Anthony Steen, RG, Redshirt Senior, 6-3/303, 25 starts
Now that those three have moved on to the league, the opportunity exists for Steen to finally prove what he can do, and actually get noticed in the process. While much of the attention up front will be focused on the new starters at LG, C, and RT, it will be worth watching and recognizing the play of Steen. If all goes according to plan, you will rarely hear his name during broadcasts next fall, and for an Offensive lineman, that is usually a good thing.
Taking a closer look, there may be reason to be very optimistic about Steen in 2013, a vague quote from Chance Warmack about Steen has to excite Bama fans, "He's better than me." Whether you take Warmack at his word is, of course, up to you. But if Steen is even worthy of comparison to the almost guaranteed first rounder, then we are in great shape. Coach Saban joined in on the praise, "The older guys that have been starting for a longer time tend to get more of the accolades and attention. I think Anthony Steen and Cyrus are two guys that have played very, very well all year long, and their time is coming." He goes on, "They're going to be the guys who get featured next year as being the most experienced guys, who have the most starts, who have played with the most consistency, that people will be looking at as guys who probably will receive a lot of accolades."
Cyrus Kouandjio, LT, Junior, 6-6/311, 14 starts
Sam Montgomery, elite D-end of LSU, barely had his name called all night against Kouandjio in Death Valley.
As is the case for Steen, Cyrus will use the exodus of lineman at Bama to finally showcase what he has learned the past two seasons. The future looks very bright for him, as almost everyone expects the upcoming true Junior to announce for the NFL draft after this coming season. Barring an unforseen circumstance, I have no reason to doubt that sentiment. If Cy continues to improve and becomes the force at Left Tackle that everyone knows he can, it is likely that he will be one of the first to hear his name in April 2014.
Ryan Kelly, C, RS Sophomore, 6-5/288
Chad Lindsay, LG, RS Junior, 6-2/290
The backup to Warmack in 2012, Lindsay has the leg up to win the starting spot at Left Guard. The battle will not be easy though, as Arie Kouandjio, Isaac Luatua, or even standout recruit Grant Hill may be pressing for the job. Lindsay was heralded as one of the top recruits at Guard when he came to Bama in 2010. He actually enrolled early that year so this will be his fourth spring in Tuscaloosa. Despite his limited game experience, he played in 9 games in 2012, he has had plenty of time in the system.
Austin Shepherd, RT, RS Junior, 6-5/312
Like Lindsay, Shepherd also enrolled early in 2010, so again, he has plenty of experience with the system Bama runs. He played in 9 games in 2012 and 7 games in 2011, all in mop up duty. While it remains to be seen if Shepherd can play like Barrett Jones on the field, he may be the only player on Bama's squad that can match Jones's philanthropic pursuits. Austin started the Austin Shepherd Foundation in 2012, which is a charity for less fortunate and sick children. He visits the Birmingham Children's hospital monthly, and organizes fund raisers and other events for the foundation. Truly remarkable. Brandon Greene and Juco early enrollee Leon Brown will push Shepherd for the job at Right Tackle this spring.
Arie Kouandjio, RG, RS Junior, 6-5/310
Many forget that Cyrus's older brother Arie was quite a highly regarded recruit out of High School, like his sibling. He was a US Army All-American and four star prospect. Fast forward to this year, Arie was the 2nd string RG in 2012 and saw action in 10 games. Most troubling for the older Kouandjio has been his knee problems. Early in the 2011 season Arie injured his knee in the Arkansas game and was forced to have surgery and miss the season. Then a setback forced him to miss spring practice in 2012. In the fall though, he has remained healthy and had worked himself into the position of first name called off the bench, a role formerly held by Alfred McCullough. This has given him valuable practice at both Guard and Tackle, and it is very possible that Arie ends up with one of the two open positions on the line, either LG or RT. While it's possible he makes that shift to RT, it is more probable that he ends up at LG or remains at RG behind Steen.
