Originally created 03/03/03

Alabama opens first spring under new staff



TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Mike Price is enthusiastic about his first spring practice at Alabama, and he's hoping it's contagious.

The Crimson Tide opens the spring Monday with a new coaching staff, a new offense and defense and plenty of new players in key positions.

"Nobody in the state of Alabama is more excited about Monday than Mike Price," Price said.

There won't be enough time for the players to digest all the new terminology and the fine points of the new systems in the spring. Price is hoping they'll learn the basics, and more importantly remember them come fall practices.

He also wants to keep them healthy and following the rules since NCAA sanctions mean the Tide can ill afford to lose any players due to disciplinary or academic problems.

"Retention is huge," said Price, who replaced Dennis Franchione. "I don't want to lose players. At the same time they have to toe the right line and be disciplined. We're not going be afraid to suspend anybody if things go wrong."

Alabama already must replace six starters on defense - three defensive linemen and three defensive backs - along with two offensive linemen, quarterback Tyler Watts and the second-leading rusher, Santonio Beard, and leading receiver, Sam Collins.

Receiver Antonio Carter will miss the spring due to a leg injury that also kept him sidelined last season.

Tailback Shaud Williams and quarterbacks Spencer Pennington and Brandon Avalos are all playing baseball this season, but Price said they won't miss any football practices.

The new coaches have watched plenty of film from last season since Price reported for work in January, but the spring will give them their first chance to evaluate the Tide's returning players firsthand on the field.

"That's going be the process this spring, finding players we think can play and putting them in the position we think they can play at," Price said.

"There's not going be a lot of surprises. There's not going be someone who's never played before and all of a sudden he's a Heisman candidate. But everybody gets a fresh start."

Price normally spends most of his time with the offense - and will surely give quarterback Brodie Croyle and his competitors a close look - but knows what to expect from both his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

His sons, Eric and Aaron, will man those positions.

That frees Price to spend more time familiarizing himself with defensive coordinator Joe Kines' system.

He knows the practices could look choppy as the players adjust to the new coaches.

"It may not look great at the beginning," Price said. "I don't care. I don't care how we look right now. What I'm concerned about is how we look in the fall."

He also wants plenty of fans to come check out his team for the spring game March 29.

"The more people we get in that stadium, the better," Price said.