There's not a huge concern about Alabama football's pass protection. Here's why | Goodbread

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

What former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier used to call "talking season," that anticipatory summer period ahead of college football, has just gotten started here in mid-June. And the primary topic that's surfaced in Tuscaloosa, at least by my antenna, is the Crimson Tide offensive line's ability to pass protect.

I've been asked about it in the grocery store, my email inbox, and a dog park, among other places, perhaps not surprising given the ease with which Alabama's first-team defense notched 10 sacks on A-Day.

The annual spring scrimmage wasn't an altogether fair environment to assess pass protection for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that a hand on a quarterback's jersey was all it took for a sack to go in the A-Day books.

Premature hand-wringing aside, it's equally relevant to consider the pass-rushing firepower of the scheduled opposition. And based on last season, it's lacking on the whole.

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Here are the three most accomplished edge rushers on Alabama's schedule:

1. Derick Hall, Auburn. He's completely legit, and no Crimson Tide offensive lineman should forget that he sacked Bryce Young three times in last year's Iron Bowl.

2. Byron Young, Tennessee. In his first SEC season as a juco transfer, he tied for the team lead with 5.5 sacks, and there's more potential there to untap.

3. Take your pick among Mississippi State's Tyrus Wheat, Ole Miss' Cedric Johnson or LSU's B.J. Ojulari, who generated solid production but feasted on non-conference competition for much of it.

Among the five aforementioned pass rushers, not one of them will take the field against Alabama in the first half of the season. In fact, UA won't have to deal with an established, proven pass rusher the entire month of September. That's significant, if for no other reason than it could give Alabama a lengthy runway to self-assess and improve before taking on the best quarterback hunters it will face.

What about the September road date with Texas, you say?

The Longhorns didn't have a pass rusher log three sacks all season last year. It's leader, former Alabama linebacker Ben Davis, notched 2.5 after transferring for his last season of eligibility. Shockingly enough, Texas also failed to attract a proven pass rusher from the transfer portal, despite that being the program's most glaring concern. You'd think a wide-open opportunity to rush the passer for a program as high-profile as the Longhorns, in a pass-happy league like the Big 12, would cause a Texas-sized portal stampede, but that's for another column.

Of course, Georgia's wrecking ball of a defensive tackle, Jalen Carter, could await Alabama in December if the two meet in the SEC title game for the third time in five years. The point, however, is that in a conference where pass rushers are generally both fearsome and plentiful, Alabama's schedule sets up exceptionally well in this regard.

Star players all must, at some point, emerge from obscurity. And as the season unfolds, there will certainly be a few SEC pass rushers who do just that. If you saw former Alabama DL Quinnen Williams' dominant sophomore year coming the summer before it happened, raise your hand. Perhaps this will be a breakout year for LSU's Ali Gaye, a gifted edge rusher whose 2021 season was cut short by injury.

Talking season is happening on every campus.

And while Alabama fans might wonder how much time quarterback Bryce Young will have to throw, talk most everywhere else must wonder if opponents will have what it takes to get to him.

Reach Chase Goodbread at cgoodbread@gannett.com. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread