Alabama lost just one starter on its 2017 offensive line, but through three practices of spring, there are players in different spots.
Matt Womack missing spring with a foot injury has opened the door for Jedrick Wills to get the majority of repetitions at right tackle. Lester Cotton is again at right guard, where he started a season ago. To his left at center is Ross Pierschbacher, a three-year starter at left guard, who has practiced at center before. Two springs ago, Pierschbacher was the heir apparent to Ryan Kelly, but eventually Pierschbacher stayed at left guard and Bradley Bozeman won the job at center. Josh Casher has been at left guard this spring with Jonah Williams at left tackle.
Pierschbacher said the move is going well so far.
“I felt good. A couple of springs ago I did that as well. I think there’s a bunch of guys on the offensive line that are able to play multiple different positions,” he said. “I think really all of us can if we need to. So it’s good to just have that versatility along the line, and see what the coaching staff has in store and do whatever.
“I think it takes a lot of smart guys, so that’s a credit to the guys in the room, and just being an athlete really to go along and having to make that switch with your stance or technique, stuff like that. I think it’s just really having a grasp of the whole playbook and your assignment and just being able to go out there and execute against the good defense that we play against.”
Alex Leatherwood, who came in at left tackle during the second half of the national championship game for an injured Williams, is also a player the coaching talent obviously likes, but he’s been with the second organizational grouping. He and Wills are two maulers on the offensive line, and they’ve earned the respect of the veterans.
“Both are obviously very talented players, very capable, and we’re going to try to use them in every way we can this year and try to find a spot,” Pierschbacher said. “So for them, they’ve got all the ability in the world, it’s just (about) trying to find guys, mix and match, and try to find the best five like Coach (Nick) Saban said. Those guys are very talented just naturally, so its fun to watch those guys in film and practice.”
Saban highlighted both during his opening remarks of spring practice.
“We think (Jedrick) and Alex both are really good players, I mean, Alex played great in the national championship game when he had to go in there for Jonah,” Saban said. “This probably won’t be the first experiment we have in the offensive line in terms of who plays where. We feel Alex and Jonah both can play left tackle, but I think Alex can play someplace else, and I think Jonah can play someplace else. I think Jedrick Wills may be able to play somewhere else. So the goal is always to get the best five players on the field and we may experiment with somebody else playing center at some point in time as well. I just really like both of those young players (Leatherwood and Wills). I think you hate it when a player’s not out there competing and playing like Matt won’t be able to do this spring, you hate to see guys get injured, but he’ll be back in the fall and I think this will just give these young guys more reps and a better chance to sort of make progress themselves and acquire more knowledge and experience that’s only going to help them get better.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.