A quarterback’s blind side, typically, is his left side. Most ball-slingers are right-handed – every active NFL quarterback right now is – so when they go to throw, they face the opposite way. That leaves the left tackle, who’s on the outskirts of the offensive line, responsible for protecting his quarterback’s back.
But not at Alabama, where starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throws with his left hand and right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. is tasked with protecting him from the unseen.
“It’s kind of shocking to me that I actually am the blind side, but I’ve never thought about it before,” Wills said. “I just try to protect either way.”
And he has done a good job of it so far this season.
“He’s a physical, aggressive player,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “I think he’s much more confident in knowing what to do, how to do it, why it’s important to do it that way. His mental errors have gone way down.”
No. 1 Alabama at Arkansas
When: Saturday at 11 a.m.
Where: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
Records: Alabama 5-0, 2-0 SEC: Arkansas 1-4, 0-2 SEC
Radio: 95.3 FM. 102.9 FM
In fact, the 6-foot-5, 309-pound lineman is better than fine.
“He’s improved a lot,” defensive lineman Raekwon Davis said. “He’s good at run blocking. His run-blocking skills are great. Pass rushing, his pass protecting is great, too. So he’s very good at what he does. He’s been helping the team a lot.”
The Crimson Tide is averaging 217.4 rushing yards per game, which is good for fifth-most in the SEC. Through five games, the offensive line has only allowed the quarterback, regardless of who it is, to be sacked four times.
After finishing with just 109 rushing yards against Texas A&M two weeks ago, Alabama increased its total to 268 this past weekend. Its season high so far is the 278 against Arkansas State.
“I’m just trying to fix everything from week to week (offensive line) coach (Brent) Key points out on film and just trying to practice that throughout the week,” Wills said, “so when it comes to game time, I try to get better (and) stay technically sound.”
Despite taking reps at both guard and tackle during practice in the past, Wills has settled in at right tackle. That’s where he was listed on Alabama’s first depth chart as the No. 1 guy. That’s where he has started every game this season.
And he has Tagovailoa’s blind side, even if it’s unorthodox.
“It’s no difference at all,” Wills said. “I feel like, blind side of not, you’ve still got to protect. If he’s from behind or he’s on the front side, you still have to do your job and make sure that you keep him safe.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.