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Meet the New Guys: Offensive Line

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Give the big boys some love.

Jonah Williams
Jonah Williams
StudentSports

In the last couple of weeks, we've delved into the abilities of the offensive backfield and pass catchers that will be joining the Tide next season. While all very talented, these players will never be able to generate one iota of offensive production without a little help from the big men. This week, we'll take a look at each of the five incoming players on the offensive line. As usual, I will be speaking about SPARQ and Z-scores with the assumption that you know what those terms and numbers refer to. If you don't, stop what you are doing and click this link right now.

With Dominick Jackson and Ryan Kelly graduating, the right tackle and center spots will be wide open for competition. However, in each of the last three recruiting classes, Nick Saban has added at least 5 new lineman every year, and many of those players are still waiting in the wings to get playing time. With the depth already there, the new guys this year will have their work cut out for them to supplant the glut of older players and crack the depth chart.

Charles Baldwin-OT

Stars National Rank Position Rank Height Weight 40-Yard Dash 20-Yard Shuttle Vertical Jump Power Throw SPARQ Z-Score
4 JC-2 JC-1 6050 300 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

The second highest rated player from the JUCO ranks in 2016, Charles Baldwin comes to Alabama from ASA College in Brooklyn, following the footsteps of former Tide JUCO lineman, Leon Brown. Unfortunately, as a JUCO prospect, Baldwin did not participate in any Nike combines, and does not have recent SPARQ data. However, he did participate as a junior in high school, and scored a 59.67... Which is pretty bad. That was as an unrated recruit who had not yet developed into the legitimate football player that he is now.

Pros

At 6'5" 300 pounds, Baldwin has the length and slimmer frame of a true offensive tackle, and his play only supports that style. His best quality is his lateral quickness. He can quickly slide either sideways or backwards, and excels at blocking the speed rush on the outside (a welcome change from the usual Alabama offensive tackle). He moves his feet well, and is very agile for an offensive lineman. He also has amazing hand technique, and can time his punches to just the right moment to stun or redirect a rushing defender with a single strike. He does a great job of getting his hands in the chest of the defender and lifting them back and up, which will lead to both less counter moves from a technique rusher and less holding calls on Baldwin than your average lineman. He is possibly the best pass blocker I've seen commit to Alabama since I have been following recruiting.

Cons

Run blocking. He does not show good power in his lower body, and does not really seem to drive defenders backwards. He does not fire off the line of scrimmage well from a 3 point stance, and looks uncomfortable trying to make a play in space as a lead blocker. Some of it is solely due to his body type, which is that of a lean, pass-blocking tackle.

Prediction

I think Baldwin has a really good shot of winning the starting right tackle job. Though his lack of expertise at run blocking might be concerning, the fact that Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake are gone likely means that Kiffin will be passing at a much higher quantity this season.

Scott Lashley-OT

Stars National Rank Position Rank Height Weight 40-Yard Dash 20-Yard Shuttle Vertical Jump Power Throw SPARQ Z-Score
4 192 18 6060 305 5.27 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A


In what amounts to be a sad day for me, Scott Lashley also did not participate in a Nike combine and does not have any SPARQ data. The offensive tackle was thought by most to be a lock to stay close to his hometown and play for Mississippi State, but the day before National Signing Day he chose instead to play for Alabama.

Pros

Remember everything I said about Charles Baldwin not firing out of a three point stance well and lacking aggression in the run game? Scott Lashley is exactly the opposite. Imagine Trent Richardson's on-field personality, but in a 305 pound body. Lashley is always in attack mode, and most of his opponents will end up on the ground somehow. As a lead blocker, he almost looks like a linebacker with the force in which he tackles nearby defenders.

Cons

He also ends up on the ground with his prey. While that is effective for taking out that one man, it also prevents him from picking up any more blocks on a given play. He also has all of like three highlights of him pass blocking, which is a bit of a red flag. His unbridled aggressiveness and tendency to tackle defenders could lead to an excess of penalties on him in the future.

Prediction

Redshirts. I do not think Lashley is anywhere near developed enough to crack even the 2 deep depth chart for Alabama. He will have to sit a season or two and learn to play with better control of his body before getting into the mix as potential starter.

