Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Holds Spring Practice Press Conference


Monday, February 20, 2006

Mike Shula

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula’s Partial Spring Press Conference

“As you know, we get started on Friday. It’s upon us already. It seems like we just got through with our last game. The things that have happened since then, the recruiting, we feel good about. I know I talked to some of you a few weeks ago and since then our staff has been going through our off-season scheduling, looking at our goals for spring practice and other off-season projects and going through the normal course of the off-season. The things we’ve talked about as a staff that we want to try to get accomplished for the course of the spring practice, like every year, are just finding players.

“Defensively we have some guys that we have to replace as starters. Six of the seven starters that left were three-year starters and the seventh one was a two-year starter. So we have to find some guys that can step up into that role. The good news is that we feel like we have guys that have played a lot. We’ve rotated a lot guys over the course of the last couple of years and now these guys are going to have to step into starting roles. We need to find some pass rushers on defense, whether that’s defensive linemen or linebackers. We have to find guys that have the ability to rush the passer. We’re going to identify those guys and use them the best way we know how.

“Special teams wise, identifying personal is a key for this year, especially with the punter, center and holder to replace. We have to find depth at the return position. That will be critical for us. We might not have a guy here on campus that will be our returner. It might be a freshman, but we want to find guys right now. We also want to identify what we call those core special teams guys. Those are the guys that will be in on every special team and we know will make some plays. Rashad Johnson, to us, is one of those guys, but we need to find more guys like him. 

“Offensively, the two biggest things are finding our best guys on the offensive line, improving our pass protection there and finding out about our quarterbacks. We’re looking for a guy that is going to open it up and replace Brodie (Croyle). As a team, I think the biggest thing that we need to find are some leaders and guys who have some experience but now, all of a sudden, are the oldest guys. That usually comes out with your senior group, but when you had as many seniors as we did last year that played for three years, then we have to put more emphasis, as a staff, on finding these guys and making sure they understand how important it is going to be, and not wait until the fall, but understand how important that leadership is right now. The other thing, too, is our mentality. We need to pick up where we left off with the way we were relentless and being a physical football team. We need to continue with that and understand how important it is going to be for us. It helped us win a lot of football games. 

“Personnel wise, the biggest move we have to announce right now is that Ezekial Knight is going to move from wide receiver to defensive end. Aaron McDaniel practiced in December as a wide receiver and we’re going to look at him there. A couple other guys on the defensive line that started out as defensive ends that we want to also look at the defensive tackle position are Brandon Fanney and Lorenzo Washington. A couple other personnel notes: Jeffery Aul has decided to leave the team and Curtis Dawson was not allowed to come back to our football team.”

Q: Can you talk about the decision to move Ezekial Knight to defense? What went into that and what do you see from him at that position?
“It was something that he actually came in and talked to us about and we had been thinking about it as staff. He played both positions in high school. He’s a unique athlete; a big physical guy that’s helped us at the wide receiver position when we needed help. But, we feel like he can be one of those pass rushers that we’re going to need to identify. It’s going to take a lot of work. He knows that and we’ve talked about it, but he’ll start out with the right mindset and learn everyday.”

Q: Can you talk about putting last year in the past, especially after having a successful season, and trying to move on?
“I think it’s good for us to talk about it as a football team. Our guys are going through the winter workouts right now and you can see a difference already in the leadership parts of the workout and how we have to move on from last year. These guys that were sophomores and juniors are going to be juniors and seniors and they’ve got to understand that those other guys are gone. The ones they looked up to or waited on to say something to the rest of the team and take on those leadership characteristics aren’t here. We’ve talked about it already with Rocky Colburn, our strength and conditioning coach. It’s going to be a issue, for sure, as we start spring practice Friday and then it will continue to be a theme as we move into the off-season and into training camp.”

Q: Can you talk about the competition at quarterback and what do you expect out of a guy like John Parker Wilson in the spring?
“Well, I think the fact that he was here last spring and had all those reps when the other guys were hurt, in fact he may have gotten more reps last year than he’ll get this spring, but he has to understand the position and how to manage the game. You do that in spring ball, by getting practice and making good decisions. Physically, we feel very good about him being able to do the things that we’ve done here before with Brodie. Now it’s just a matter of continuing to get experience and making good decisions. For every quarterback, in my opinion, when you are throwing the football there are three things and if you can do these three things then you can play well: going to the right guy, being on time and throwing the ball accurately. That’s what he’ll strive for and the other guys will strive for.”

Q: The depth chart shows Marlon Davis moving over to the left guard. How much of an adjustment will that be for him and how much do you expect of him? Can you also talk about the other pass protection personnel things you want to work on?
“With Marlon, it will be an adjustment, but not as much as maybe we think. It would be more so for a younger guy rather than an older guy. He has some experience now. He made some strides over the course of our December practices and was working both sides that way. It’s going to be an issue where we feel like Marlon should know both positions. That’s why we’re starting him over there right now. Pass protection wise, we’re going to get older and that’s the good news. We’re going to be more experienced on the offensive line this year than we were last year. At this time last year Chris Capps had played, I think, 70 snaps. Now he has a whole year under his belt. Kyle Tatum at the other tackle position will be going into his third year as a starter. The other thing that will help us address that issue will be competition. So now we have some redshirt guys coming up, guys like Mike Johnson. Cody Davis was going to be one of those guys but, unfortunately, got hurt. Drew Davis is another guy that will help with that. We’re going to look hard at how each guy can get better. Scheme wise, we’ll look at that throughout the off-season.”

Q: In terms of quarterback competition, is this something that you want settled at the end of spring or will it be something that will re-open once practice starts again?
“It’s too early to make that decision right now. What we want to do at every position is create competition and open up the competition and make every guy on our football team feel like they have to go out and earn playing time. The quarterback position is right along with all the other positions. Guys that are going to be on the field next year will be guys that we feel we can depend on to do their job."