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Crimson Tide keeps focus on the basics

By By Duncan Gray IV/Special to The Star
Aug. 25, 2001
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.   As the first week of the college football season looms near, University of Alabama head coach Dennis Franchione and his staff are focused on the season opener against the UCLA Bruins.
Only one year after winning the SEC championship in 1999, and moving on to the Orange Bowl, the Alabama football program crumpled to a 3-8 record in 2000, and finished at the bottom of the SEC West. Franchione took over the reins and has showed that he is ready to begin a new season, and leave the broken pieces of a disastrous one behind.
While Franchione is prepared to lead the Tide into a new era, he stressed that the move will be a gradual one and one that starts with the team itself.
After a mock game day weekend that consisted of everything from a pre-game meal to the halftime routine, the head coach felt comfortable with the way the team performed, but realized that there are some things that just can not be taught.
One of those things that may be lacking at first is experience. Two redshirt freshmen are starting on the offensive line, and the secondary is full of new faces as well.
The new head coach said that the only way to see where the new players stand is to get them on the field in a real game situation.
The secondary is one of the concerns for Franchione. The Crimson Tide defense gave up more than 210 yards passing per game last season, but with the addition of Chris Thurmond as the cornerback coach, Franchione hopes to improve on that number.
Thurmond came to Alabama with Franchione last year from TCU, where the Horned Frogs defense was first in the nation last year in pass defense, allowing fewer than 150 yards a game in the air.
Even with all the questions surrounding the squad about their rematch against the Bruins, Franchione knows that the first obstacle the team must overcome is itself. So far the head coach said the team is making improvements each day.
As the September 1 opening date draws closer, Franchione once again asked that fans refrain from posting remarks on the Internet concerning the Alabama practices.
Jokingly, he said he was a little concerned if word got out that Freddie Milons was being moved to quarterback.
The Crimson Tide's opener begins Sept. 1 at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Duncan Gray IV is a correspondent for The Meridian Star.