While Alabama only lost one player on the offensive line (Bradley Bozeman), there’s a solid chance there will be two new faces in 2018.
Jedrick Wills was listed as a co-starter with Matt Womack at right tackle in the beginning of 2017, but Wills never ended up supplanting him. With Womack out for the spring, Wills has consistently been with the first team, whether at right guard or tackle.
The other new face? Alex Leatherwood.
Leatherwood played mop-up duty in blowouts last season before being thrust into the spotlight when left tackle Jonah Williams went down in the third quarter of the national championship. The true freshman was inserted into the lineup and balled out, especially considering the circumstances.
He began this spring with the second team, but he was slotted in at first team right tackle before the first scrimmage and has remained there ever since. We’ll have a chance to see how this new look offensive line is progressing and if Matt Womack will be Wally Pipped.
2nd and 10: It’s just the second snap for Leatherwood (#70). He kicks out and is engaged by the outside linebacker, David Marshall. Leatherwood does a nice job of getting his hands inside the Marshall’s, right in his chest. Leatherwood stops the initial rush, so Marshall tries to go outside. Leatherwood stops that and shoves him back with one arm. The freshman tackle stays right with his man, too, getting right back in Marshall’s face. Tagovailoa ends up scrambling, slipping right by Leatherwood’s block. Throughout the play, Leatherwood maintains good balance and always keeps his feet moving.
1st and goal: Leatherwood kicks out quickly; but OLB Davin Bellamy is pretty quick, too. Leatherwood allows Bellamy to get in his chest; and he’s driven backwards unable to win the hand-fighting. Leatherwood does recover, though, and stymies Bellamy enough for Tagovailoa to fire off a touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs.
1st and 10: Nothing fancy here. Leatherwood gets a decent little punch on DE Jonathan Ledbetter and swats away his hands. Leatherwood keeps a good base and again keeps those feet moving, matching Ledbetter’s movements.
1st and 10: Leatherwood is matched up against Davin Bellamy again. Leatherwood tries to get in Bellamy’s chest, but the outside linebacker swipes Leatherwood’s hands aside and gives him a hard shove. This causes Leatherwood to stumble, and that’s all Bellamy needs to get free. Tagovailoa gets a deep pass off (which falls incomplete), but he takes a big hit because of Leatherwood.
1st and 10: Leatherwood fires forward out of his stance and smashes into Jonathan Ledbetter. He doesn’t have good leverage; but he has help from Hale Hentges. The chip from Hentges is enough to knock Ledbetter off balance, and Leatherwood forces him down. Once he gets clear, he looks for somebody else to block. Leatherwood isn’t able to take on another defender, but his hustle leaves him right next to Najee Harris at the end of the play.
Is Alex Leatherwood ready to be a starter for the defending national champs? He’s had all Spring to make a statement: he takes case to the public on Saturday.