Upon first glance, it is a bit alarming to think that the Crimson Tide has lost 129 combined career starts between three departing starters from last year’s offensive line. However, a closer look reveals a deep unit of talented linemen that Nick Saban & Co. have been stockpiling over the last several seasons. Alabama signed five new linemen for the Class of 2019 and all of these incoming freshmen are currently enrolled and practicing with the team.
As per usual, there will be many different combinations and position changes to experiment with over the spring. Even after A-Day has been completed on April 13, the final five players to man the offensive line will probably not be set until sometime in late August.
LT Jonah Williams - Unanimous All-American left tackle projected as a first round pick.
C Ross Pierschbacher - Four-year starter, All-SEC first team center, and Bama team captain heading to the NFL.
LG Lester Cotton - Part-time starter out of eligibility.
G/C Joshua Casher - Valuable reserve out of eligibility.
T Richie Petitbon - Reserve grad-transferred to Illinois.
MISC Elliot Baker - Former juco transfer graduated, never really contributed.
RG Alex Leatherwood - A natural tackle, the rising junior moved over to right guard out of necessity. He was named All-SEC second team after starting all 15 games for the Tide this past season. The expectation is that he will move back to tackle stepping into the spot vacated by Jonah Williams on the left side.
RT Jedrick Wills - Another rising junior, this Kentucky native started all 15 games at right tackle as a sophomore. Based on his strength and talent, he should retain that role in 2019. It would be surprising to see him move to guard or the bench.
RETURNING RESERVES WITH PREVIOUS STARTS
G Deonte Brown - The redshirt junior pulled off an incredible feat in 2018 of unseating a senior starter, Cotton, at left guard in the middle of the season for a No. 1 team averaging 53.6 points per game at the time. He achieved this through impressive work in practices and in reserve play. His first start came against Tennessee and he would command that spot until he was suspended for the Orange Bowl and the National Championship Game. He is also suspended for the first four games of 2019. Alabama has filed an appeal of the suspension but not much information has surfaced as of late. If the appeal is denied and another player plays well for the first four games, Brown might not get back on the field as a starter in the coming campaign.
T Matt Womack (#77 in above gif) - This redshirt senior knows all to well what it is like to be a starter, get knocked out of play, and then be surpassed by a better performer while sidelined. The 6’7” 325 lbs linemen became the surprise starter at right tackle in 2017 on the way to a National Championship. However, a broken foot during fall camp last year took him out of action, missing the Tide’s first four games of 2018. By the time he returned, the starting lineup was solidified and he was regulated to jumbo packages and clean-up duty. Before his injury, he had some practice time as a guard. He could be a candidate for one of those open jobs in the coming year.
G/C Chris Owens - This redshirt junior has seen playing time at tackle, guard, and center during his time at the Capstone. He will have every opportunity to earn a starting spot for this season at one of the interior positions, and could be a front-runner.
G/C Emil Ekiyor - The Tide staff appears to be grooming the second year man as the next center. He played in four game at center in 2018, while retaining his redshirt status. Some observers seem to think he is a favorite to win a job at center or a guard this season.
T Scott Lashley - Redshirt Junior played in eight games last season, three the year before. Could he challenge for a starting spot? Now is time for him to make his move.
T Tommy Brown - Despite the scouting praises of this former 4-star, he did not see the field in 2018. That should drastically change in 2019.
C Hunter Brannon - Redshirt sophomore has yet to play. He is being molded into a center.
T Kendall Randolph - Redshirt sophomore has yet to play.
5-star DE Kavon Thibodeaux vs 4-star OT Evan Neal pic.twitter.com/FpcWwjwEBX— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) July 2, 2018
Coach Kyle Flood - The ex-Rutgers head coach has a good reputation around OL coaching circles and was highly respected with the Falcons in Atlanta last year. Alabama’s new offensive line coach will have his some serious evaluating to do.
T Evan Neal 6’7” 360 Okeechobee, FL - Holy mackerel this is one big dude. Neal was ranked 5-stars and the No. 5 overall player for the 2019 recruiting class. He is enrolled and has the best chance of seeing significant playing time of this group of talented newcomers.
T/G Pierce Quick 6’5” 285 Trussville, AL - The No. 40 recruit in the nation will probably move to guard with the Tide and could push for playing time this season.
T Amari Kight 6’7” 313 Alabaster, AL - With a deep depth chart at tackle, he probably 4-game redshirts.
G/C Darrian Dalcourt 6’3” 292 Baltimore, MD - could compete at center or guard.
G Tanner Bowles 6’5” 280 Glasgow, KY - Likely redshirt.
PREDICTED DEPTH CHART
At the Senior Bowl in January, Pierschbacher was asked to predict the Tide’s starting offensive line for the coming season, excluding the suspended Brown. The former Alabama team captain came up with the following from left to right: Alex Leatherwood, Emil Ekiyor, Chris Owens, Matt Womack and Jedrick Wills. And so it shall be. During the first day of spring practice the Friday before Spring Break, that is exactly how the first group lined up. However, there is no guarantee this is the way things will stay. You may recall in seasons past, fans have been left guessing until late into August. Plus, someone like Neal could be so good that it’s impossible to keep him off the field.
All that said, the first team tackles should be a lock with Leatherwood on the left and Wills on the right. Outside of that, there could be a good deal of shuffling and reshuffling until something clicks.
Below is how the offensive line could look on A-Day:
|Emil Ekiyor/Chris Owens
|Chris Owens/Emil Ekiyor
A real depth chart will probably look different.
If the season started today and Deonte Brown is able to return early, the starting line-up might look something like this:
LT - Alex Leatherwood
LG - Deonte Brown
C - Chris Owens
RG - Matt Womack
RT - Jedrick Wills
First off the bench - T Evan Neal, G or C Emil Ekiyor.
At what level are you Gumping for the OL?
This poll is closed
1 - Very concerned losing 3 starters.
2 - Thanks to a pretty lame schedule, they will get by and gel by the time November rolls around.
3 - Not as good as last year but potential to be among the nation’s best.
4 - Two All-Americans + three All-SEC = NC 18!