The Tuscaloosa News will review the Alabama roster by examining each position group entering spring practice. The Crimson Tide held its first spring practice on Friday, March 8 and will resume after the university’s spring break ends on Monday, March 18.
Spring football prospectus: Offensive line
Starters returning: Alex Leatherwood, Jedrick Wills
Departed: Joshua Casher, Lester Cotton Sr., Richie Petitbon, Ross Pierschbacher, Jonah Williams
Others returning: Hunter Brannon, Deonte Brown, Tommy Brown, Emil Ekiyor Jr., Scott Lashley, Chris Owens, Kendall Randolph, Matt Womack
Newcomers: Darrian Dalcourt, Amari Kight, Evan Neal, Pierce Quick
Confidence level: 7/10
Starting point: The good news is that Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills both proved themselves capable starters in 2018. Leatherwood also appeared to be fine at left tackle when pressed there against Georgia in the national championship game during his freshman year. Womack started during the 2017 season at right tackle and should be in better position to start this year. That would be three solid pieces to start with and could include both left and right tackle in some combination.
Deonte Brown looked like Alabama’s best guard at times last year but won’t be available to start the season. Look for Emil Ekiyor Jr. and Chris Owens to be worked in at guard and center. They may both have the opportunity to try both positions before Alabama decides on its best five. There are other veterans on the roster as well who should be able to provide enough depth to make sure this group is solid top to bottom.
To be determined: The key when building an offensive line is always to find the best five as a group, which is not always the five best individuals. That means there’s lots of combinations to try, and spring is the perfect chance to experiment and move players around. This group isn’t usually settled until sometime in fall camp and battles have continued on even into the season. Don’t count on this group being rock-solid by the A-Day game.
It isn’t inconceivable for a true freshman to win a starting job, as Cam Robinson and Jonah Williams have done recently. That would likely require some more shuffling among the returning players. New offensive line coach Kyle Flood will be a different voice than Brent Key, who became a bit of a coaching staff veteran in three years at Alabama. Like many new coaches on staff, he’ll be learning about his players and their strengths and weaknesses in the first few days of spring.