TUSCALOOSA _ The University of Alabama football team took the pads off Thursday and went through its walkthrough for A-Day Game, the final official practice of spring.
ESPN will broadcast Saturday's festivities at Bryant-Denny Stadium beginning at 2 p.m.
"We're really looking forward to this Saturday I know our players are" Coach Nick Saban said. 'This has been a special day the University of Alabama at least for the three years I've been here because of the great fan support that we've had here. I know our players appreciate it tremendously. It has a very positive effect on recruiting."
"This kind of positive environment and support is probably one of the biggest reasons that we've had the success that we've had."
Alabama filled Bryant-Denny Stadium to capacity (92,138) for Saban's first A-Day in 2007 and last April attracted an estimated 84,050 for a three-year total of 254,388.
Another big crowd is expected with the Crimson Tide coming off its 13th national championship stadium expansion nearing conclusion and near-perfect weather forecasted (sunny high near 81 degrees). The last of 15 spring workouts it'll be the only opportunity to see the team until the fall and the Sept. 4 season opener against San Jose State.
"Spring ball is a difficult grind for lack of a better term" quarterback Greg McElroy said. "You're competing against each other day in day out. You're used to seeing the same things and really you're not preparing for a game. It gets a little but monotonous but we're very lucky to have the support we have to make A-Day a fun festivity for everyone the fans and players alike.
"So we're looking forward to competing. We're kind of looking at it like a school band getting ready for our performance."
Wide receiver Michael Bowman has been ruled out for A-Day due to a strained stomach muscle. He's participated in some practices this spring but did not work out with the team Thursday and missed last Saturday's scrimmage.
Outside linebacker Milton Talbert (shoulder) center William Vlachos (foot) and reserve offensive lineman Russell Raines are not expected to play either. Saban said that wide receiver Earl Alexander (abdominal strain) will likely be held out and offensive lineman Taylor Pharr sustained a concussion during Tuesday's practice. Offensive lineman Chad Lindsay (knee sprain) is considered questionable.
Citing research that one of every five injuries that occur on kickoffs results in a concussion the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a proposal to eliminate wedge-blocking formations of three-or-more players effective this season.
"We only have one return that has a three-man wedge and I don't think we used it very much last year" Saban said. "It's not going to be a big factor for what we did."
The PROP also banned symbols or messages on eye black and approved penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct as a live-ball foul for the 2011 season. For example a player called for taunting opponents en route to scoring a touchdown the flag would nullify the score and penalize the offending team from the spot of the foul.
Mix and match
The offensive line's second unit had a change Thursday as Alfred McCullough and Tyler Love swapped spots with McCullough on the left side backing up James Carpenter. David Williams was in Pharr's spot at left tackle on the third unit.
Kendall Kelly again worked at safety with Brandon Gibson with the receivers. Both have been learning safety this spring as a depth precaution.
Saban took time to visit with the Alabama gymnastics team which will compete in next week's NCAA meet. "I know that (winning the national championship) is your goal I know that's what you want to do" Saban said. "But you want to make sure you take advantage of that opportunity by doing all the things you need to do individually and collectively as a team so you can do it the best you can do it and then you can live with the result." The coach met with the team last year as well before it won the SEC Championship and finished second at the NCAAs. "They always get my best speech because they're so much better looking than the guys I talk to all the time it's not even funny. I really enjoy it."
Safety Mark Barron was one of 42 players named to the initial watch list for the Lott Trophy for defensive impact (Integrity Maturity Performance Academics Community and Tenacity) player of the year. Barron was a third-team All-American last year. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans won the award in 2005.
Saban on standing behind the quarterbacks during A-Day: "It's the best place in the house not to get run over ... The only guy I have to get out of the way is the quarterback who I've told them on many occasions this spring I'm a better athlete than they are and can move faster. They don't really like that."