'This is Alabama, we keep reloading:' Alabama's Evan Neal confident despite offensive line turnover
Along with the production lost at the skill positions for Alabama's offense, three of five starting linemen are also gone.
Having to replace so many players is something Neal isn't concerned with, though.
"This is Alabama; we keep reloading," the 6-foot-7, 360-pounder said. "Talent is always coming up. Spring time is time for us to develop that talent and for that talent to get better. I'm confident in the group of guys we have now."
Neal and Ekiyor helped pave the way for 541.6 yards and 48.5 points per game in 2020. But the Crimson Tide also have Chris Owens, who stepped in for Landon Dickerson when he went down with a knee injury in the SEC Championship game.
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Owens played in 11 games and started three – at center in the two playoff games and right tackle against Arkansas, filling in for Neal.
Neal has no issues playing wherever. He was recruited as a left tackle, but played multiple positions his freshman season before settling in at left guard. Neal started at right tackle in 2020.
"At this point in my career, I've played so many positions that really any position on the O-line is comfortable for me," he said. "It really doesn't matter. I guess you could say that (more comfortable at left tackle) because that's where I was recruited at. But I'm a guy that can play anywhere on the offensive line."
The theme across the Tide's offense is new players and also new coaches. Four of Alabama's five new assistants are on the offensive side. That includes offensive line coach Doug Marrone.
"He's a great coach and extremely knowledgeable," Neal said. "He pushes us to be great and that's what I respect about him the most."
Assuming a leadership role is a goal for Neal, but he doesn't feel that's something that will be handed to him.
"Landon and those guys – especially Landon – showed me what it takes to be a leader and how to lead guys," Neal said. "That leadership role is one I want to assume. But that's not a role that's given; that's something that has to be earned day in and day out. I am up for the challenge."
Reach Gadsden Times reporter Teddy Couch at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Teddy_Couch.