Evan Neal will anchor Alabama football's offensive line, but how will the Tide replace three NFL-drafted starters?
Alabama football will have plenty new faces starting on offense in 2021, offensive line included. And with that, there will likely be some growing pains early in the season.
Much of the Crimson Tide's early success as an offense will likely be determined by how the new-look offensive line meshes and performs.
Here's a look at the changes happening up front as Alabama gets ready to start fall practices on Friday, July 6.
Departed starters: Deonte Brown (drafted by Carolina Panthers), Landon Dickerson (drafted by Philadelphia Eagles), Alex Leatherwood (drafted by Las Vegas Raiders)
Returnees: Tanner Bowles (redshirt sophomore), Tommy Brown (redshirt junior), Javion Cohen (sophomore), Darrian Dalcourt (junior), Emil Ekiyor Jr. (redshirt junior), Damieon George (sophomore), Donovan Hardin (sophomore), Amari Knight (redshirt sophomore), Seth McLaughlin (sophomore), Evan Neal (junior), Chris Owens (redshirt senior), Pierce Quick (redshirt sophomore), Kendall Randolph (redshirt senior), Jackson Roby (senior), Alajujuan Sparks Jr. (sophomore)
Additions: James Brockermeyer (freshman), Tommy Brockermeyer (freshman), Terrence Ferguson II (freshman), LC Latham (freshman), Jaeden Roberts (freshman), Graham Roten (freshman)
Analysis: Alabama experienced a mass exodus for the NFL draft on offense, and only a couple starters return. The offensive line has two of those; three if you count Owens, who has starting experience. Neal is expected to slide over to left tackle, a position at which he has experience from high school. He played right tackle last year after spending his freshman year at left guard. With his experience and talent, he'll serve as the anchor of the new group while he protects Bryce Young's blindside.
Owens could continue right where he left off, stepping in to start at center in place of Dickerson, who was injured and could not play in the national championship game. But he's not a long-entrenched starter at the spot. Ekiyor will likely start at right guard again this season. As for left guard, Cohen will probably be the starter, coach Nick Saban said at SEC Media Days. He added that Cohen has "developed very nicely." Randolph got the start at right tackle in the spring game, but it's not guaranteed he will be the guy at that spot against Miami.
The Crimson Tide also has some talented five-star freshmen with whom to work in Tommy Brockermeyer and Latham. Until Alabama finds the starting five combination it likes, there could be some mixing and matching in practices and possibly throughout the season.