EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth installment in a nine-part series looking ahead to the start of Alabama football fall practice. Today we break down the offensive line:
Last season’s standout center, Bradley Bozeman, and his backup J.C. Hassenauer have graduated. Senior Ross Pierschbacher will slide over from the guard position, where he started 13 games, to take over as the starter. Pierschbacher has experimented in the role before and seemed solid in the spring. Josh Casher is another guard/center combination player who provides depth. Brandon Kennedy, another potential backup, transferred to Tennessee. Speculation that All-America tackle Jonah Williams could move to center if needed seems unlikely. Incoming freshman Emil Ekayor was rated as one of the top center prospects in the nation.
Even with Pierschbacher shifting to center and the departure of transfers Dallas Warmack (Oregon) and Kennedy (Tennessee), depth seems solid here. Senior Lester Cotton of Tuscaloosa started 13 games last season and seems set at right guard. At left guard, Casher could contribute or it could be a tackle who swings inside. If not, candidates with experience include Deionte Brown, down to 346 pounds on the Alabama fall roster after playing at 375 last season, has shown flashes of excellence. Richie Petitbon is returning from injury but could compete. Redshirts Kendall Randolph and Chris Owens, both tackle/guard swing players, as well as signee Tommy Brown, a four-star from California, could be in the mix as well.
Alabama’s deepest line position, the tackle spot features Williams, an Outland Trophy candidate heading into his junior year, at left tackle. Matt Womack started every game at right tackle. Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills both had excellent freshman years as the reserves, and that still leaves well-regarded junior Scott Lashley and junior college transfer Elliott Baker as backups. Hence, there is plenty of conjecture that Wills or Leatherwood, for instance, could see duty at guard.
Brent Key is the only Alabama assistant coach returning from last year’s team in exactly the same role. That should help with continuity; the question will be chemistry — and someone providing the leadership that Bozeman contributed a year ago.