Tide Heads To Break

Kenneth Darby is emerging as a leader

A head coach feels a responsibility for his players that is akin to parent-child relationship. And that may be why Mike Shula said following Thursday's practice that "All the things I got excited about as a player are the things that make me nervous now." Following Bama's scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium, players were released from football for spring break.

Alabama players got words of wisdom and warning from Shula following the scrimmage. The players will be on break following the completion of classes this week. The University spring break ends on March 27 when the team will report back for meetings and physicals. The remaining practices of the spring will be a shorts practice on March 28 and a full gear workout on March 30 that Shula promised would be "pretty tough."

Spring practice ends with the annual A-Day Game at 1:30 p.m. CST Saturday, April 1, at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Tide went through a two-hour, 110-play scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Much of the scrimmage was under the lights.

Although Shula said he never expected a team to be as far along as he wished, he said, "We're better now than when we started."

Regarding Thursday's practice, Shula said, "Overall, the scrimmage was a better day. We came out with a better attitude and having fun."

Much of the work was in red zone territory. "In plus territory, our defense continues to be good. Offensively, we have to be better. We are trying to have a good mix of run and pass."

Shula noted a number of players who had done well, including halfback Kenneth Darby. He said that the running game was better in part because "the offensive line did a better job. They are getting a little more confidence. I think when we look at the (video)tape we'll see fewer mental errors. And Kenneth Darby made good running decisions. He's starting to look like the Ken Darby we have known. When the offense makes a few first downs, that helps their confidence. Even though we have a lot of experienced players on offense, we're replacing some guys, too."

He also complimented quarterback John Parker Wilson for an improved day and running backs Jimmy Johns and Roy Upchurch. He said Johns has had good practice days and had "some nice carries" in the scrimmage. He said Upchurch has been practicing well, but chided the redshirt freshman for a fumble.

Shula tends to compare the team to things that last year's 10-2 and nationally eighth-ranked Alabama team did. Offensively, he said that last season Alabama did a good job of protecting the football. Defensively, he said, "Last year it was rare when we were out of place on defense. We're not there yet."

Defensively, Shula had a long list to congratulate. He said cornerback Lionel Mitchell; defensive end Wallace Gilberry; linebackers Terrence Jones, Juwan Simpson, Prince Hall, Matt Collins; and defensive tackle Lorenzo Washington.

He also said that placekicker Jamie Christensen, who hit four of five field goals with a long of 46 (he missed a 48-yarder) had "another good day."

He said, "A lot os seniors on defense are playing consistently."

Shula said the linebackers "are getting used to each other." He said that Hall, a redshirt freshman playing middle linebacker, "is a talented young man. He knows what he's doing. He's seeing things and reacts."

In answer to a question, Shula said that defensive end Ezekiel Knight "is doing better, but he still has a ways to go." Knight made the move from split end to defensive end this spring.

Also in answer to a question, Shula said that center Antoine Caldwell "is becoming a leader. He's got that personality. And as we tell our players, if you're going to be a leader, you have to produce."

He said those among showing good leadership are Terrence Jones, Juwan Simpson, Wallace Gilberry and Ramzee Robinson on defense and Le'Ron McClain, Tim Castille, and Kenneth Darby on offense.

One thing that pleased Shula is "There were no serious injuries. (Defensive tackle) Dominic Lee had a stinger, but was able to return."

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