The Spring Prospectus is a daily series taking a quick look at each position group before UA beings spring practice. This list of position groups will be updated with links as each one posts: quarterback, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, defensive line, inside linebackers, outside linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties and special teams.
The University of Alabama football team may be losing the first offensive lineman taken in the 2020 NFL Draft, with Jedrick Wills Jr. forgoing a senior season for that lofty draft evaluation.
He is the only lost starter from a unit that was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s best offensive line.
UA reasonably expects to be in the mix for that award again in 2020 with four returning starters and more then enough depth behind them. But the beginning of spring practice on March 13 will provide some intrigue in how that unit will be constructed.
Top returners: Alex Leatherwood (returning for his senior season as the starting left tackle), Evan Neal (started every game at left guard as a true freshman), Landon Dickerson (settled into starting center duties) and Deonte Brown (started at right guard for the second half of the season).
Losses: Wills (NFL Draft), Matt Womack (graduation) and Scott Lashley (transfer, Mississippi State).
Returning depth: Emil Ekiyor Jr., Darrian Dalcourt, Pierce Quick, Tommy Brown, Amari Kight, Chris Owens, Kendall Randolph.
Early enrollees: Seth McLaughlin (three-star from Buford, Georgia).
Leatherwood is likely to stay at tackle while Dickerson and Brown are likely to stay in the interior. Dickerson can play center or guard and Brown can play both guard spots, so there could be minimal shifting in those two positions.
Neal is the piece that can change the construction of the line. He has the potential to play tackle and may slide into the right tackle spot vacated by Wills; if he does, UA has to fill an interior spot with Ekiyor Jr. or Dalcourt. If Neal stays at guard, UA will turn to a position battle at tackle among the likes of Pierce, Quick and Kight.
Another wrinkle to the battle for playing time are two offensive linemen that spent just as much or more time at tight end in 2019: Owens and Randolph. Both are interior linemen, and both could factor into the battle for playing time on the inside of the line if Neal makes the move to tackle; Owens did start at center at the beginning of the season, after all, before a knee injury removed from the lineup.
UA’s intention (or lack thereof) of continuing to use the same specialty package with Owens and Randolph at tight end will impact their offensive line prospects, as well.