Rolando McClain is a 6-4, 255-pound former prep All-America from Decatur. Although his cause may have been helped a bit by returning Alabama starter Prince Hall being suspended for the opener, most reports had McClain as having won the job.
Last year offensive left tackle Andre Smith was a true freshman starter for Bama and was considered one of trhe nation's best -- no surprise since he had been ranked by Scout as the nation's top offensive line prospect the year before.
Other true freshmen to start in the season-opener of their first games include fullback Tim Castille in 2003, linebacker Saleem Rasheed in 1999, offensive tackle Dante Ellington in 1999, tight end Terry Jones, Jr., in 1998, offensive tackle Jon Stevenson in 1991, and offensive tackle Larry Rose in 1985.
Halftime festivities include former Alabama players Clem Gryska and Cecil "Hootie" Ingram being recognized as recipients of the 2007 Paul W. Bryant Alumni-Athlete Award. The award is presented by the UofA National Alumni Association each year to two former players who have distinguished themselves as alumni. Gryska played for the Crimson Tlide from 1945-48, served as an assistant coach on the staff of Coach Bryant, and in "retirement" has worked as a special assistant in the Paul W. Bryant Museum.
Ingram was a standout defensive back at Bama and also starred on the baseball team in the early 1950s. After a long career in athletics as a coach and administrator, he retired as director of athletics at Alabama.
Among visitors at Alabama's season-opening game Saturday was last year's quarterback, Brodie Croyle, now playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Going into the Western Carolina game, Alabama was 88-21-3 (79.9 per cent) in season-openers. The Tide had a five-game winning streak in season-opening games. It was the 50th season-opening game on campus and the Tide has an all-time mark of 46-2-1 (94.l9 per cent) in those previous first games in Tuscaloosa.
Next week Alabama has its first road game and its first Southeastern Conference game as the Crimson Tide goes to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. The game will be regionally-televised on the SEC's Lincoln Financial Network with kickoff shortly after 11:30 a.m. CDT.