TUSCALOOSA – Terry Grant only seems like the forgotten man in Alabama’s offensive backfield.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said the more straight-ahead, power running of Glen Coffee and freshman Mark Ingram simply fit better against Clemson’s speedy defense. Ingram and Coffee both carried 17 times and Roy Upchurch had eight rushes, while Grant lost 3 yards on four runs.
Grant, last year’s leading rusher, is more of a fast, shifty runner.
Saban said he tries to manage the situation by communicating openly with the players.
“I talked to (Grant) this week and told him that he needs to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity when the opportunity comes in the future, and it certainly will,” Saban said. “That’s what he needs to look at.”
Ingram was especially impressive, gaining 96 yards in his college debut and showing the ability to bounce off defenders and break tackles.
Like Saban, Coffee said the backs have to handle it well in games where they don’t get many carries.
“We are all grown. If you aren’t getting carries, you know why and if you are getting carries you know why,” he said. “You just have to approach it as a grown man.”
INTERESTED OBSERVER: Lorenzo Washington saw a familiar face watching the Alabama-Clemson game: Georgia coach Mark Richt, who recruited him.
The Tide apparently gave him an eyeful in the 34-10 win.
“My friends who were at the game saw him and said he was texting the whole game and had stuff written up on his arm,” the defensive end said. “People are starting to think about us.”
Richt had two good reasons to want to see the game. His son, Jon, is a freshman quarterback for Clemson. The Bulldogs, who played earlier in the day, also face Alabama on Sept. 27.
Saban said Richt called him to make sure it would be OK for him to attend the game.
“I said you’ll absolutely be more than welcome,” said Saban, who also has a son away at college. “He’s going to see the game, on tape, and I think family should come first. It’ll probably be one of the few opportunities he’ll have all season to see his son.”
Richt said it was worth it to see Jon trot onto the field and give him a hug afterward. He said he watched from “very high in the end zone” and appreciated Saban’s response to the call.
“I thought it was a proper courtesy to let him know,” he said. “If he’d have said, ‘You know what, I don’t feel good about you being there,’ I wouldn’t have gone. But he was very gracious.”
WALKER’S BIG GAME: Nick Walker shuffles his feet and looks to the ground when asked how it felt to open the season with a career game?
“Feels real good,” the Alabama tight end said. “Feels real good.”
Walker wasn’t nearly so bashful against Clemson, catching a career-high seven passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-5, 248-pounder was the team’s surprising leader in both categories.
“I guess their concerns were on our receivers,” Walker said. “They left the poor old tight ends open.”
Walker is not a new weapon for the Tide’s passing game. He had 23 catches last season, but had never been quite the feature player he was in the opener under new offensive coordinator Jim McElwain.
Fellow tight end Travis McCall also had a catch.
“I feel real confident that we’ll get the ball a whole lot this year,” Walker said. “They lined up in a number of positions, from the backfield to the wideout spot.”
Receiver Mike McCoy wasn’t surprised at Walker’s big game.
“He has some great hands, he has some huge hands,” McCoy said. “You pretty much throw it his way, he is pretty much going to catch the ball.”