GAINESVILLE -- To fill blog space and build our egos, the editors at Gator Clause swapped questions with Alabama beat writer Gentry Estes of the Mobile Press-Register. We asked Mr. Estes a few questions about Alabama and Mr. Estes did the same (but about Florida, of course). To read Estes' Q&A with Gator Clause, CLICK ME! (They should be up on his blog on Wednesday.)
If you're going to read Gator Clause's Q&A with Mr. Estes, you should probably know going in that he's a UGA alum and he thinks Tim Tebow would lose a fight to Bama linebacker Rolando McClain. For the record, Gator Clause takes Tebow in a fight against everyone and everything except for maybe this. (But it's cool. Gentry and I actually went to the same high school, so we'll let this one slide. Irondale Shades Valley. Go Mounties!)
Gator Clause: Alabama lost to a former Louisiana directional school in 2007. What the heck happened this year?
Mr. Estes: Many of the bad apples were removed from last year's bunch. Players grasped Saban's system and bought into his philosophies a lot better. Experience and leadership returned at key positions like offensive line, running back, quarterback and defensive back. Saban signed a top-rated recruiting class – bringing in the likes of Terrence Cody and Julio Jones – while hiring a perfect fit in simple, run-oriented Jim McElwain as offensive coordinator to play to the team's strengths. Probably the more important factor of all, Alabama has been remarkably fortunate to not sustain one major injury since the start of preseason camp.
GC: A lot of Alabama's best players were recruited to Tuscaloosa by former Alabama coach Mike Shula. How much credit should Shula get for the Tide's undefeated regular season?
Mr. Estes: There's no question Alabama could not have gone 12-0 this year without the holdovers from the Shula era – nine scholarship seniors and others like Andre Smith. And sure, Saban inherited them. But he also inherited a rash of discipline issues that helped create a mess at the end of last season, resulting in no Alabama players being selected in the 2008 NFL Draft. If Shula gets credit for this year's success, he should also receive the same amount of blame for last year's failures.
GC: Will Alabama left tackle Andre Smith be the best player on the football field on Saturday?
Mr. Estes: Well, there is a Heisman Trophy winner on the other sideline. And a healthy Percy Harvin is pretty good, too. But is Smith the best offensive lineman? Certainly. Richest future NFL player? Yeah, that too.
GC: In the last seven games, Florida has outscored opponents 136-3 in the first quarter. Can Alabama come from behind?
Mr. Estes: That's a good question, and difficult to answer since Alabama has trailed for exactly 23 minutes and 11 seconds this entire season. One would think the best way to get the Tide out of its comfort zone would be to take away the run and make John Parker Wilson throw to win the game. It's just no one has been able to do that yet.
GC: Who wins in a fight, UA linebacker Rolando McClain or UF quarterback Tim Tebow?
Mr. Estes: McClain. Got to think he's seen a scrap or two that Tebow has not.