Bama Freshmen Get Call As Starters

Alabama had the consensus number one recruiting class in the nation, and when Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban released a depth chart last Monday, the probable starting line-up included two freshmen, Julio Jones at wide receiver and Don'ta Hightower at weakside linebacker.

When Alabama opened the 2008 season against Clemson in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta Saturday night, the two true freshmen were indeed in the starting lineup, Julio Jones on offense and Don'ta Hightower on defense. Another newcomer getting the starting nod in his first game as a Tider was nose tackle Terrence Cody, a junior college transfer.

Alabama has a history of true freshmen being in the starting lineup for the opening game of the season. In the past, they have included linebacker Rolando McClain and cornerback Kareem Jackson last year. Other true freshmen to start in opening games for Bama include offensive tackle Larry Rose in 1985, offensive tackle Jon Stevenson in 1991, tight end Terry Jones, Jr., in 1998, linebacker Saleem Rashad and offensive tackle Dante Ellington in 1999, fullback Tim Castille in 2003, and offensive tackle Andre Smith in 2006.

tThe starting line-ups were about as would have been expected following the release of the depth chart. The offensive line included Andre Smith at left tackle, Mike Johnson at left guard, Antoine Caldwell at center, Marlon Davis at right guard and Drew Davis at right tackle. John Parker Wilson was at quarterback, the third year for the fifth-year senior to be the Tide's starting quarterback.

The question going into the game was the formation Alabama might use to open up on offense. The combinations are numerous beyond five offensive linemen and a quarterback. There could be up to four wide receivers, one two or three tight ends, a running back (or not) and/of a fullback (or no fullback).

As it turned out, the Tide had three wide receivers -- Julio Jones, Mike McCoy and Marquis Maze; Travis McCall at tight end; and Glen Coffee at tailback.

Defense was a little more predictable. Although the Tide often uses five-man (nickel) and six-man (dime) secondaries, the base formation is a 3-4. And yes, that can look like a 4-3 depending on the position of the jack linebacker.

Alabama opened with Bobby Greenwood at left end, Brandon Deaderick at right end, Terrence Cody at nose tackle, Cory Reamer at strongside linebacker, Brandon Fanney at jack linebacker, Rolando McClain at middle linebacker, Don'ta Hightower at weakside linebacker, Kareem Jackson at right cornerback, Javier Arenas at left cornerback, Justin Woodall at strong safety and Rashad Johnson at safety.

Special teams notables were Leigh Tiffin as placekicker, P.J. Fitzgerald as punter, Javier Arenas as punt return man, and Arenas and Julio Jones as deep men on kickoff returns.

First time players debuting in the game were true freshmen wide receiver Julio Jones, tailback Mark Ingram, wide receiver B.J. Scott, wide receiver Chirs Jackson, linebacker Don'ta Hightower, linebacker Chris Jordan, safety Mark Barron, defensive end Marcel Dareus, cornerback Robby Green; junior college transfer Terrence Cody at nose tackle; and redshirt freshmen wide receiver Marquis Maze and tight end Chris Underwood.

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