Alabama doesn’t release blocking grades for each offensive lineman, but a good indicator of how the line played can come in the form of inclusion on the weekly UA coaches’ players of the week list.
Not one offensive lineman was included after the first week.
Football is a zero-sum game. The offensive line didn’t struggle in a vacuum. Florida State caused most of the disruption, though Alabama created some of its own adversity with miscues.
One positive was that the line was flagged for just one penalty, a holding call on Lester Cotton. That one penalty wiped out one of Jalen Hurts’ better throws.
The pass protection, especially from the middle of the second quarter on, struggled to combat the fast, aggressive Florida State defense, which blitzed and featured plenty of twists and stunts.
“I mean they were an aggressive defense, brought a lot of blitzes, things like that,” left tackle Jonah Williams said. “Some things that weren’t accounted for in the protections. So again, things to learn from and get better at.
“It was definitely a heavy blitz and pressure defense. So obviously there’s some things to clean up there, but it’s nothing we can’t do better at if we do our job.”
The starting offensive line featured Williams, Ross Pierschbacher (left guard), Bradley Bozeman (center), Cotton (right guard) and Matt Womack (right tackle). It was the first career start for Womack (Cotton started five games a season ago, three at right guard). Womack provided a key block to open up the hole that sprung running back Damien Harris 34 yards on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
On the other side Williams made his first start at left tackle after starting all 15 games at right tackle a season ago.
The pass protection was up and down.
“I think both guys did some very good things,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “I think overall our entire offensive line needs to be a little more physical. We need to finish blocks a little better. A lot of little things that we can do better that I think we want to emphasize with all the players. So that’s going to be the emphasis. But it’s not just the offensive line, I think it’s every position on our team.”
The passing game never really took off with just 96 yards, though there were positive signs of Hurts’ maturity. However, it became apparent during the game that Florida State’s pressure was getting to him, which affected his willingness to stay in the pocket.
That’s partly on Hurts, but Williams said the line has to do its job first.
“I think it’s a two-fold thing. His comfort level is kind of determined by us,” Williams said. “We take that on us. Like I said, there’s times where there’s people blitzing that we’re not accounted for in that protection.
“So, I think that it’s a learning experience for all of us. We’re going to get better on the O-line. Jalen is going to get better at quarterback. So, I’m not concerned about any of that.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.