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Alabama Football Film Room: The Offensive Line Is Taking Care of Business

The play hasn’t been perfect, but it has been pretty darn good.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line has had miscues, of course, resulting in protection issues for Jalen Hurts or the backs not having room to run. Still, this line helped pave the way for the nation’s 7th ranked rushing attack and the top one in the SEC. Alabama is also 1st in the SEC in total offense and scoring offense. In addition, Alabama is tied for 5th for the fewest tackles for loss allowed, and they’re tied for 8th in sacks allowed.

That’s not too shabby.

The game against LSU is usually a slugfest, and the battle in the trenches takes on particular importance.

3rd and 10: Hurts (#2) is in shotgun with Damien Harris (#34) on his right hip. They’re in 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end) with the tight end Hale Hentges (#84) flexed out in the trips left. Hurts drops back as Florida State rushes five initially. Everybody does a good job blocking their guys, and Hurts has plenty of space to step up into the pocket and make his throw to Calvin Ridley (#3) on an out route past the first down marker.

1st and 10: Alabama’s in the pistol with Najee Harris (#22) at running back. Jerry Jeudy (#4) motions left to right, which draws one of their safeties in. Hurts fakes the handoff to Harris. FSU brings just four while Bama keeps Hentges in to block. Hentges and Matt Womack (#77) double team one defensive end, and Bradley Bozeman (#75) lends Ross Pierschbacher (#71) a hand before he moves over to join Lester Cotton (#66) to double team one of the defensive tackles. Jonah Williams (#73) has DE Josh Sweat by himself, and he gets him just enough up field to neutralize him. Hurts again has ample room to make his throw with no pressure, and he again hits Ridley, this time for a 53 yard touchdown.

2nd and 6: It wasn’t always rosy for the offensive line, though. Hurts is in the gun with Damien Harris on his left. The Seminoles bring five, and both offensive tackles struggle. Jonah Williams never gets his feet set, and the defensive end drives him back. With Williams and the defender in his lap, Hurts has no time and has scramble. Unfortunately, on the other side, Womack gets beaten by the linebacker Matthew Thomas; and Hurts can’t escape that way. To his credit, he just manages to get away from Thomas; and he scoots around, almost getting back to the line of scrimmage.

1st and 10: Hurts is lined up in the pistol with Najee Harris behind him. Hale Hentges and Irv Smith are both lined up on the right side of the line. Womack gets driven into the backfield. Bozeman never quite gets a handle on the defensive tackle he was supposed to pick up. Lester Cotton didn’t chip that tackle enough for Bozeman, and he gets knocked down when he tries to pick up the linebacker. Neither the defensive tackle nor the linebacker stop Harris, but they do impede him. Another linebacker, Matthew Thomas, shrugged off Jonah Williams’ attempted block and made it over to the playside and stands Harris up for no gain.

1st and 10: Hurts is in the pistol with 12 personnel. Bo Scarbrough (#9) is behind him. Hale Hentges is the H-back, lined up right behind the right guard while Irv Smith is on the right side of the line. Ridley is also in tight on the right. Everybody takes a man.

Jonah Williams blocks the defensive end on his side. Pierschbacher steps forward and to the right and gets in his man’s chest. Bozeman gets to the second level and squares up against the middle linebacker, easily turning and walling him out. Lester Cotton uses the defensive tackle’s momentum to send him to his knees. Womack gets to the second level and blasts the strongside linebacker several yards back. This is actually the weakest part of the play. If he had stayed with his block and driven him back, the linebacker may not have helped make the tackle on Scarbrough. Oh well. Irv Smith keeps his block just long enough to Scarbrough to slip by. The all around effort results in an easy 9 yard gain.

2nd and 6: It’s the next play (there was a penalty), and the formation is fairly similar. Hurts is under center, and Scarbrough is still the tailback. Hentges and Smith are both still in, but the two have flipped spots and are on the left instead of the right. Ridley is in tight on the left. The nose tackle beats Bozeman right off the bat and gets penetration. Pierschbacher doesn’t block either the linebacker or the defensive back coming in from the left side. Scarbrough has zero running room, and he just gets stoned in the backfield.

2nd and 11: Alabama’s in the pistol with 11 personnel out there. Damien Harris is the running back, and Hale Hentges is on the right. Harris goes out on a route after the fake to him, but Hentges stays in to block. Texas A&M only brings one extra rusher, so the Tide still have a numbers advantage. Williams picks up the linebacker and does not let him get by. Pierschbacher locks in with his man, stopping the outside move and keeping him occupied until he has to spin away. Cotton and Bozeman have no trouble with their defensive linemen, and Womack stays in to Cotton a bit. Hentges, meanwhile, has stopped the linebacker’s admittedly half-hearted rush. Hurts has plenty of time and room to step up into the pocket, and he finds Ridley for the first down.

2nd and 12: Once more it’s 11 personnel out of the pistol. Irv Smith is on the right of the line, and Damien Harris is at tailback. Hurts fakes the handoff to Harris, who does an excellent job of picking up the corner blitz. While he’s doing that, the line is taking care of business. On the left side, I’m not sure if the defensive tackle and end are running stunts— either way, it’s ineffectual. The defensive tackle rushes quickly, driving Pierschbacher backwards, but Williams turns and gives him a shove. This knocks the defender off balance, and Pierschbacher finishes beautiful. He drives the tackle into the ground and falls on to him. Williams was able to help out because the defensive end, Jarrett Johnson, was slow off the snap and steps inside, but not very far. Then Johnson spins by Bozeman, but Pierschbacher and the defensive tackle are on the ground, blocking his path. This allows Bozeman and Williams to seal up Johnson.

On the right side, Irv Smith stayed in to block, so it was three on two. The defensive tackle slips a little, and that’s all Cotton needs to knock him down to his knees. Smith doesn’t have any trouble blocking the defensive end, Landis Durham, and Womack is right there anyway just in case Smith needed the help.

Alabama did have seven guys in blocking against just five rushers, so they easily had the numbers advantage. Still, players won individual battles and gave Hurts plenty of time to wait for Robert Foster to get open. Foster dropped the pass, but so it goes.