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Thursday, August 13, 2009
So long Tuscaloosa

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Enjoyed my time in Tuscaloosa. It was a little on the hot side, but where isn't it hot in the South right now?

Every time I'm in Tuscaloosa, I'm reminded of what a gorgeous campus Alabama has. It truly is one of those places that looks like a postcard. I also challenge you to go into any eatery/grill and bar in Tuscaloosa and not find a portrait of Bear Bryant somewhere on the wall.

The Waysider Restaurant, which was a favorite of Bryant's and a great breakfast stop, is like a museum with all of its portraits and pictures on the wall. The food is great, too, but it's worth the visit just to check out all the history in the place.

As for a few final thoughts on the the Alabama football team, I'll start with the young talent in the program. It's staggering. Guys like Dont'a Hightower, Marcell Dareus, Courtney Upshaw, Mark Barron, Brandon Gibson and Jerrell Harris -- all sophomores -- are poised to take big steps this season. Hightower was a full-time starter last season.

Of course, that's not even counting Julio Jones and Mark Ingram from the sophomore class. And in this freshman class, Alabama fans are going to love defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick. He's a blur coming out of his breaks and has that swagger about him all the great defensive backs possess.

Nick Saban's stayed on Kirkpatrick pretty good through the first part of camp, but that's because Saban knows what kind of ability he has.

I'd be shocked if Kirkpatrick doesn't help the Crimson Tide in the secondary this season.

It sounds like the immediate future of freshman D.J. Fluker might be at right tackle. That's not to say he won't be a left tackle at some point. He's just a massive individual and probably still needs to shed a few pounds.

Saban likes both of his freshman running backs -- Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. In an ideal world, one of those guys would probably redshirt. Richardson has an edge on Lacy right now because he's been on campus most of the summer working out and is in better physical condition. Lacy didn't arrive until right before the start of practice after receiving late academic clearance. 

And the Tide's quarterback of the future?

It's safe to say that the coaches and the players in the program have been extremely impressed with what they've seen from true freshman A.J. McCarron. He makes a lot of big-time throws and is mature beyond his years.

Lastly, senior offensive guard Mike Johnson had some interesting insight about Saban, whose ultra-intense nature has led to the berating of more than a few players (and media members) over the years.

"What a lot of people don't realize is that he's a player's coach," Johnson said. "You see the hard-nosed Coach Saban and the way he is to media guys sometimes, and he seems kind of stone-faced. But he loves to kid with us and really is a player's coach. He tells us stories all the time, some funny stories. People don't realize how good a player's coach he is. He's a fun guy to be around."

Yep, just a regular teddy bear.