This is the first in a seven-part series looking ahead to the start of Alabama’s spring football practice, which begins Tuesday, March 20. We begin with a breakdown of the offensive line.
On the final play of last season, the Alabama offensive line consisted of Alex Leatherwood at left tackle, Ross Pierschbacher at left guard, Bradley Bozeman at center, J.C. Hassneauer at right guard and Matt Womack at right tackle. You’ll recall that Leatherwood took over at left tackle in the third quarter when starter Jonah Williams suffered a lower-leg injury. Hassenauer took the place of Lester Cotton, who was injured in the Sugar Bowl win over Clemson. Of those players, only Bozeman and Hassenauer are gone, leaving a lot of talent to fill the five line positions.
It’s a fascinating thing to think about the incarnations the offensive line can take. Will Williams return to left tackle, or, because of his versatility could he play at center? Because of the way he played in the second half against Georgia, will Leatherwood slide in at left tackle? Womack returns at right tackle but the to-be sophomore Jedrick Wills is a major talent. Will Womack be able to hold off Wills? UA coach Nick Saban loves and fosters the idea of competition during practices, and with the talent in the offensive line unit, it should make for a uber-competitive spring.
As previously mentioned, Williams has the versatility and the smarts to make the move inside to center if the coaching staff feels that is the best move. Bozeman, the former center, said at the Senior Bowl he doesn’t see that move happening and that Williams’ is most valuable at left tackle, but getting Leatherwood on the field is something the staff wants to make happen. Brandon Kennedy is another candidate who will compete at center. At the guard spots, Pierschbacher is the favorite to retain his spot at left guard and Lester Cotton should return at right guard.
The competition aside, having so many talented players vying for starting positions proved handy last year when Alabama had to replace Cotton and Williams in the College Football Player. You can never have enough good players. The most fascinating thing is what happens with the Williams, a junior who has impressed in his first two seasons. The young players in Leatherwood and Wills will also be fun to watch.