Projecting the Alabama football depth chart: Who starts on the offensive line? Who plays at defensive back?

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Trying to completely and accurately project any depth chart is an exercise in futility, but it’s a fun and thought-provoking exercise.

Whether it be because of injuries preventing availability or the stock of players falling and rising every other day, a depth chart is a living document. Don’t use a Sharpie. A dry erase board is a much wiser choice. 

Alabama football is expected to release one at the beginning of the first game week, as is tradition. Before then, here are our projections for how each position will shake out to start the season: 

Quarterback

The starter(s): Bryce Young, Soph.

The reserves: Paul Tyson, R-Soph.; Jalen Milroe, Fr.

Young is expected to get his shot to lead the Crimson Tide offense, starting with the opener against Miami. The five-star sophomore looks the part of a starting quarterback who welcomes the pressure. 

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Running back

The starter(s): Brian Robinson, R-Sr.

The reserves: Jase McClellan, Soph.; Roydell Williams, Soph.; Trey Sanders, R-Soph.; Camar Wheaton, Fr.

Robinson gets his shot to lead the running back room, but the others aren’t reserves so much as alternates. The other backs will likely see time considering the amount of talent the Crimson Tide has in the backfield.

Receiver

The starter(s): John Metchie III, Jr.; Jameson Williams, Jr.; Slade Bolden, R-Jr.

The reserves: Javon Baker, Soph.; Traeshon Holden, Soph.; Thaiu Jones-Bell, Soph.; JoJo Earle, Fr.; Agiye Hall, Fr.; Ja’Corey Brooks, Fr.; Christian Leary, Fr.

Metchie is expected to lead the receiving group that lost two first-round picks from last year. Williams gets the nod to start and adds speed to the offense. Expect others in this group to also get opportunities, especially if they connect well with Young.

Tight end

The starter(s): Major Tennison, R-Sr.

The reserves: Cameron Latu, R-Jr.; Jahleel Billingsley, Jr.

Tennison brings a reliable veteran presence to the position, which is welcomed. Billingsley has the ability to be the top tight end, but Saban has made clear in camp that the way the junior has handled himself is not up to the standard Saban expects. When asked if Billingsley had worked his way back up the depth chart, Saban said that's up to him. Then, when asked about Latu’s progress on Wednesday, Saban paused and spoke generally about everyone’s progress and everyone needing more consistency in their performance.

Offensive line

The starter(s): Evan Neal, Jr. (left tackle); Javion Cohen, Soph. (left guard); Chris Owens, R-Sr. (center); Emil Ekiyor Jr., R-Jr. (right guard); Kendall Randolph, R-Sr. (right tackle).

The reserves: JC Latham, Fr.; Darrian Dalcourt, Jr.; Tommy Brown, R-Jr.; Tommy Brockermeyer, Fr.; Pierce Quick, R-Soph.; Tanner Bowles, R-Soph.; Amari Kight, R-Soph.; Seth McLaughlin, Soph.; Damieon George, Soph.

Saban said after the second scrimmage that there’s competition at center and right tackle. That center job remained open as of Wednesday, per Saban. We’ll give the nod to the guy who filled in at the position late last season. Randolph was running with the first group at right tackle, but his sprained ankle opened the door for Latham. That’s one spot to watch in the opener. Otherwise, Neal, Cohen and Ekiyor seem fairly set to start the opener at the other three spots.

Defensive line

The starter(s): Phidarian Mathis, R-Sr.; DJ Dale, Jr.; Justin Eboigbe, Jr.

The reserves: Byron Young, Jr.; Tim Smith, Soph.; LaBryan Ray, R-Sr.; Jah-Marien Latham, So.; Stephon Wynn Jr., R-Jr.; Jamil Burroughs, Soph.

Starters are much less relevant on the defensive line because Alabama will rotate a handful of guys up front. Ray is dealing with an injury, otherwise he likely would be in the starting spot at end. Smith is definitely one guy to watch to see how Alabama uses him.

Linebacker

The starter(s): Christopher Allen, R-Sr. (Sam); Christian Harris, Jr. (Will); Henry To’o To’o, Jr. (Mike); Will Anderson, Soph. (Jack).

The reserves: Jaylen Moody, Sr.; Deontae Lawson, Fr.; Shane Lee, Jr.; Drew Sanders, Soph.; Chris Braswell, Soph.; Dallas Turner, Fr.; Quandarrius Robinson, Soph.

After transferring from Tennessee, To’o To’o has received all kinds of high praise from coaches and players, especially when it comes to his leadership abilities. He’s expected to fill the Mike linebacker position, the equivalent of the quarterback of the defense.

Cornerback

The starter(s): Josh Jobe, Sr.; Marcus Banks, Jr.

The reserves: Jalyn-Armour Davis, R-Jr.; Kool-Aid McKinstry, Fr.; Khyree Jackson, Jr.; Terrion Arnold, Fr.

The biggest question has always been who will fill Patrick Surtain II’s spot opposite of Jobe. Saban said Wednesday that Armour-Davis has played fairly well but he’s been a little banged up this week. The coach also noted that Banks has done a “pretty good job” in camp. Alabama has plenty of veteran and young talent at the corner spot and several will surely see the field in some capacity. Health and availability might determine that early.

Safety

The starter(s): Jordan Battle, Jr.; Daniel Wright, R-Sr.

The reserves: DeMarcco Hellams, Jr.; Brian Branch, Soph.; Kristian Story, Soph.

Battle is expected to fill one starting spot, and Hellams would get the nod for the other, but he’s been dealing with an ankle injury. With uncertainty around Hellams’ availability, we’ll slot Wright into the starting safety spot for now.

Star

The starter(s): Malachi Moore, Soph.

The reserves: Brian Branch, Soph.

Moore earned All-SEC freshman and second team honors for his first year playing star. He will look to build on a strong debut.

Specialists

The starter(s): Will Reichard, Jr. (kicker); James Burnip, R-Fr. (punter); Kneeland Hibbett, Fr. or Carter Short, Fr. (long snapper)

The reserves: Jack Martin, Jr.; Ty Perine, Jr.

Reichard returns as the primary placekicker after not missing an extra point or field goal in 2020. The Aussie gets the first crack at the punting job. As for the long snappers, hopefully you never hear their names again until draft day down the road. That’s the measure of a good long snapper.

Contact Alabama football reporter Nick Kelly: nkelly@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly