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Previewing the 2014 Alabama Offensive Line

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An up-close look at our boys in the trenches.

Kevin C. Cox

Hello, readers of RBR! This is my first post and I'm admittedly a bit nervous, so I'm going to skip the formalities and get right to the content if that's okay with everyone. Cool? Cool.

Bammer has asked me to preview the running backs and offensive line, so I'm going to try to put both of those into one post. Let's start with the boys up front.

One stat that gets used a lot when predicting an offensive line's success is combined starts. Now, if a line doesn't have many combined starts, that doesn't mean they will be a bad unit. It just means they don't have much experience. That being said, when you combine last year's inconsistent performance with the fact that OL coach Mario Cristobal will be starting a true freshman at left tackle, there is cause for concern. The line's 37 combined starts are good for 13th in the SEC and 107th in the country. But when you look closer at the potential line itself, there's plenty to be optimistic about.

CENTER

Ryan Kelly is the incumbent anchor of the line and no one seems even remotely close to overtaking him. His nine starts last year (and the departure of Chad Lindsay)  all but guarantees him the starting role in 2014. If he should stay healthy, look for him to be one of the top centers in the nation this year. Behind him are freshmen J.C. Hassenauer and Josh Casher. Hassenauer was actually rated higher as a center in high school, so look for him to get the second team snaps. As we progress toward the future though, odds are one of these two will either transfer or have to change positions, as they are both too talented to keep off of the field.

GUARD

Arie Kouandjio, for all his positives and negatives, will be the starting left guard. Yes, there is plenty of talent behind him and, yes, many of those guys will most likely be better than AK one day, but that likely won't be the case in 2014.

Right guard is a little more interesting. Dominick Jackson, a JUCO transfer out of California, looked to lead the competition for the starting job until an ankle injury knocked him out. The next logical choice should be Leon Brown, who started for an injured Anthony Steen in the most recent Sugar Bowl. Alphonse Taylor, a sophomore, will also get some looks, but he looks to be firmly third in the competition. Freshman Ross Pierschbacher looks to combine with Grant Hill in platoon duty this year.

TACKLE

It looks more and more like Cameron Robinson, the true freshman out of Louisiana, will be the starting left tackle. You may not like this move, considering it's the most important position on the line but CamRob gives us the best chance to win on Day 1, and that's all we can ask for. Interestingly enough, Pierschbacher, who was a guard in high school, has been getting the second-team reps at left tackle in practice.— for those not paying attention, that's two true freshman lining up at LT.

Austin Shepherd will once again start at right tackle this year, despite a less-than-inspiring performance in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. If he plays like he did for the first 11 games (and most of that infamous 12th game) then I think we will be generally impressed with what we see out of Shepherd. Grant Hill, who filled in for basically everyone last season, has an outside shot at winning this job but his inconsistencies last year probably did him in. He'll make a big impact in 2015 with all the experience he will have gained in the previous two years.

THE REST

Bradley Bozeman (FR), Will Davis (SO), Brandon Greene (SO), Austin Peavler (SO), Chris Posa (SO), Isaac Luatua (JR), Brandon Moore (JR), Paul Waldrop (JR)

One thing to be said for the 37 combined starts: 35 of them belong to three potential starters I just listed. They all stepped in and replaced Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack, and D.J. Fluker, respectively. With another year under their belts, the three returning starters could have a very special season.

Overall prediction for the line: A-. I believe that all the demons of 2013 will be exorcised early. What says the ‘Bama Nation?