Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Dennis Franchione Weekly Press Conference


Thursday, August 08, 2002


"First off, let me say I really feel good about the way our guys reported. The physical shape, the strength and everything, I think we've taken a step up in that regard from last year. I think we're pretty close to where we need to be on a year-in-year-out basis. Eighteen months ago I felt like it may take another year to get there but we've made pretty dramatic improvement, so I'm real pleased with that.

"Let me also say that if anybody would have said on February 1 that everybody would report, present and accounted for in great shape, great attitude, great chemistry--I'd have said, "Wow. That's good." And that's what's happened. I'm really proud of these guys and the way they've stayed together and forged ahead and kept their focus on the season and playing together and everything. It really makes me feel good as a coach to get to this day. I don't know if I would have, on February 1, been able to say that this was what it was going to be like on August 8. I know this. If I could have said this is what I wanted, they've done that, so I'm really proud of them in that regard.

"Academics, you've heard me say that Jon Dever has praised our progress as a team and how far we've come. We did have a couple of casualties. As most of you have figured out, Gerard Clark was a casualty this summer. Dante Ellington is not eligible to compete. He is still in school. He does have a redshirt year. We will give him the opportunity to redshirt. He will be in the 105. We're comfortable with that fact, and hopefully Dante will use this to his benefit both athletically and academically to get himself in a position for the future. I think he can help us on the scout team and he understands that will be his role. I think he needs our structure right now, and we're in the business of helping him. I'm disappointed for him, but in some regards this can become a positive that he has a chance to turn it around and get things going in the right direction. Hopefully he'll take advantage of that.

"We still have a couple of guys who have finals today or tomorrow that have to finish those up. Actually, tomorrow is the last day of this summer session so we had to move practice tomorrow morning to 10:45 to avoid a conflict with about 25 guys who have 8 o'clock classes tomorrow. So it will be the one morning that we practice at a different time.

"As we go into two-a-days, I think as a staff the things that we maybe have our antennas up for are depth and how it will organize itself in the offensive line. The emergence of Von Ewing, J.B. Closner--Atlas Herrion is going to move back to the offensive line to start out two-a-days, especially in light of Dante right now we needed an older hand there. So we need to follow that and track that and get ourselves where we have eight guys that can work in a rotation hopefully. The mix at wide receiver, we have great confidence in Sam (Collins) and A.C. (Antonio Carter). But we need to find out how that number three, number four, number five, number six receiver is going to fit into our plans and who they are going to be. The progress of the young quarterbacks, Brodie (Croyle) and even Brandon (Avalos) ---especially Brodie and Spencer (Pennington), this is an especially important 29 practices for them. They had a nice first 15 practices in the spring and now we need to take them as far along as we can.

"We're very interested and I'm very interested in the effectiveness of the multiple use of the `A' back position. I think it's a great concept and the two guys that can be the `A' back for us can certainly do it all if we can teach it all. That will be the trick. We're asking them to learn two positions and they're both smart guys but there are nuances to the position that they have to learn. How well we are able to teach that here in camp will determine how much we will use that as we go into the season.

"Placekicker as you know is up in the air and we certainly hope to solidify that before the first game. That's a concern. D-line rotation--we like to play eight or ten guys in the d-line. Today with 40 or 50 passes being thrown some Saturdays, you have to have fresh people to rush the quarterback in the fourth quarter and we need to get a handle on who those guys are going to be and if we are that deep at that position, and how much we'd use four-man fronts or three-man fronts and things like that.

"Linebacker rotation--I think we're pretty firm with Cornelius (Wortham) and Brooks (Daniels) but the rest of it I think has yet to be determined and something we'll find out a good bit in camp.

"In the secondary I think we're going to be better but we've got to find out who the starters are, who the backups are, whose going to be in the rotation. David Scott is certainly an intriguing guy coming in that we held hope that he would make an impact and after a couple of days it certainly looks like he could do that.

"It was a tough decision to decide on who the 105 were going to be which is good. We're glad. We felt bad that we had to leave some guys off of that but that's the way the rules are. I don't know if we can say we are 100 percent this is a done deal but we are very close on this and I think this is going to be happening--is that we are probably going to play a junior varsity game on October 10 here in Bryant-Denny against Georgia Military. That'll probably be a 4 o'clock kickoff. I think we're getting through all the red tape and things that we have to do to get that there. I think that can be beneficial to all our non-redshirts and young players who could play in that game and get a day's worth of game experience in a football game.

"Injury wise, we're really very fortunate going into practice tomorrow at this time. Lance Taylor will wear a cast on his hand because of breaking it this summer. Nathan Cox has had a hand injury but really, other than that, Sam Collins, Kendall Morehead, a lot of those guys-A.C.-have bounced back pretty well. A.C.  and Evan (Mathis) both have rods in their lower leg and I'm sure they'll have some days during two-a-days where that will be painful. Any of you who have watched enough two-a-days know that by the end of two-a-days every part of your body is painful. It's not whether you've had an injury or not. But we may have to make some allowances for them. Todd Bates with his surgery, I think he'll start okay and then we'll just have to see what the fatigue of two-a-days will do to him and if we have to cut him back to one a day or something like that.

"We've got some new helmets. No, they're not the white ones that everybody's asked about. We've just got some of the newer Dell helmets that are our safety for concussions. Donnie Lowe will wear one and maybe a couple of other guys. They seem to be a big help. Hopefully they'll make a difference. Donnie's had a number of little concussions and we want to do whatever we can to eliminate that.

"But all in all, I really feel good about their physical well being going into the start of two-a-days at least.

"I like the chemistry of this team. We've got a motivational challenge ahead of us. But with the attitude of our coaches and players right now I think it's off to a great start. The more we come together in two-a-days and preseason and have a great camp. And I believe we'll have a better camp then last year only because it's year two and not year one. Everybody's been full cycle now. Not every day's a new day a clean day. Everybody knows the system. Everybody knows the expectations, how we practice, what's coming next. And I just think that's going to make the anxiety factor much lower for the players and things much smother as we go through these next ten or twelve days of two-a-days."-