Alabama started spring football practice way back on February 24 and will end it with the annual Crimson-White game, which begins at 1:30 p.m. CST Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The A-Day Game, the 15th practice day, will not be a game, as such. Shula said following practice that the Tide will have the first offense going against the first defense, then the second offense going against the second defense.
He said, "We talked to our team about really focusing hard this week on finishing the week out strong. We're going to do some more things on Thursday, get in a little bit of tackling. For the spring game, basically what we're going to do is our first offense is going to go against our first defense, if they've got to punt the ball, we won't punt it we'll just move it 35 yards and then the second offense will go against the second defense and we'll kind of go back and forth."
With a squad of only some 80 players and as many as 10 expected to miss the final practice because of injuries, there are not enough players to make up two teams.
Although there will not be punting or kickoffs in the game, Shula said there will be some special teams mixed into the practice.
"We hope to finish on a good note," Shula said.
He said, "We're not going to show everything. We'll limit some things. But we want all our players to play well and we want to come out of it injury-free.
"And we want to put on a good show for our fans, a good first impression for the (2006) season."
He said the game is an important practice because of the game-type atmosphere. "This year we're looking for some guys to step up and play who haven't played in front of a large crowd in a meaningful situation," Shula said. "This is not as large as the crowds will be (in the fall), but larger than they have been."
He said he wants to see them "step up and play the position and show poise."
The Tide was in shorts, the third and final of the NCAA-mandated non-contact practices on the first day back. "We were rusty as you might think, especially the guys throwing and catching, the guys handling the ball," Shula said. "I thought our effort was good and I thought for the most part we didn't lose too much in the conditioning area."
Shula said that the offensive line has made progress this fall. "We had four of five starters back," he said. He said that run blocking has been good and that pass blocking has improved, although he said more improvement is needed.
He said that quarterback play this spring has been "okay. They were rusty today. But John Parker Wilson had a good final scrimmage (before spring break). He has to continue working to make good decisions with his throws. Today wasn't physically as good."
Although there are a handful of players in the orange jerseys designating injured players, Shula said the situation is better than it has been the past three years. There was even some good news regarding wide receiver Tyrone Prothro, who is recovering from a broken leg suffered early last season. Prothro, Shula said, is out of a cast and wearing a boot. He said with the exception of Prothro and possibly running back Glen Coffee, who has a pelvis injury, that all players should be ready to go by June.
He noted that Nikita Stover, a junior college transfer wide receiver who has been limited by a groin pull, would have to get himself in better shape by working with the team through the summer. But, he said, Stover is much further along by having come in at mid-term rather than waiting until next August.
Among those not expected to be able to play Saturday because of injuries are tight end Travis McCall (ankle), running back Ali Sharrief (hamstring), and wide receiver Will Oakley (hamstring). Cornerback Ramzee Robinson, who has been held out of all team work with back and wrist injuries this spring, is doubtful.
Keith Brown was held out of work Tuesday with an infected toe, but is expected back by Saturday. Linebacker Zach Schreiber was held out of Tuesday's work with a back problem, but also could play Saturday. Fullback Baron Huber, who had missed some practices prior to spring break with a knee injury, was back at practice Tuesday.
Here is the schedule for A-Day Weekend:
4:30 p.m. Women's Tennis vs. Florida
6:30 p.m. Baseball, Alabama vs. Mississippi State
8:30 – 10:30 a.m. Fan Day, Coleman Coliseum
10-Noon BamaMag.com gathering on Quad at corner closest to stadium
Noon Gates open at Bryant-Denny Stadium
12:30 p.m. Walk-of-Fame at Denny Chimes
1:30 p.m. A-Day Game kickoff
3:00 p.m. Baseball, Alabama vs. Mississippi State
1:00 p.m. Women's Tennis vs. South Carolina
2:00 p.m. Baseball, Alabama vs. Mississippi State