"We improved this practice," Tide Head Coach Mike Price said afterwards. "We practiced and looked better than we did earlier in the week. Our receivers were catching the ball better. We've got to continue to improve a little bit daily. Eventually it'll add up to a lot."
With an eye toward tomorrow's scrimmage, Price cut Friday's practice a bit short. The team will hit the Drew-Thomas Practice Fields Saturday morning at 10 am, with full-contact work scheduled in all phases, including the kicking game.
"The practice today wasn't long because practice tomorrow will be really long," Price said. "We'll take a long look at our punters tomorrow. I don't know if it will be good or bad, but it'll be exciting."
Friday's session included a 9-on-7 running drill. After talking to Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines, Coach Price had praise for the Tide defense. "There were no gaping holes out there," he said. "We surrounded the ball well. Coach Kines said it was the best 9-on-7 work we've done so far."
Price pointed out that one problem on defense has been the absence of several starting linemen. Defensive end Nautyn McKay-Loescher was once again held out of work, recovering from flu and possible mononucleosis. Antwan Odom suffered a slight concussion last Saturday and was dressed out today. However, he did not participate in all drills. Anthony Bryant (bruised coccyx) and Ahmad Childress (flu) were both back at practice today. "We'll see tomorrow how well they'll do, but I think their absence has made a huge difference," Price said. "It'll really help to get them back."
So far this spring there essentially has been no change in the depth chart. Price said that it wasn't a problem, since it "didn't seem to be an important" issue with the players. "We're still getting to know each other and see what they can do."
Spring is also normally a time for experimenting, trying players at different positions to see what works and what doesn't. But other than moving Greg McLain from running back to tight end and Thurman Ward from receiver to cornerback, no position changes have taken place. "This first year everything's an experiment to us," Price noted.
Price said earlier in the week that the Tide was lacking in speed at wide receiver. Responding to a question as to whether or not he had enough wideouts to run his normal passing attack, he said "I think so. We won't run five wide receivers all the time. We've got good tight ends and running backs that can catch the ball, so we'll probably use them when we go to the spread attack."
Price made special mention of tailback Shaud Williams and tight end David Cavan as receivers. "We might just keep Shaud in the game in those situations. Cavan is a big target and he can run. We'll try to keep our best players on the field."
Standing 6-4, senior receiver Zach Fletcher continued to perform well, getting deep and catching most everything thrown his way. "He's got the size and speed," Price said. "He'd be a prototype wide receiver for us. You want tall receivers to go against shorter DBs. That way the defense has to double cover, and as soon as they do it opens it up for the running game."
On the other end of the spectrum, senior tailback Shaud Williams is only 5-8, but Price said that's no problem. "Running backs don't have to be tall. They're hard to see, and they're more durable. There's a close correlation between the height of running backs and the average length of their careers. Big guys don't last in the NFL."
Tight end Greg McLain was held out of practice today, but Price said that a new federal privacy law dealing with medical information would prevent him from commenting on any injury situation.