The 2003 season-opener marked the first career starts for five Alabama players. They are center J.B. Closner, right guard Dennis Alexander, split end Zach Fletcher, "F" back Tim Castille, and right defensive tackle Jeremy Clark. Alexander is the most experienced of the first-time starters, playing in 35 games in his three-year career at Alabama. Fletcher played in all 13 games last year as a junior college transfer to the Tide. Closner played 48 total snaps in six games last year as a redshirt freshman. Clark was redshirted last year and made his debut as a starter primarily because Ahmad Childress had missed a great deal of practice time. Castille is a true freshman, naturally making his first college appearance.
In addition to Clark and Castille, eight other Bama players saw their first collegiate action. They are kickoff man Jeff Aul, cornerback Ramzee Robinson, holder Gabe Giardina, punter Bo Freelend, "F" back LéRon McClain, halfback Kenneth Darby, linebacker Juwan Garth, and linebacker Terrence Jones. McLain and Jones are both true freshmen and both from Tuscaloosa County High School.
There were also some notable non-participating players, including two starters from last season and one from 2001. Outside linebacker Cornelius Wortham had played in 36 previous Bama games, but was held out after suffering an elbow injury in practice. Greg McLain, last year's starting fullback, has missed practice time with an undisclosed injury and has also been working at tight end this fall. Antonio "A.C." Carter missed all last season recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his leg. He has continued to have pain and did not play Saturday. Kyle Robinson, who was Bama's placekicker at the end of last season, did not play after being beaten out for the job by Brian Bostick, who also started last season as the number one placement man. And the true freshman who has been most often praised for his practice work is defensive tackle Dominic Lee, who did not see action in the opener.
Some played more than one position, such as back-up offensive linemen Atlas Herrion playing both left and right tackles and back-up offensive guard Matt Lomax playing both guard spots. Although Ramzee Robinson is listed as a back-up cornerback, he spent most of the day in the nickel spot as Bama played much of the game in a 3-3-5 alignment–three defensive linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs.
Alabama played 24 men on offense, 19 on defense, and 8 just on special teams. Here are those who played with starters listed first. The number in parenthesis is the number of plays. If there are two numbers, the second is the number of plays the player had on special teams.
Left Tackle–Wesley Britt (63-8)
Left Guard–Justin Smiley (63-8)
Center–J.B. Closner (48), Matt Lomax (25)
Right Guard–Dennis Alexander (67-8), Danny Martz (16)
Right Tackle–Evan Mathis (37-4), Atlas Herrion (46-4)
Left Tackle–Anthony Bryant (42)
Right Tackle–Jeremy Clark (29), Ahmad Childress (30-1)
Strongside Linebacker–Derrick Pope (54-5), Terrence Jones (2-11)
Middle Linebacker–Freddie Roach (45-5)
Weakside Linebacker–DeMeco Ryans (54-5), Juwan Garth (10-20)
Strong Safety–Roman Harper (61-5)
Safety–Charles Jones (61)
Kickoff Man–Jeff Aul (7)
Punter–Bo Freelend (4)
Placekicker–Brian Bostick (8–3 field goals, 5 PATs)
Snapper–Nick Ridings (12–4 punts, 3 field goals, 5 PATs)
Holder–Gabe Giardina (8–3 field goals, 5 PATs)