Kellen Williams, LT, RS Senior, 6-3/303
As the backup to Cyrus at LT in 2012, Kellen played in 11 games. A Redshirt Senior, he and Steen will enter the spring with the most experience in the system of all the O Linemen. Kellen was a less heralded recruit than others in T-town, but was still ranked as the 24th best Guard in the nation according to Rivals. His length would be an issue if pressed into service at LT this season, but his experience makes up for what he lacks in size. It is not inconceivable to think that he may find a home somewhere on the line, whether that means remaining at LT to backup Cy again, or move and push for playing time elsewhere, the jury is still out.
Isaac Luatua, LG, RS Sophomore, 6-2/313
Luatua was a 4 star prospect out of LaMirada, CA in 2011 and was ranked as one of the top Guards and/or top Centers in the country. It's possible that he could push for the open LG spot, or push for the center spot, likely playing a reserve role for Ryan Kelly. Either way, the Samoan has the talent to make a difference, the question is when will he get the opportunity.
Brandon Greene, RT, RS Freshman, 6-5/292
A consensus 4 star recruit, Greene was touted as one of the best players in Georgia coming out of Cedar Grove HS in Ellenwood. He also played in the Under Armour game. This guy will clearly be a major part of Alabama's offensive line at some point if he lives up to his potential. The question is when will that be. I believe that Greene has a very real chance to work into the open RT spot, but again, this battle will likely end with one of Greene, Shepherd, or Leon Brown winning the job.
Alphonse Taylor, RS Freshman, 6-5/340
This is a very interesting case. Taylor was recruited and came to campus at Defensive Tackle, but since he played both offensive line and D Line at Davidson in Mobile, some recruiting sites (scout in particular) listed his position as Offensive Tackle. That turned out to be prophetic as in April of 2012 he switched to the Offensive side of the ball and worked at Left Guard. At this point, it looks like Taylor is buried fairly deeply on the depth chart, but as he redshirted this past season, he still has plenty of eligibility left to put the work in and eventually get himself into a position to start, whether on the O Line, or possibly back on the other side. He obviously has the size to make an impact either way.
Caleb Gulledge, RS Freshman, 6-4/280
A three star prospect from Prattville, Gulledge signed with Bama in the 2011 class, and like Taylor, played both O Line and D Line in high school. Also like Taylor, Gulledge has some work to do to get reps.
Leon Brown, Juco, 6-6/310
Brown is a Juco OT from Brooklyn NY's ASA College. He has already enrolled and is on campus now. Obviously Saban and co. saw something they liked in Brown, as they rarely offer Juco players without the intention of them contributing early. That said, Brown will have to be very impressive this spring to get a starting spot, as he is going up against a couple guys who have been in the program for a while. The battle at RT will be one of the ones to keep an eye on this spring for sure.
Brandon Hill, Freshman, 6-6/360
Brandon is another early enrollee this year. The first thing you'll notice about Hill is his giant size, there have been reports of him weighing in at anywhere from 330 to over 400, but the more reliable ones seemed to have zoned in to the 350-360 range. Again, hard to predict what happens to Hill this spring, but if he can come in and grasp the scheme, while also keeping a lid on his weight, then he could easily find himself in great position for playing time with that frame.
Grant Hill, Freshman, 6-6/300
Grant is a committed player to this year's recruiting class. While he hasn't signed yet, there has been little drama regarding his recruitment since he committed last February, and I definitely expect him to sign next week. He is ranked by 247 as the no. 2 Guard in this year's class, so big things are expected of Hill in the future. He played very well in practices leading up to the Under Armour game, and in the game itself, while going against the best High School Defensive linemen in the country, including Robert Nkemdiche. That all being said, since he will not be participating in spring ball, I expect Hill to Redshirt in '13 and perhaps push for a staring spot in '14.
Again, It's impossible to predict who will win those open positions and be starting against VT on August 31. Especially under Saban, who is notorious for moving around offensive linemen. Whoever it is, this line will have some work to do (understatement of the year) to compare to 2012's line, but the players are there. There is talent on this list for sure, it's just going to be a question of who earns it. Ideally the depth chart works itself out early, so that the starters have plenty of time to work together before gameday. A lot of the time, it's not the players that make the line successful, but it's the comfort level of the players as a unit.