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One to Watch at Alabama’s A-Day: Matt Womack leads the right tackle competition (FILM REVIEW)

Can Womack help shore up the revolving door on the right side?

NCAA Football: Chattanooga at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Even in an age of large, athletic tackles, Matt Womack is a large, athletic tackle. Standing 6’7” and weighing 320 pounds, the redshirt sophomore from Hernando, MS is a gigantic kid.

His Fluker-esque size has its ups and downs. While it allows the powerful Womack to blast defenders into the second level and fill space against the pass rusher, it also means that his footwork and quickness off the ball suffer somewhat. It was apparent when he signed that the 4-star, one-time LSU commit would need development. He was just so raw.

After redshirting in 2015 to work on his fundamentals, Womack had improved enough last season to make the depth chart and earn his letter. In 2016, playing both right and left tackle, Matt was able to get on the field in nine games, including big contests against USC, Tennessee, and even Florida in the SEC Championship.

With the departure of Cam Robinson, and with Jonah Williams’ move to the left side, Womack’s natural position at right tackle is open for someone consistent enough to take it. Every snap, every scrimmage, and the A-Day game itself, are critical for Womack to show he can become the presumptive starter and fend off challenges from Juco transfer Elliot Baker and utility man Lester Cotton.

For now, it does appear as though he may have the inside track, owing to his upside and nastiness. When he squares his pads, keeps his butt down and head up, he gets a great drive off the ball. He is particularly impressive getting to the second level and has very powerful hands. However, for every positive play in last season’s mop-up duty, there were seemingly just as many mistakes — too many times where he misread his man, dropped his head, had bad footwork, or got turned sideways to the play.

A lot of that can be excused as youth and being a raw prospect. He was a work-in-progress when he was recruited, and was improving but still a developmental player last season — albeit a young player that showed a lot of promise. The thing to watch today is whether or not that potential is finally being realized. If his mechanics and consistency have improved, Matt Womack will be your starting right tackle for the 2017 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Below are two clips of the best that Womack can bring in both the run and pass game, and why we think, at his best, Womack’s play should make any Alabama fan happy. (Big thanks to Doctor Whos On First for combing the film and creating these gifs for me.)


Womack: Good quickness in the second level
Jordan Feigel

Here you see Matt (77) get an explosive start off the ball, looking to take the defensive tackle crashing in on the play. Womack releases the defensive end to Forristall who is responsible for the backside blocking. After he lets the DE run himself out of the play, Womack then steps three yards into his zone. There, he negates the frontside tackle by the outside linebacker and perfect seals the edge, giving B.J. Emmons a smooth running lane. His day is not done though. Womack then squares his shoulder, shoves his guy out of the play, turns, and fires upfield looking to make another block on a defensive back. Pat attention to how quick he is too — Matt may never beat Trevon Diggs in a footrace, but he’s got more than enough game speed.

All in all, this is perfectly executed zone blocking, and it helps turn what should be a harmless little iso play by Alabama into a 13-yard gainer. B.J. Emmons isn’t even touched for the first 11 yards of this run. That, my friends, is how to #RTDB.


Womack 7-step blocking
Jordan Feigel

There is another big play by Womack, though far more more subtle; even though it’s one it shows up on the stat sheet as a 1-yard pass, it could have been a negative play.

Here, Womack is again playing left tackle and is covered up by Miller Forristall in Alabama’s 12 look: that’s two tight ends, two receivers and one running back. That formation is a staple of the Crimson Tide heavy offense, suitable for power running or, as we see here, play action with very few routes. Barnett fakes the give to Jacobs, while one receiver takes off on a skinny post. The hope is to make the linebackers crash in on the running back fake, clearing out the middle so the QB can pick up a cheap first down with an easy throw to the bottom receiver running a dig route. (Or, if you’re Jake Coker, you wind that sucker up and throw it as far as you can to Calvin Ridley.)

Kent State is in perfect position to diagnose this play and render it harmless though -- maybe even generate a negative play or turnover for themselves. The Flashes are in a simple cover-3 zone, playing eight men in the box. This drops two DBs off in medium-depth coverage, both shading to the boundary side of the field, while there is one safety playing centerfield against the deep ball. The linebackers, if they don’t get swallowed up by a play-fake, can take the flats and drop into coverage over the middle. In run situations, the eight men should be able to stop an opponent’s running game.

If any of that sounds familiar, that is because it has all-but become the de facto defensive formation in the SEC. Few teams run it as well as LSU. It is a reasonably safe jack-of-all trades defense effective against run or pass — assuming you can get a push by your front four. Here, to generate that pressure with just four down linemen, the Flashes run a simple twist with the inside tackle looping outside to take the gap between the Womack and Forristall.

But, Womack has his head up the entire play and uses his head and power. He comes off the ball cleanly, his pads are square, he sizes up his guy and then DE is screwed — he let Big 77 get his hands on his jersey inside his pads. For all practical purposes, the defender’s day is done at this point. But, even as Womack is standing his man up, the twisting defensive tackle comes crashing in on Matt’s outside shoulder. Forristall can’t handle the DT’s power, and it looks like this could be trouble for Barnett’s deep 7-step drop. But, Womack is as heady as he is huge. While still blocking his man, he sidesteps to the left, putting himself beside Forristall, and then ever so slight chips his shoulder into the rusher.

No part of this play was amazing. None of it sent a defender into the cheap seats. But, it was just smart enough and just powerful enough to buy Barnett time to read the coverage, check down to his safety valve, and make an easy throw to avoid a negative play. While Joshua Jacobs only grabs a yard on the play, Womack’s chip on the DT and his easy rubbing out of his man, ensured that it at least went for a yard instead of turning into a sack, a dangerous rushed pass, or a even turnover.

Womack’s street fighting smarts and his footwork and power made this play 100% forgettable. That’s a lineman doing his job.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series. Keep an eye on all of the players, obviously. But we believe the five guys we highlighted this week will be ones particularly worthy of watching today.

Enjoy the game.

Roll Tide