Give the Crimson Tide’s offensive line some time.
Alabama has just two games under its belt, and the status of its front line has already been in question. Not that it has done anything to warrant complete condemnation.
“I remember last year, it was kind of like we were in crisis mode after Fresno State and Colorado State about our offensive line, and we ended up being a finalist for the Joe Moore Award,” offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher said. “So, I think that people kind of jump the gun a little bit too quick.”
Fresno State and Colorado State were Alabama’s second and third games in 2017, respectively.
That annual award recognizes “the toughest, most physical offensive line in the country.” Notre Dame ended up winning it last year.
The Crimson Tide only lost one starter in the offseason: center Bradley Bozeman. Pierschbacher moved over to take his place, with Jonah Williams (tackle) and Lester Cotton Sr. (guard) now positioned on his left and Alex Leatherwood (guard) and Jedrick Wills Jr. (tackle) on his right.
Pierschbacher, Williams and Cotton are three of the returning starters. Matt Womack is the fourth – right tackle – but he missed spring with a foot injury, sustained another injury in fall camp and wasn’t listed on the team’s first depth chart.
Long-story short: It’s a different line currently trying to find its rhythm.
“When they do improve, it’s more noticeable because they’re a unit,” Alabama tight end Hale Hentges said Tuesday. “Just like anything, whether it’s one guy or 10 guys, any time you can get a lot of people on board in one unit, you can definitely see improvement.”
From Week 1 to Week 2, the Crimson Tide increased its final rushing total by 56 yards. The offense has averaged 250 yards per game on the ground. Nineteen yards were lost rushing, but only two sacks were allowed.
The Alabama coaching staff picked Williams as a player of the week after the Louisville game and then Pierschbacher after Arkansas State.
“The offensive line, I think, at times has shown really good execution and been physical,” UA coach Nick Saban said Monday. “But I think a little more consistency in that area would be something that we’d all target and try to improve on.”
He didn’t say the line is playing poorly. Just that he would like more consistency, which will surely remain the theme throughout the entire season.
Because, at Alabama, nothing is ever considered perfect.
“There’s a high standard here, and we expect to play with a standard,” Pierschbacher said. “… We make mistakes, but we just move forward.”
The only penalty called on the offensive line last weekend was Williams’ false start. There weren’t any that pointed at a specific lineman the week prior.
Things might not be smooth sailing right now, and getting five guys to be on the same page doesn’t happen overnight. But Alabama is confident everything will fall into place.
“It depends obviously who you ask because I think that the offensive line is underappreciated,” Hentges said. “I know their value, but a lot of people probably don’t.”
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.