Chris Owens, Jaylen Moody fill in well for Alabama football in road win over Arkansas

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Chris Owens and Jaylen Moody had tricky jobs in Alabama football's regular-season finale at Arkansas on Saturday.

Owens had a portion of the week’s practice to reacclimate to an old position; Moody had to jump into a familiar one, but do so in an instant and away from home. Both did their jobs well enough to play a role in the Crimson Tide finishing the regular season 10-0.

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Owens filled in at right tackle for Evan Neal, while Moody replaced injured inside linebacker Christian Harris during the first possession of the game. Owens was part of an offensive line paving the way for six rushing touchdowns ,while Moody tied for the team lead in tackles as Alabama beat Arkansas, 52-3.

“We got started a little slow ... but as the game went on we got better and better on defense and controlled the tempo on offense,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Alabama offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor Jr. (55) and Alabama offensive lineman Chris Owens (79) are ready to block at Arkansas Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. [Photo by Kent Gidley, University of Alabama]

Before Saturday, Owens’ primary value was being the piece that allowed Alabama to use its most versatile offensive linemen wherever needed. Since center Landon Dickerson can play any of the interior positions, whenever a substitute is needed Owens could slide into center and let Dickerson move to the position of need.

In this instance, it was Owens’ own versatility that helped UA. He started his career as a tackle and played some as a tight end in special packages last season, making him a good fit to fill in at right tackle with Neal out.

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No reason was given for Neal’s absence, be it injury, a COVID-19 test or contact tracing.

“He did everything we asked him to do this week,” Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. said. “He prepared hard with Evan Neal being out this week, he stepped up and did everything he needed to do to keep our offensive line as dominant as it was tonight.”

Moody’s ascension up UA’s depth chart from third-stringer to No. 3 overall was proven Saturday when he was the selection to fill in for Harris after a shoulder injury. Moody filled in capably with seven tackles, matching his total for the season before the game. Arkansas fumbled four times, and Moody was the only one to force one and recover one.

Moody’s forced fumble came on the final carry for backup quarterback KJ Jefferson, a rushing threat who UA held to 11 yards on six carries.

In doing so, Moody was emblematic of the defense as a whole, which has dealt with absences earlier in the season including an injury to defensive lineman LaBryan Ray and a targeting ejection on safety Daniel Wright.

"I’m so proud of him. That’s the way we need guys to step up, and I think he did a very good job of that,” Alabama defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis said. “Next man up, we can’t worry about that.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson