October 4, 2006
Practice Update: Tide ready to win again
The Tide continued its preparation for the Duke Blue Devils on Wednesday with a shorts and shoulder pads practice. The session continued an upbeat week of practice for the Tide who are looking to shake off the agony of defeat this week against an overmatched Duke squad.
"I think we had a good practice yesterday and on Sunday. Our kids are in good spirits and they're motivated to get back on the winning track," said head coach Mike Shula. "The last two weeks have been tough times, but I think our young guys have learned a lot. If you look at the silver lining, these guys are going to be better because of the experience."
"Duke is misleading. You look at the stats defensively and they are pretty good on defense. They have had a lot of short fields after turnovers, punt returns or blocked punts where teams have had a chance to get on the board early. They have done a good job against the run with a lot of zone blitzes. We need to somehow find a way to win and get better."
With just one touchdown and two field goals on the board so far this season, Duke isn't likely to present much a challenge to the Tide defense though Shula believes that the scoreboard may not tell the whole story for the Blue Devil offense.
"I think one of the reasons they haven't scored is because they've had so many negative plays on offense," Shula said. "You look at all the quotes from their coaches and it seems they've struggled with some of those fundamental things you take for granted. If you take those negative plays out, they're actually doing a pretty good job of moving the ball both on the ground and in the short passing game. They do a lot of misdirection and gadget plays."
Shula has been particularly impressed with Kenneth Darby's improvement over the last two weeks and expects him and the running game in general to have one of its biggest weeks yet against the Blue Devil defense.
"I think he's played better each week," Shula said. "Last week was his best week and our offensive line's best week as far as productivity in the running game. We'll continue to use him and Jimmy Johns, who has also been very productive.
With the Duke game marking the halfway point of the season, the coaches will likely be making some final decisions regarding redshirting certain players, with some decisions coming more easily than others.
"Deciding who to redshirt is more difficult this year for us, because our first couple years here we played a lot of true freshmen and this year we've only played five," Shula said. "We talk about it at the end of training camp and we're talking about it right now since we're at the midway point. If we do play them, I think we need to play them throughout the rest of the season, not just one game in the middle of the year."
Roof impressed with Tide
Duke head coach Ted Roof has a special appreciation for the history and lore of Crimson Tide football having served as a graduate assistant for the Tide for two seasons under head coach Bill Curry.
"I spent two years there and I have a tremendous sense of respect for what Alabama football is about," Roof said. "I'm looking forward to coming back and hopefully having some fun."
Despite the low odds for a win for his program, Roof believes it is a positive for Duke to play against a school like Alabama for the sheer exposure it provides for the program.
"I think it helps recruiting to play games like this and it's exciting for our players to play against one of the best teams in the country and one of the best in the Southeastern Conference."
One advantage Duke will have against the Tide that schools from smaller conferences may not have had is their exposure to high level talent they receive by playing in the ACC against teams like Miami and Florida State.
"I think it's similar to the top tier of the ACC," Roof said. "Watching Alabama, they're very physical up front on both sides of the ball which is just like the top teams in this league. From the depth standpoint, Alabama is right on par with all those teams as well."
After opening the season with four straight losses, three of which were shutouts, Roof believes the best thing for his team is to continue to go out and play and learn from their mistakes.
"It'll be good for us to get back on the field and play again. Anytime you perform like we did last Saturday it leaves a bad taste in your mouth."
Injuries and Notes
* Glen Coffee participated in individual drills once again, according to Shula, and has looked good making quick moves and changing direction.
* Still no word on Ezekial Knight, though he did return for some limited practice today.
* Long-snapper Luke Spaulding has been experiencing some pain in his back and sat out of practice today. Shula said a decision will be made Saturday but that the coaches feel confident in backup snapper Brian Selman.
* Shula mentioned at the end of practice that he considered playing for Duke as a college quarterback and even took a visit there before deciding ultimately to go to Alabama.
"I think they would have had to make an exemption for me as an athlete as far as my transcripts go, but I did do pretty well on my ACT," Shula said.
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