Alabama football's Bill O'Brien pleased with offensive line, more SEC Media Day takeaways

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama football coach Nick Saban, offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien and defensive coordinator Pete Golding spoke Sunday on SEC Media Day as the Crimson Tide continued preseason practices. Here are four takeaways from their remarks:

1. Bill O'Brien pleased with Alabama line

Perhaps nothing said at media day by either coordinator resonated more than O'Brien's remarks on an offensive line that has faced its share of scrutiny since the end of last season. Despite new faces at both tackle positions, where Alabama struggled on A-Day, O'Brien likes what he's seen so far.

"They’re tough. They’re athletic. I feel really good about where we are on the offensive line," he said.

O'Brien and Saban both mentioned new offensive line coach Eric Wolford's work with the group – in particular the relationships he's built with the offensive linemen – has netted some positive results.

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2. Jaheim Oatis looking good

Freshman defensive lineman Jaheim Oatis took to social media a couple of weeks ago to reveal a remarkable weight loss, from 416 pounds to 342, in his efforts to prepare for the season. Beyond that, however, he's apparently looked good on the practice field, as well. Golding said Oatis has more athleticism than would be expected of a player his size, noting "if you leave one guy on him, good luck."

The Crimson Tide could use a breakout player on the interior of the defensive line to fill the void left by NFL draftee Phil Mathis.

3. Transfers blend in

A year after Alabama dipped into the transfer portal for a starter on both sides of the ball (Henry To'o To'o, Jameson Williams), the Crimson Tide has brought in five prominent transfers for this season in Jermaine Burton, Tyler Harrell, Tyler Steen, Eli Ricks and Jahmyr Gibbs. It's the kind of influx that might make some returning players less than pleased about having to face stiffer competition, but Saban said that's been a non-issue.

"We've always promoted for our current players to embrace new players. And I think our players want to win and our players understand that when we bring players in and they help them in the transition, that it actually enhances our chances of being successful," Saban said. "And I think our players have done a really, really good job of that. So everybody wants to play. Competition, I think, is a good thing in terms of helping everybody get better, because it makes everybody better."

Burton and Harrell have been added to a receiving corps that otherwise has limited game experience, while Steen joins a crucial competition at the offensive tackle position. 

4. Injury news

Tight end Cameron Latu, receiver Aaron Anderson, defensive lineman Isaiah Hastings, defensive back Earl Little and offensive lineman Elijah Pritchett were among the players Saban said are missing varying amounts of preseason practice time with injuries, and Latu (knee) is expected back at practice within a couple of weeks. Saban also mentioned that Tyler Harrell, the speedy wide receiver transfer from Louisville, is practicing but at less than full speed for the time being.

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