Returning starters: T Alex Leatherwood (Junior), T Jedrick Wills (Junior)
Starters lost: T Jonah Williams, G Lester Cotton, C Ross Pierschbacher
The five-man unit lost three starters and has two bona fide starters coming back in juniors Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood, the two projected starters at the tackle spots. Leatherwood worked mainly at right guard in 2018 but moved into Williams’ vacated left tackle spot in the spring. There are two other players who have some starting experience, so call them quasi-starters: senior guard Matt Womack, who started at tackle in 2017 but was slowed by an injury last year, and junior guard Deonte Brown, a powerhouse who moved to a starting position ahead of Cotton but was suspended for the last two games of 2018 (Oklahoma and Clemson). That suspension will carry over for the first four games of 2019.
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
Until Brown returns (and assuming he is in playing shape when he does), the likely early candidates to start at guard could be newcomers: 360-pound freshman Evan Neal and junior FSU transfer Landon Dickerson. Also in the mix in the interior are Womack at guard and two guard/centers, Chris Owens and Emil Ekiyor. Dickerson could also be the center — that remains a position battle as the season starts.
YOU NEED TO KNOW
New offensive line coach Kyle Flood was the head coach at Rutgers from 2012-15. He spent two years as the offensive line coach for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons before joining Nick Saban’s staff last January.
Jonah Williams was a three-year fixture at tackle, starting as soon as he arrived on campus, and he will not be easily replaced. Wills and Leatherwood both have great potential and provide a stable base upon which to build while shuffling in the interior line continues. Brown’s return could have been a major storyline in the first month of the season but has been overshadowed by the development of Neal and Dickerson.
Alabama was tied for eighth in the NCAA in fewest sacks allowed in 2018, giving up just 15 in 15 games last season.
“I like the two tackles that we have. I think they’ve both had really good camps. We have four or five guys that can play inside that have done really well. Without naming specific players, I think we can have a really good offensive line. We’d like to get them all out there so we can try to put our best group together and try to get our best five out there, which I don’t know that we’ve ever had the chance to do to this point.”
— Nick Saban after Alabama’s final August scrimmage