Last Thursday, we saw what happens to the internet without sports to keep everyone busy. Between the escaped llamas and the multi-colored dress, the country pretty much lost its mind in a single day. Fortunately, here is your third weekly fix of Alabama football. The first two segments previewed the new front seven and secondary members for the 2015 version of the Crimson Tide. This week will cover the offensive line.
SPARQ scores will be mentioned occasionally in this article. SPARQ is measurement created by Nike to quantify an athlete's pure athleticism. Here is my former article delving into the details and mechanics of SPARQ. Without further rambling, it is time to introduce you to the 2015 big guys.
Brandon Kennedy is a four star guard from Wetumpka, Alabama. He is the 303rd ranked player nationally, and the 19th ranked offensive guard in the nation. After playing guard and tackle his earlier years, Kennedy made the switch to center his senior year in high school.
Kennedy is a limited athlete. He has a slighter frame than most lineman recruited to Alabama, and did not test well at all at Nike's combines. He managed only a 51.09 SPARQ score, which accentuates his limited athletic ability.
His calling card, however, is his intelligence and technique. Kennedy had a 4.0 GPA in high school, and has been affectionately praised by coaches for his leadership, effort, and attention to small details. As previously mentioned, he has experience at every position along the offensive line, and was moved to center because of his ability to call plays and make checks for the offensive line. Kennedy typically shows a high effort on tape, and is always chasing after the play looking for a block. He has decent but not great footwork as a pass protector, but struggles to generate a push in the running game.
The Prediction: Redshirts in 2015
Richie Petitbon is one of the more highly acclaimed linemen in the class. He is the 65th ranked player in the nation, and the 5th best offensive guard. He is yet another player that Nick Saban has managed to poach from the D.C. metropolitan area during his time at Alabama.
Petitbon is slightly above average for an offensive lineman in terms of athleticism. Despite an awful 22-inch vertical jump, he still managed a 68.23 SPARQ score.
He has played and excelled at both guard and tackle in high school, but most easily projects to guard at the next level. Petitbon plays with a nasty streak. He is a powerful run blocker than can typically be found menacing unsuspecting linebackers in the second level after he has already eliminated a defensive lineman. He has really active hands, and an initial punch that redirects defensive lineman effortlessly. Petitbon excels when he is moving forward and clearing the way for a running back. He struggles, however, with footwork. He tends to stumble and be generally off balance when trying to backpedal in pass protection or when moving laterally. He will have to work on his flexibility to succeed in college.
The Prediction: Will Redshirt in 2015
The behemoth of a man, Matt Womack, is a 3-star tackle, and the lowest rated member of the 2015 class. He is considered the 621st overall player in the nation, and the 68th best tackle. He flipped his commitment from LSU to Alabama in December, and symbolized yet another Nick Saban-shaped thorn in the side of Les Miles.
Womack did not participate in any of Nike's combines, and does not have a SPARQ score. His athletic upside is huge though. At 6'7" 320, Womack has a massive frame and wingspan, and can only get stronger as he moves from high school to college.
Womack is also a fairly well-regarded defensive tackle, and played both sides of the ball in high school. He has been praised for his conditioning and work ethic by his coaches, and reportedly has played entire football games without missing a single play... offense and defense. He is very raw and sloppy technique-wise, and often just depends on being so much bigger than everyone else to dominate the game. Womack's potential is sky-high as both an offensive or defensive lineman prospect, but will have a lot of work to do to clean up his game.
The Prediction: As with the others, will redshirt in 2015
Dallas Warmack, younger brother of former Alabama first round pick, Chance Warmack, is considered the 12th best guard in the nation and the 229th player overall.
Warmack is pretty much a clone of his older brother. Everything from his shorter, stout way of carrying his weight to his aggressive playing style looks just like the older Warmack (who was actually rated as a 3 star player the 2009 class). Warmack tested out almost identically to Richie Petitbon at the SPARQ combines, and scored a 65.40. He and Petitbon will likely be directly competing with each other for years to come.
Warmack is most at home when he can be a pulling guard. He thrives on moving laterally and lead blocking for the running back or making the highlight crackback blocks. His blocks often look more like big hits and tackles than blocks, and he obviously punishes any unsuspecting defenders. Similar to Petitbon, however, he struggles backpedaling in pass protection. Although he plays tackle for his high school, Warmack most obviously projects to guard in college.
The Prediction: I know you're tired of hearing this, but Warmack redshirts in 2015.
Lester Cotton is the most highly acclaimed offensive lineman of the Tide's 2015 class. The 4 star guard is the 54th overall player in the nation, and the 4th ranked player at his position. He was a standout performer at the The Opening Camp this summer and drew rave reviews from the coaches there.
Cotton scored an 81.30 SPARQ score, which is very impressive for an offensive lineman. In fact, it puts him in the top 8% in the nation in pure athleticism. Cotton is a powerful player with a well built frame. His legs are the size of tree trunks, and he effective puts all of his power in his lower body.
Cotton is one of the highest rated linemen for a reason. He is an extremely powerful run blocker and a fairly nimble pass blocker. He has very good balance and leverage, and has a natural feel for shifting weight onto his legs rather than becoming top heavy while blocking. Though listed as a guard, he has experience and can effectively play both guard or tackle. His footwork is adequate, but could definitely improve. Cotton's biggest weakness is his lack of hand technique. He relies a little too much on his initial strength and drive, and tends to forget to keep his hands active in warding off the defensive lineman.
The Prediction: Quickly becomes a primary back up in injury situations for both guard and tackle
Because of the nature of the offensive line, players rarely rotate in among the starting five. This means true freshmen almost always tend to redshirt. Unfortunately, that left my predictions to be a bit boring. Cotton is the only player I feel is developed along far enough to get a shot at the two-deep depth chart.