The Crimson Tide started its second week of spring football drills with a full gear workout Monday. It was the fifth of 15 spring practices, which will end with the A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium at 1 p.m. CST March 29.
Illness and injury are taking a toll on defense. Bama was without the services of three of its four first team defensive linemen Monday. End Nautyn McKay-Loescher has been tested for mononucleosis (Price doesn't have the result of the test yet). Tackle Ahmad Childress has a flu, while Anthony Bryant is nursing a bruised coccyx (tailbone). The fourth first team defensive lineman, end Antwan Odom, was back at practice after having been held out of last Saturday's scrimmage with a slight concussion. Linebacker Juke King suffered a knee injury in Monday's work and Price said it "could be serious."
"All-in-all I've had better days," he said, "But that's why they hired me to coach the team. They'll come back."
Price said there were a number of reasons that Monday's practice was unsatisfactory. "We put in some more offense and I think that confused them. And we put in the zone blitz on defense and neither the defense nor the offense handled it well."
But mainly, he said, "I think we're not in very good shape.We're not in good running shape and we're not in good playing shape. Part of that may be because we didn't go to a bowl game. That's 20 additional practices, and I know from experience that helps a team get better. That's because we had a string of years at Washington State when we didn't go to bowls and everyone else was getting better."
He said it was also in part because of the coaching change. "Ben Pollard (strength and conditioning coach) has done a marvelous job, but he can only do so much." He said it's different when there are coaches around watching and helping motivate the off-season work. Price also pointed to Alabama's spring practice coming so early, about two weeks earlier than normal. He said the upside of that is that in April and May the team will get in more conditioning work.
Price singled out strong safety Roman Harper as a pleasant surprise in the scrimmage work Alabama had Saturday. He also praised tailbacks Shaud Williams, Ray Hudson and Kenneth Darby and complimented the offensive line for its pass protection work.
Tide Notes: The team roster is undergoing changes, mostly additions and deletions. The most prominent defection from the squad Monday was running back Trevis O'Neal. Additions include Gerritt Gordon, a 6-2, 270-pound defensive tackle from Mobile who transferred from Bethel College in Tennessee and will have to sit out a year; linebacker Matt McMullin (6-2, 230) from Montgomery; defensive end William Yates (5-10, 225) from Tuscaloosa; and 5-8, 177-pound placekicker Tyler Straate of Pleasant Grove.
The team frequently ends practice with "fun stuff," and on Monday is was a placekicking contest between the offense and defense. Representing the offense were Ray Hudson, Triandos Luke and Kenneth Darby. Defensive representatives were Brooks Daniels, Derrick Pope and Freddie Roach. Hudson was judged to be the only players whose attempt could have been deemed successful.
On Thursday Alabama will host "Pro Day" testing for players who have completed college eligibility. Among the professional football representatives expected on campus are former Alabama stars Ozzie Newsome, general manager of the Baltimore Ravens, and John Mitchell of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Among Monday's practice visitors was Patrick Eades, a punter from Hoover who intends to walk on with the Crimson Tide next fall.