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Bama youngsters get chance to earn bigger roles

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 6, 2013 at 2:27 pm •  Published: October 6, 2013

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The youngsters and reserves took over for much of No. 1 Alabama's game against Georgia State, and it wasn't just about emptying the bench in a blowout win.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban was also thinking about the near future in positions that might need a boost. The biggest example in Saturday's 45-3 victory was freshman offensive lineman Grant Hill, who hadn't played in the first four games but was inserted at right tackle for Austin Shepherd during the game.

"We just felt like instead of taking a chance to redshirt him for this year that we were going to go ahead and play him because I feel like we need him," Saban said after the game. "I think it creates some competition. I think he's very close to being one of our five best players. Whatever position he has to play, we felt like we had to get somebody else ready to play."

Hill, who was regarded as one of the nation's top guard prospects, joined a growing list of youngsters making an impact on the Tide (5-0), which visits Kentucky on Saturday. He was the 12th freshman to play for Alabama this season.

The Tide's offensive line has been the most criticized part of the team, which makes Hill's development potentially significant down the line.

"I think Grant's a great player," guard Arie Kouandjio said. "He has a lot of potential and is really good at focusing in. I think the sky's the limit if he keeps improving."

Defensive end A'Shawn Robinson joined fellow freshmen tight end O.J. Howard, cornerback Eddie Jackson and long snapper Cole Mazza in the starting lineup.

Redshirt freshman Chris Black was the leading receiver with six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Freshmen tailbacks Derrick Henry and Altee Tenpenny got carries with T.J. Yeldon exiting early, and Saban also praised five-star linebacker recruit Rueben Foster. Backup quarterback Blake Sims, at times used as more of a Wildcat quarterback instead of a passer, got to run the whole offense for more than half the game.

Plus, sophomores Landon Collins and Geno Smith were pressed into extra action at a relatively new position with the indefinite suspension of starting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

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