First Day In Pads

Kenneth Darby probably doesn't need to hear the legend of Wally Pipp, but Jimmy Johns is making quite an impression in the early days of Alabama football practice. Darby, one of the top rushers in the SoutheasternConference last year as a junior, was held out of Tuesday's work as the Crimson Tide had its first day of spring training in full gear.

Alabama Coach Mike Shula said, "We held Kenneth Darby out of practice today because he has a little tendonitis. He wanted to practice, but we felt it best to hold him out. I don't know yet if he'll practice Thursday."

With Darby out, Alabama's back-up halfbacks got the work in fullspeed drills and Jimmy Johns, a sophomore who now weighs in at "235 or 240," he said, was a standout.

As for Wally Pipp, he was the first baseman for the New York Yankees who took a day off with a minor injury. Lou Gehrig took over and didn't relinquish the job for a couple of decades while he compiled a Hall of Fame career. That isn't likely to happen to Darby, though. Indeed, rumors had circulated before the start of spring training that Darby would probably be held out of much contact this spring.

Shula said, "Jimmy Johns had a real nice practice. He and Dukes are ones who have had three good days." He said that redshirt freshmen running backs Roy Upchurch and Ali Sharrief "have further to go." Upchurch, who was held out last year after undergoing surgery on a broken foot, had been considered doubtful for contact work this spring, but went through the fullspeed drills. "It's the first time he's had contact since last August," Shula pointed out.

Shula had previously mentioned senior safety Jeffrey Dukes as having been a defensive standout in Tuesday's work.

The Tuesday practice was the third of 15 scheduled this spring, but the first in full gear with contact. Alabama will continue through the A-Day Game on April 1. Bama will be back on the practice field Thursday in full gear.

Shula said, "On the first day in pads we had a lot of good effort and the attitude was good, but the execution wasn't too good." The Tide coach said that for the rest of the spring and through pre-season practice in August the emphasis would be on players getting comjfortable–studying to know what they do and having confidence that their teammates will do their jobs.

A handful of players missed all or part of the practice because of classes. One of those missing was middle linebacker Jake Collins. Shula said, "We worked Prince Hall and Darren Mustin there and we'll look at the tape of that."

Also at linebacker was Juwan Simpson, the outside linebacker who had injured his Achilles last week. Shula said he did well.

The Tide coach said Ezekial Knight, who is making the shift from wide receiver to defensive end, "looked pretty good in run drills, and that's encouraging."

Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines said, "It was an up and down day. We did some things good, and they were real good. We did some things bad, and they were awful. We need about 30 days, but they only give us 15, so we'll have to work twice as hard."

Shula said the "older guys did okay" on the offensive line, but "some of the younger players are having to re-learn because they were on the scout team last fall." The Tide coach noted that Trent Davidson, a tight end in 2004 who was out with an injury last fall, is working at offensive tackle.

Shula said the quarterbacks – sophomore John Parker Wilson, senior Marc Guillon, and freshman Jimmy Barnes – were "a little better than Saturday. We put some blitzing in, too, and they were moving around pretty well. The big thing for them is to not turn the ball over."

Among the practice visitors were former Bama stars John Copeland and Wesley Britt.

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