No Break Yet

Juwan Simpson is one of Bama's December grads

While many people, especially in the academic community, will spend next week winding down and gliding into a long Christmas break, things are not quite the same for the Alabama football team.

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula has said that he wants to be ahead, way ahead, on game planning and practices as if it were game week by the time the team meets in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl on December 26th. Last year for the Music City Bowl the team worked ahead some, but not as much as Shula wants to do this year.

It was like we saw each other at practice and then we were all somewhere different for the rest of the day, Shula said.

Friday afternoon's practice will be equivalent to a Tuesday workout of a game week – which is usually the toughest day. The Tide will practice on Saturday and Monday morning, then again on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday before breaking until they meet in Dallas.

Monday and Wednesdays won't be days off, but will be weightlifting and conditioning days.

"Gruelling," said quarterback Brodie Croye. Even though he was injured and didn't participate last year he was at the two-a-day practices. This year the two-a-days are cut out, but players are expecting not to be able to ease their way into the holidays. "I remember last year it seemed like two-a-days all over again. But once we get over these first couple of days it will be fun again."

"We know what we have to do," Croyle said. We want this to be fun, first of all, and we want it to be a reward. But we don't want to lose this bowl game. There's a balance we have to have there."

Juwan Simpson will graduate on Saturday, earning his degree in Human Environmental Sciences. Simpson has had a firm grip on his class work for some time, but said the coming week will be good for some younger players.

"It's a lift off their shoulders," Simpson said. "Right now it's ‘full go' on Texas Tech. During the season a lot of things might stress you out with class or a test. You feel better going out there without any of that to worry about."

(As the media lookout for any underclassmen who might be pondering a early look at the pros continues, Simpson said he's not one to worry about. "I know I'm going to be here in the spring and I'm not going anywhere.)

The 20-hour rule, which says coaches can only keep players for 20 hours per week during the times when school is in session is lifted for the coming weeks, so meeting time and practice time can be extended if needed.

"It's going to be pretty strenuous," safety Roman Harper said. "All you do is football this week. The younger guys will be the only ones in Rose (Towers, the dorm that is home to many underclassmen). They can keep us here as long as they want. Sometimes you will be tired of it and sometimes it's not that bad. It's more a mental thing right now. Practice is going to be good."

DeMeco Ryans, who has spent much of the past week and a half traveling across the country for different awards ceremonies, said he's looking out for he and his teammates to stay sharp and not get complacent.

"It's going to be high tempo," he said. "Getting things done and keeping mistakes to a minimum. We cannot overlook the little things. It's not hard. Everyone is through with finals and everyone's focus should be on football."

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