Shula said he told the players, 'When you go play Saturday don't try to be somebody that you have not been during practices and the scrimmages. Don't think all of a sudden you have to do something we are not asking you to do. Do what we have taught you to do, and do it the best way you know how, and do it full speed.' "
The Alabama Crimson Tide put the finishing touches on its preparation for Saturday's 2003 season opener against the South Florida Bulls, with a 75-minute workout Thursday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.
The Alabama-South Florida game will be nationally televised by ESPN with kickoff at 2:07 p.m. CDT Saturday from Legion Field in Birmingham.
"We finalized all of our preparations," Shula said. "The guys are really focused and excited about getting out there and playing. A lot of times these last 48 hours are very important in terms of getting your mind right, getting a little rest, and focusing on your job."
Butterflies? "I haven't had time for that," Shula said, answering the question that has been asked at least daily for the past week or so.
The practice had a couple of visitors at the end as President Robert E. Witt and Athletics Director Mal Moore met with the team following the workout. "Dr. Witt talked to the team today," Shula said. "Dr. Witt has been great. We have talked to the team about the support system we have had from (Director of Athletics) Mal Moore and Dr. Witt. Personally, it makes me feel good as a coach to know those guys are doing whatever they can to help us be successful and he just wanted to talk to the team and tell them to concentrate on the opportunity they have right now."
Shula said that Witt told the players how much it would mean to them in "20 years when their kids are here, when they come back for Alumni Weekend and Homecoming, things that I can appreciate."
The Crimson Tide will hold a brief workout on Friday in Tuscaloosa before heading to Birmingham for dinner and meetings in preparation for Saturday's game. "It will be very short, no more than 20 minutes, just going over last details," Shula said. "It will be in the barn (the indoor practice facility, which is air conditioned), so I don't think it will be very strenuous."
Alabama is expected to have a squad of about 100 (there are 101 on the initial travel roster).
Shula said there were no plans to play a back-up quarterback "early." He said, "We are focusing on doing what we need to do to win a game."
One reporter mentioned a gambling line of Alabama being a 16- or 17-point favorite. Gambling is strictly forbidden in NCAA activity and Shula said, "I have never paid any attention to those things. I think we're playing against a quality team and other people do too."
Shula also announced that senior running back Shaud Williams (offense), senior free safety Charles Jones (defense) and senior receiver Triandos Luke (special teams) will serve as game captains for the season-opener.
Greg McLain, Alabama's starting fullback last year, has been held out of some work this fall with an undisclosed injury. He is back at practice, but has been working with tight ends rather than fullbacks, or the new "F" position, which can be a fullback, tight end, H-back, or wide receiver.