This is the fourth installment in a seven-part series looking ahead to the start of Alabama’s fall camp football practice. We continue with a breakdown of the offensive line.
The offensive line lost Cam Robinson, a three-year starter at left tackle. What it returns is a true freshman, who earned rave reviews for his play, a two-year starter at left guard and a redshirt senior center, who established himself as one of the league’s best a season ago.
This time last year Ross Pierschbacher was trying to fill the shoes of Ryan Kelly at center. That never happened because Pierschbacher stayed at left guard and Bradley Bozeman broke into the starting lineup at center after competing for the right guard position the season before. Jonah Williams proved to be one of the most technically sound freshman offensive linemen of the Nick Saban era, as he started all 15 games at right tackle. Williams will likely move to left tackle this season and team with Pierschbacher to create a formidable left side of the offensive line. Bozeman is one of the strongest members of the team and his power will be counted upon.
What’s unknown about this year’s offensive line is how the right side will be constituted. Saban said exiting spring that the team felt good about four offensive linemen. While not spelled out specifically, it is widely assumed that he meant Williams at left tackle, Pierschbacher at left guard, Bozeman at center and Lester Cotton on the right side. Whether Cotton lines up at right guard or right tackle isn’t known, but he’s considered one of the best four. That Cotton can play both positions is a plus and helps create depth on the offensive line. He will most likely get an opportunity at right guard first, but he has the ability to play outside too. Matt Womack took the majority of the first team repetitions at right tackle during spring practice. Deonte Brown is a fascinating player, and one that could be a difference maker at right guard. He’s listed at 6-foot-4, 350 pounds. If he’s lost any weight during the summer, Brown could really make a move to a contributing role this fall. Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills are talented freshmen who could make some noise as well. Scott Lashley, Dallas Warmack and Chris Owens, among others, will provide healthy competition.
The right guard position was an unsettled position for the majority of the season in 2016 with a variety of different players earning starts in the 15 games. Offensive line coach Brent Key would like someone to win the job early this season, but last season proved the coaching staff isn’t afraid to shake things up week to week. With a stable of talented and versatile running backs, this offensive line could be counted on to open holes all season long. This could be a running back’s dream line.
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.