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2017 Alabama Football Unit Previews: Offensive Line

The talent is there, but will they jell in time to take on an excellent FSU defensive front?

NCAA Football: Alabama at Arkansas Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

“We opened up holes, and they hit ‘em.”

That was returning center Bradley Bozeman speaking to the media following the Tide’s first contact scrimmage of the fall, and it was music to Alabama fans’ ears.

CB969 put together an excellent preview of this unit during spring ball and I’m going to refer you to it for the depth because, well, not much has changed. The Tide look to be in good shape numbers-wise, needing to replace only one full-time starter, albeit a great one in current Jacksonville Jaguar Cam Robinson.

Saban said coming out of spring camp that the coaches felt that they had four guys who could “play winning football.” It was fairly obvious that he was referring to Bozeman, Ross Pierschbacher, Jonah Williams, and Lester Cotton. Those four have been stalwarts thus far in the fall, the only question being whether Cotton ends up at right guard or right tackle.

The fifth spot continues to be a battle, but Matt Womack has clearly been the leader thus far, starting at RT at A-Day and maintaining that spot through the fall.

The “Four”:

LT Jonah Williams

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Williams looks to be the next great Alabama lineman. A rare starter as a true freshman in Tuscaloosa, he quietly performed from day one. He has prototypical size and athleticism for a NFL left tackle and has been lauded as an excellent technician. If he develops on schedule, he will be a top ten selection in the 2019 draft.

LG Ross Pierschbacher

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Alabama vs Washington Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Pierschbacher is a third-year starter at left guard. Outside of a few communication issues in the zone game, he has been solid in both run and pass blocking. He spent most of last fall at the center position before reverting to his familiar role just before the start of the season.

C Bradley Bozeman

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Alabama vs Washington Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Bozeman is a fan favorite as an in-state blue-collar type who accepted a grayshirt offer out of high school because of all the ‘Bama in him. Things worked out well for him, as he was able to not only earn a scholarship in that true freshman season but actually got on the field when starting center Ryan Kelly went down for a short time. Bradley is also one of three men in this group to bench 500 pounds at spring testing. He is now the senior leader and captain of a talented group.

RG (RT?) Lester Cotton

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Cotton is another fan favorite, to be expected since he played his high school ball just across 15th St. from the UA campus. Cotton received far more hype, however, as a high four-star who many believed would dominate early. Unfortunately the adjustment to the college game was a little tougher for Lester, particularly the quickness of today’s smaller defensive linemen, causing him to move in and out of a starting spot in 2016. He also had a minor hiccup in the winter when he was arrested for simple marijuana possession. The coaches seem to be pleased with his progress, however, and have him entrenched as a starter.

The Contenders

OT Matt Womack

Womack is a behemoth of a man who was considered a likely candidate to start at RT last year until Jonah Williams showed up looking like a veteran superstar. The veteran of this grouping, he was penciled in as the starter in spring and has maintained his position to date. Like last year, however, he will have some serious competition from a couple of youngsters.

OT Jedrick Wills

If anyone is able to supplant Womack, Wills may be the most likely candidate. He comes in at a disadvantage since he didn’t arrive until the summer, but he has made his presence known. He has already moved up to second string right tackle and reportedly split time with Womack at the last scrimmage. Wills is a prototypical right tackle as an old school mauler with a nasty streak who also has the athleticism to be a top 50 overall player in the 2017 signing class. Keep an eye on him.

OT Alex Leatherwood

Leatherwood is a 2017 early enrollee who was actually the more ballyhooed prospect coming out of high school, a five-star prospect with an almost perfect score on the 247 Composite and the consensus #1 overall offensive lineman in the class. He looked a bit heavy on his feet in the spring for a college tackle, however, which probably set him back a bit. He reportedly lost quite a bit of weight over the summer and is now in a much better position. He has been running second behind Williams at left tackle recently, suggesting that the coaches may be content to groom him at his most natural position.

OG Deonte Brown

Brown is the wild card here. If neither Womack nor Wills appear ready to take the reins at right tackle, it is very likely that the massive Brown will get the nod at right guard and shift Cotton out to tackle. Brown is built just like Chance Warmack, can bench press a house, and squats well over 600 pounds. No matter what happens this fall, expect Brown to start in 2018 as the Tide look to replace Bozeman and potentially Pierschbacher.

With only one open spot on the line and four highly rated players competing for it, the 2017 line is in better shape at this stage than it has been in a few seasons, though with Williams moving from right to left and a new starter at RT it will hardly be seamless. Hopefully the group will have an opportunity to jell as a unit before facing an incredibly difficult test on September 2.