bunnies or anything like that. They said we were the best group they had ever had – character and that sort of stuff. That was an honor."

Smith said that everyone "is doing things the right way. Everyone has bought into Coach Saban's system. John Parker has been pushing us all summer. Everyone is working hard. (During summer workouts) the freshmen were pushing the upper classmen."

Any standouts among the newcomers?

"Everyone is doing an outstanding job," Smith said.

And his advice for the freshmen offensive linemen?

"Work hard."

Alabama has four starting offensive linemen returning – Smith at left tackle, Mike Johnson (who was at right tackle last year) at left guard, Antoine Caldwell at center, and Marlon Davis at right guard. Smith was asked who might get the right tackle position.

"Right now, no one has a position," said Smith, who has been the starter at left tackle since his freshman season. "That's up to Coach Saban and the staff." [He slipped and said "Coach Shula," but quickly corrected himself.]

Alabama has a new offensive coordinator in Jim McElwain, but Smith, who works under Joe Pendry in the offensive line, said things are "not much different." He said he will either zone block or man block "and there aren't that many pass protects."

Alabama returns to the practice field Saturday. On Sunday the team will be involved in Fan Day. The public is invited to watch practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium beginning at 2:30 p.m. Following practice the team and Coach Saban will sign autographs for approximately 45 minutes. All other practices are closed to the public.

Alabama opens the season Saturday, August 30, against Clemson in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta. Kickoff will be at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. central) with television coverage by ABC.

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