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Mike Shula talks Brodie Croyle, injuries, and
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Croyle expected to join practice

By David Wasson
Executive Sports Editor
January 23, 2005

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TUSCALOOSA | Guess who’s coming back for spring football practice?

University of Alabama football coach Mike Shula said Saturday that junior quarterback Brodie Croyle, who had been out since September with a torn knee ligament, will be 100 percent healthy and ready to participate fully when the Crimson Tide takes the field on Feb. 22.

“We think that Brodie will be ready to go, 100 percent," Shula said.

Croyle tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the opening drive of the second half against Western Carolina on Sept. 18.

Although the Tide’s No. 12 is expected to be at full strength for spring practice, there are still plenty of injury-caused question marks for Alabama.

Starting with Croyle’s backup, both the decision by Spencer Pennington to quit football and play baseball full-time for Alabama and the uncertainty surrounding Marc Guillon’s back injury leave Shula unsure who will be at second-string.

“Marc Guillon is another one who still isn’t 100 percent," Shula said. “He is closer, as he was at the bowl game. But it is an injury that is frustrating for him. Hopefully, he will get it healed, but the doctors tell him and us that it will take time to heal."

Guillon questioned his status publicly earlier in the week, suggesting that he recognized that Pennington was suffering from a concussion at halftime of the Music City Bowl and that he let Shula know he was ready to play.

“There was a thought, when we thought Spencer was hurt, we told [Guillon] to get warmed up," Shula said. “But Spencer came up and told me he was OK, I told him OK and to get back in the game. There was no risk whatsoever.

“I listen to my trainers, and my job depends on listening to them and the doctors. As far as [Pennington] having a concussion and being in harm’s way, I was told that he was not. There was no indication that that was the case, and that is why we played him. I don’t read the articles about it, so I don’t have a reaction to it. And if I did, I wouldn’t express it in the media."

Aside from quarterback, there were still plenty of injury issues to address Saturday. Among them:
Tailback Kenneth Darby (pelvis) -- “Ken Darby is still going to be with us, but as of right now he isn’t 100 percent. Hopefully he will be in the spring. It is a thing that is going to take time to heal. We do think it is going to heal. I am not sure if it is an unusual injury, but I do know it is a difficult one for him to bounce back quickly from. We hoped it would be quicker, but it looks like it will take some time. We don’t want to rush him if he isn’t ready for spring. We want him to be ready for the fall."
Running back Tim Castille (knee) -- “I see his role being the same. And that is not set in stone. He was just coming into his own, staying on the field at halfback and fullback. But we are going to be flexible. He won’t participate in spring practice. If he does, it will be light drills and no contact. There is no thought of redshirting him right now."
Defensive lineman Justin Britt (ankle) -- “Hopefully, he will be ready for spring ball. He had surgery, and in everything we have been told, he will be ready either for all of spring ball or the last part. My gut tells me it will be around the middle of spring practice."

Shula -- who took time out from a tour of the Bryant Museum with recruits for Saturday’s teleconference with the media -- indicated that the Crimson Tide was nearing the end of its recruiting trail.

“We are looking at some guys, like in the draft, some good athlete guys regardless of position," Shula said. “We are still looking at defensive ends, defensive backs, tight ends, running backs.

“We talked about signing two or three running backs at first, but that was the number we had the biggest flexibility on. There are guys who come in that are backs who are good athletes, too. We have got with Aaron [Johns] and Ken as the only two guys on scholarship, so that is definitely a need for us."

Shula reiterated his position on signing a number of student-athletes higher than the 25 scholarships the Crimson Tide can give in the fall. The Crimson Tide currently has 31 commitments.

“From what I have learned, the biggest thing is that we want to have 25 student-athletes given scholarships and be on board in August," Shula said. “As we know, sometimes you sign a young man and he doesn’t make it academically. If you sign 25, and one doesn’t make it, you lose out. But we aren’t going to oversign unless we have a plan for every single player who signs. We had a plan last year, and have a plan this year."

News and notes

Shula said that the status of middle linebacker Earnest Nance, who was arrested due to his involvement in a nightclub altercation in Sheffield during the season, has not changed. Nance had told The Decatur Daily that he had been reinstated. ... Because of the shortage of scholarship players at running back and tight end (the latter after Clint Johnston gave up football due to multiple concussions last season), Shula said that the Tide could feature Nick Walker and Trent Davidson more at tight end, as well as experiment with more three- and four-receiver sets during spring “to get more guys reps and not over-work other guys." ... Jeffrey Dukes will continue to work at linebacker, as he did primarily in nickel situations toward the end of the 2004 season. ... As the Tide continues to rebuild from probation, Shula said true freshmen will still be a factor in the game plan in 2005. “We will still be relying on them, and I will still be just as nervous," Shula said. “We played 11 true freshmen last season, and we could be around there again." ... Quarterback John Parker Wilson, a highly touted baseball player out of high school who along with Pennington will play baseball at UA this spring, is expected by Shula to participate fully in football practice. “We have a clear understanding," Shula said. “It would be safe to say he will participate 100 percent in the spring."
01-24-2005 10:56 AM
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