Alabama football's Chris Owens says returning for sixth season was 'just as good as going to the next level'

Teddy Couch
The Tuscaloosa News

Evan Neal might be the lone returning starter along the offensive line participating in spring practice for Alabama, but he's not the only one with experience.

Chris Owens proved to be a valuable asset in 2020, filling in for Neal at right tackle against Arkansas and at center for Landon Dickerson in each of the College Football Playoff games.

The redshirt senior also spent time as a reserve center and tackle in 2018 and '19 along with some action at guard in 2017. 

Owens decided to take advantage of the COVID-19 eligibility waiver to return for his second senior season and sixth overall in Tuscaloosa.

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"Part of it was being able to learn from a bunch of NFL coaches," Owens said. "I feel like if I went into the draft this year, I might not have gone where I wanted to. Knowing that Coach (Nick) Saban was going to bring in some really reliable guys with some good experience, I felt like it would be just as good as going to the next level because I can get that same tutoring and get those same lessons."

One of those coaches with NFL experience is Doug Marrone, the Crimson Tide's new offensive line coach. 

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"He's coached a lot of great players," Owens said. "I think the lessons he has, which date back to before I was even born, are still applicable for today. I just talk to him every day and he gives his wisdom to everybody. ... Just having him around the facility every day and getting to pick his brain is amazing."

Owens came to Tuscaloosa as a guard and has since been all over – even at tight end in some formations in 2019. But that's how it is at Alabama. 

Jan 1, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA;   Alabama offensive lineman Chris Owens (79) pulls on a running play Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 during Alabama's 31-14 win over Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff Semifinal hosted by the Rose Bowl in AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

"That's something that was going on before I got here," he said. " ... Coach Saban is going to figure out who is the best five on the field regardless of if you came in as a tackle, guard or whatever it is. We just want the best five on the field."

Younger players see Owens moving around positions and he feels that helps them.

"They just want to see who can play ball," he said. "It's something we are all doing. I feel like people see me doing it and they feel comfortable knowing it's not only just them; it's everyone."

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That's what spring football is for.

"Just trying to figure out who can play, who can take the meetings and bring them to the field," Owens said. " ... The more we go on in the spring, we just build more chemistry. It'll help us in the long run."

Reach Gadsden Times reporter Teddy Couch at or via Twitter, @Teddy_Couch.