Deonte Brown-OG

Stars National Rank Position Rank Height Weight 40-Yard Dash 20-Yard Shuttle Vertical Jump Power Throw SPARQ Z-Score
4 175 9 6030 340 5.24 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A


Like Baldwin and Lashley, the 9th ranked guard in the nation also has no SPARQ data. However, the fact that he has been recorded at running a 5.24 forty yard dash at 340 pounds is outstanding. Speaking of 340, if Brown joins the Crimson Tide at that weight, he will officially be the heaviest player on offense (and would be the heaviest overall on the team, if fellow true freshman Kendell Jones was not the size of a small mountain). As a disclaimer, because Brown was committed to Alabama for so long, he never actually released any senior season videos, so my opinions are formed solely off of the all-star games I watched him in and his junior year highlights.

Pros

He's massive. Nobody wants to see a man that big coming at them at full speed. He's a nasty blocker when pulling across the line of scrimmage, and strikes and shoves defenders with his hands, rather than locking on to them, which will help with not drawing holding calls.

Cons

To be frank, most everything else. His body looks sloppy, and so are his movements. He consistently looks off-balance, and, while surprisingly fast moving forward, has a painfully slow and choppy backpedal.

Prediction

He will redshirt, no doubt. In fact, Brown will have a lot of work to do over the next few years if he ever wants a shot at breaking into the lineup, starting with working into better shape. I would personally guess that Brown never does break into a starting role, but, then again, I said the same thing about Alphonse Taylor, who has an eerily similar style as Brown.

Chris Owens-OG

Stars National Rank Position Rank Height Weight 40-Yard Dash 20-Yard Shuttle Vertical Jump Power Throw SPARQ Z-Score
4 177 10 6030 312 5.34 4.69 26.5 37 82.89 1.53


Finally, a lineman with some SPARQ data. Boasting a Z-score of 1.53, Owens is the most athletic lineman to join the Tide since Cam Robinson and J.C. Hassenauer stormed onto the scene in the class of 2014. The four star guard out of Texas really caught my eye during the UnderArmour All-American game, where he looked nearly perfect against the top competition in the nation throughout the entire contest. He is also an early enrollee.

Pros

He moves smoothly. While most linemen tend to look choppy, Owens is deliberate, though not slow, with all of his actions. He moves well in all directions, and always seems to be on balance. He's a solid pass blocker, and an even better run blocker. He drives defenders backwards with his lower body, often locking into them and pushing them backwards 5-10 yards. He also utilizes a unique technique with his arms where he brings his arms down like a club onto rushers that manage to slip by his initial block, knocking them to the ground.

Cons

He doesn't backpedal exceptionally well, and will likely struggle too much with speed rushers to be an offensive tackle at the next level. He also almost never operates out of a three-point stance, and will have to work on that as he transitions into being a full time guard.

Prediction

Owens, like Trevon Diggs in last week's article, is on my short list of freshmen of who I will choose from as my favorite player of the class. I think he will end up getting a little playing time in mop-up duty, and will be listed somewhere as a back up on the season opener's depth chart.

Jonah Williams-OT

Stars National Rank Position Rank Height Weight 40-Yard Dash 20-Yard Shuttle Vertical Jump Power Throw SPARQ Z-Score
5 17 2 6050 280 5.14 4.66 27.4 40 82.35 1.50


Though a little light for an offensive lineman, the 3rd-highest ranked player in Alabama's class of 2016 posted a Z-score of 1.50, nearly identical to Chris Owens. The elite player from California is an early enrollee at Alabama, and will be looking to compete for the recently vacated right tackle spot as a true freshman

Pros

The boy is strong. Even with his lighter frame, Williams consistently tosses defenders around like rag dolls. And that might be an understatement. Not only that, but he's fast too. He is exceptional at sprinting outside of the hash marks on toss sweeps and receiver screens, and is comfortable making the blocks in space. He's also versatile, and can play both guard and tackle on either side of the line. He has quick feet, and can both backpedal and move laterally quick enough to keep up with smaller rushers and always be in position

Cons

He plays too upright and does not bend his knees well at all. While his pure arm strength is enough to get away with that in high school, it will not work in the SEC. He also has a tendency to place his hands on defenders outside of their shoulder pads and tends to overreach rather than move his feet, both of which will lead to quite a few holding calls in the future.

Prediction

I think he will redshirt this year while he adds some bulk and works on perfecting his technique. As evidenced by his lofty 5-star status, he has a tremendous amount of potential, and will almost assuredly be a quality starter at worst within a couple of years. He just needs a little time to work out the kinks.