We get the week underway with some commentary from former Alabama offensive guard Griff Redmill, a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide from 1998-2000, following UA's 45-3 win over Georgia State.
Redmill believes Nick Saban's team benefited from Saturday's breather against Georgia State.
Reier: What does a 56-point favorite get out of a game like the one Alabama had with Georgia State?
Redmill: Well, I think it allows you to let your starters work on some things that need improvement in a live game situation. More importantly, they can get their work in and get out without getting beat up. Obviously there's the benefit of getting a lot of guys in the game and gaining some experience for those who haven't played much.
Reier: Does it also improve the morale of a team? Seems like guys who are down the depth chart would give a little better look on the practice field after getting some reps in a game.
Redmill: Absolutely. Everyone knows they have to wait their turn at Alabama. It's easy to say that in July and August. Once you get into the season those guys need a little taste of what it feels like to step out on that field in front of 101,000 people. It helps them stay motivated for what they can achieve if they stay after it.
Reier: Did you pay particular attention to true freshman offensive lineman Grant Hill on Saturday? Looked like he and Austin Shepherd got a pretty even split of first-team reps at right tackle in the first half.
Redmill: I did. The first thing I noticed was his false start. But that's a typical freshman mistake especially in your first game action. Once he shook off the jitters, I thought he did well. He knew what to do, who to block and I thought he finished blocks well. He definitely doesn't look like a freshman physically.
Reier: Looks like he could play just about any spot up front. Comparisons will be made to Barrett Jones, but, physically, he reminds me more of Evan Mathis, who also played multiple positions during his UA career. What do you think will be Hill's permanent home, tackle or guard?
Redmill: He definitely reminds me of Evan Mathis. Not a huge dominating body, but athletic, versatile and a solid frame. He probably will settle in at guard with those attributes, but he could definitely play right tackle in a lot of schemes.
Reier: In 1999, you guys endured more than a few off-the-field issues on your way to an SEC title. How much do things like the HaHa Clinton-Dix suspension affect the mindset of the players? Is it a bigger deal outside the team than inside it?
Redmill: I think it's definitely bigger outside than inside. Fans, media and the rumor mill have a way of latching onto certain aspects of a story that evolve into bigger fish tales than they actually are. There's no question a player of Clinton-Dix's caliber will be missed. But as far as distraction, I don't think it's as big as most people make it out to be.
Reier: So it's off to Lexington for UK this week. As a freshman in 1997 you were part of a travel roster that found itself on the wrong end of a 40-34 overtime loss. Anything in particular you recall about that trip?
Redmill: The worst part was the fact that we didn't know how bad we really were until that night. I was a freshman and after bouncing back and forth from the offensive line to the defensive line all season, the only way I could get in the game was on the field goal unit. I remember they blocked a field goal to swing the momentum. They had a guy pick the ball up and head for our end zone. For a split second, I thought, this is my chance to make a play. If you watch the tape you can see me give chase until I realized the guy with the ball ran a 4.4 and I ran a 5.2 in the forty.
Reier: As we approach the midway point of the regular season, give us one area of this team that is ahead of where you thought it would be and one area where it's behind.
Redmill: Even though our wide receivers had a lot of hype coming in to this season, I had the mindset of needing to see it to believe it. That was based more on Alabama always being so strong in the running game. Good wide receivers come and go without getting a lot of opportunities, but this group is legit. They have numerous playmakers and you never know who might be the No. 1 guy on any given Saturday. Conversely, the offensive line is still the question mark. They have improved, but still have too many negative plays that kill drives.
* Florida coach Will Muschamp is 10-1 in his last 11 SEC games, but that hasn't kept the UF fan base from complaining about an offense that isn't entertaining enough for "Spurrier Gators". And that's after quarterback Tyler Murphy threw three touchdown passes in Florida's latest conference win over Arkansas.
Given the lack of acceptance from his "supporters", is it any wonder that those in the Muschamp camp (cough, Jimmy Sexton, cough) have floated the Muschamp-to-Texas rumor through UF media? And you get the feeling it's more of an S.O.S. to UT from Muschamp than an attempt to gain support from the Florida faithful.
* Hard to recall an SEC team that has taken as many injury hits to offensive skill personnel than Georgia has the past two seasons. In 2012, the Bulldogs lost wide receivers Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown to ACLs during the course of the season.
Following Saturday's win over Tennessee, which felt more like a loss when the post-game injury report was released, UGA has now lost wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley and running back Keith Marshall for the remainder of the 2013 season to knee injuries. After sustaining his latest knee injury in Knoxville, there's also the possibility of Bennett being out for an extended period of time.
With more and more of the burden following on his shoulders, it will be hard to go against Aaron Murray as the first-team all-SEC quarterback if UGA makes it to Atlanta for a third straight year. Even with four- and five-star skill talent around him, the senior was the difference in wins over South Carolina and LSU. With running back Todd Gurley sidelined by an ankle injury last week and Marshall, Bennett and Scott-Wesley going down through out the afternoon, Murray got it done in Knoxville with multiple two-star options in the lineup.
* Since the end of his senior season at Alabama, Robert Lester has gone from undrafted free agent to cut in the preseason to signed to the practice squad to starting at safety for the Carolina Panthers. In his first two starts for Carolina, the Foley native has racked up eight tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
* If you're headed to Lexington this weekend, Malone's Steakhouse is a pretty solid culinary option. Saw your boy Bobby Flay dining there during UA's last visit to the Commonwealth in 2009.
* So much for the building buzz around the Ole Miss program. After being swept in the Yellowhammer State, the Rebels return home to take on Texas A&M and LSU the next two weeks. From 3-0 and talking about knocking off No. 1 Alabama to potentially 3-4 and in a fight for their post-season lives, Rebels' season-ending games against Missouri and Mississippi State could be the difference between another trip to Alabama or, say, Jacksonville.
* Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper has now gone five games without a touchdown reception. His longest scoring drought from a season ago spanned two games. The good news: With DeAndrew White and Christion Jones combining for five touchdown grabs in five games, Cooper's lack of production has gone largely unnoticed.
Despite those numbers, the perception continues to be that Cooper (nine receptions, 100 yards) and Kevin Norwood (12 receptions, 145 yards, one touchdown) are UA's top two receivers. Meanwhile, the stat sheet says Jones (20 receptions, 232 yards, two touchdowns) and White (15 receptions, 212 yards, three touchdowns) have established themselves as AJ McCarron's top two options in a deep receiving corps.
* Speaking of UA wide receivers, since briefly leaving the team during the Crimson Tide's bye week, Kenny Bell has made three starts, catching nine passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. For a guy coming out of retirement, Bell hasn't looked a day over 23.
* As the ailments mount up for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and his playing time decreases, you get the sense Steve Spurrier would love to question his star defender's intestinal fortitude. Hard to do that, though, when it is a situation you helped foster. As good as he's been at times, does anyone really think Clowney has been pushed beyond his comfort zone by Spurrier and his staff the past three seasons?