By Carey Reeder
Special to Tidesports
On a day when Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith stole the show, it was the unsung heroes up front that shined just as bright.
After losing starters Jonah Williams, Lester Cotton and Ross Pierschbacher from last season, the Alabama offensive line was one of the biggest question marks coming into 2019. Through five games, however, the new additions of Chris Owens, Evan Neal and Landon Dickerson have begun to gel with returners Jedrick Wills Jr. and Alex Leatherwood.
Saturday’s 59-31 Alabama win over Ole Miss was arguably their best performance yet as a unit.
“It’s been natural progress,” said center Chris Owens. “When you get a group of guys playing together and not switching out too much, it’s going to build chemistry.”
The Crimson Tide got a shot in the arm to help aid the offensive line as redshirt junior Deonte Brown returned from his six-game NCAA suspension from last season. Brown entered the game in the first half and was welcomed with open arms.
“It was refreshing to see him on the field,” Owens said. “Just having him back on the team gave us all an energy boost.”
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was electric through the air, throwing for six touchdowns and 418 yards and added a seven-yard touchdown run to his totals. In order to have that type of production you need protection and the offensive line gave up just two sacks. After the first one by the Rebels’ Benito Jones in the first quarter, Tagovailoa erupted in the second quarter with four touchdowns, all powered behind the offensive line.
“It doesn’t matter to me if I run it or throw it as long as we score points,” Tagovailoa said. “I have a great line in front of me so we can do both.”
Alabama ran for 155 yards on Saturday and both Najee Harris (7.9) and Brian Robinson (6.0) averaged at least six yards per carry. Though posting their third-highest running total of the season, and their highest against a power five opponent, there is still work left to do according to the redshirt junior.
“We know we left a lot of yards on the table,” Owens said. “It’s not enough to just get a win because we’ll play better teams down the line.”