Trust is going to be a key for the Alabama offensive line.
And it’s going to have to be earned.
Three starters must be replaced, leaving juniors Jedrick Wills Jr. and Alex Leatherwood as the experienced leaders of a unit stacked with talented replacement options.
Alabama has been rotating guys on the offensive line during fall camp trying to find a pairing that works and feels right. During camp, Wills, a right tackle, has worked alongside Matt Womack, Emil Ekiyor and transfer Landon Dickerson, who have been working at the guard spot.
“On the plus side, everybody knows the playbook so it’s been easy to communicate,” Wills said. “I guess you don’t have the same bond as everybody else. You have to trust the guy on the left of you and to the right of you.
“There are a whole bunch of guys that are going to play this year. Everyone has been doing really well. (Ekiyor) has played all three interior spots, and when he hops into center he really knows what he’s talking about and knows what he’s doing.”
The bonding part will come later, once Alabama finds a solid starting five. But Wills is liking what he sees from the ones who are trying to find their place on the depth chart.
“It’s been smooth,” he said. “You don’t even know that there are different guys in there from time to time. We are working to get better and we will let the coaches make the decision on who plays there.”
Last week Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said he liked how the offensive line was progressing during preseason camp and is impressed with a few of the younger players.
That’s what Wills likes to hear.
“That means a lot because we have been working hard as a unit to develop, and under coach (Kyle) Flood everything has gone real smooth,” Wills said.
It’s been a change of pace for Wills and the rest of the offensive line working under Flood, who comes to Tuscaloosa via the NFL and the Atlanta Falcons. The Crimson Tide players have responded well to Flood’s coaching style.
“He has a lot of knowledge coming from the NFL,” Wills said. “There are some different things he’s teaching us like coverages and things to look out for that you don’t normally see beyond the offensive line.”
It’s an added bonus that when Flood needs to get a point across he can get the Crimson Tide to watch film from Falcons games.
“We have some protections and schemes that match up with what they do,” Wills said. “Whenever he goes to install something new or show us something that we do he can pull up the film from the Falcons and compare the two.”