TUSCALOOSA _ When the handful of University of Alabama football players showed up in the media room to be interviewed Tuesday, awaiting them was a full-sized manikin wearing a Nike Combat uniform the Crimson Tide will sport against Mississippi State.
For the most part they all liked the subtle changes, but thought the manikin was a little, well, weird - especially junior running back Mark Ingram because it was wearing his No. 22.
"I like it," he said.
For the most part the biggest differences can only be seen up-close, with the slight houndstooth pattern on the numbers and helmet stripe, and players also getting gloves with both a houndstooth pattern on the palm side and the cursive "A."
The right sleeve fittingly has an American flag with Thursday being Veterans Day. Alabama will honor the surviving football players who left school to fight in World War II, and their families, during Saturday's game.
"That's amazing that they did that," Ingram said. "It's great that we can have them come back and show our appreciation and the love we have and the support we give them. It's something real special that everyone can't do. I have great appreciation for them."
According to the recently-released book "When Winning Was Everything," written by Delbert Reed and published by the Paul W. Bryant Museum ($39.95), more than 325 former Alabama football players and coaches served in the military during World War II, and more than 6,000 university students. Thirteen of the former players and a former team manager were among the 343 former UA students who lost their lives in the line of duty.
"It's a real special occasion and I feel honored to wear that symbol," sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower said.
The only significant change during Tuesday's observation period was redshirt freshman D.J. Fluker (groin) getting more reps with the first unit at right tackle.
Sophomore Trent Richardson still wasn't doing much with the running backs and wore a protective sleeve/brace on his left knee. He along with defensive lineman Kerry Murphy (sore knee) and junior linebacker Chris Jordan (undisclosed) are considered day-to-day.
Murphy was working with the first unit again on the defensive line, while Jordan continued to wear a black jersey signaling no contact and spent time on an exercise bike.
Junior defensive back DeQuan Menzie (groin) was again at star in the nickel package.
Reaction to controversial reports
Having won the Heisman Trophy last year Ingram gets an annual vote, but isn't keeping a close eye on the swirling controversies surrounding Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
"I'm not really focused on Auburn, I know they're having a great season and are undefeated, and Cam Newton is probably playing better football than anyone in the country right now," Ingram said. "But as a Heisman voter I'm not paying attention to any of that right now. At the end of the season I'll see who I thought was playing the best football, who the best player is in the entire country. If it's Cam it's Cam, if it's somebody else it's somebody else."
Like many fans, the Crimson Tide players asked weren't sure what to make of the whole situation.
"He's a good guy, a really good guy," said sophomore guard Chance Warmack, who played with Newton at Westlake High School in Georgia. "He looked out for me a lot when I was in high school. He's a nice person. I don't think any of that is true, but as the same time I don't know what's going on. I know what kind of person he is and he's a good person.
"He's one of my closest friends."
Like Ingram, Warmack said he's focused on the season. He hasn't talked to Newton recently.
Ingram on the proposed stretch of highway in Michigan that could soon be named after him: "It'll be just crazy to know that there's a highway named after me. It's just a blessing." He's driven numerous times in M-21 in Genesee County, which might be called "Mark V. Ingram II Freeway." "That's weird, you know, that I might go home and ride on my own highway, you know what I'm saying." When asked if the speed limit should be 22, Ingram said "No. Too slow. You have to get to where you want to go."
Hightower on MSU's running game: "It's very impressive. They do a lot of things, a lot of eye candy, to try to confuse you a little bit with a lot of motion, a lot of rocket and a lot of motion around. Even sometimes the offensive lineman will give you a couple of dummy calls, a guard pulling this way and it will be a play-action pass, different things like that. But it's very impressive."
Former roommates Preston Dial and Greg McElroy have had fun taking shots at each other through the media. Monday the quarterback accused his former roommate of taking the canister he made strawberry lemonade in and broke it over his head just because he said he could. "Not true," Dial said. "Greg tried to establish his male dominance as an Alpha male. His prize possession was this big huge thing of Smuckers strawberry lemonade. So he was running his mouth so I busted it open and he was trying to scurry and run back to his room and I put about a 94-mile per hour fastball into his bathroom. It was everywhere." Dial added that after being rather obtuse as a freshman McElroy had grown into a "slob." "I'll spill the beans too, don't worry about that."
Former tight end Colin Peek, who is living in Atlanta, stopped by the locker room Tuesday. "I'm not sure what he's up to nowadays," Dial said. "Probably a movie opportunity or an album or something. You never know with him, he's such an entrepreneur."