To round out the offensive side of the ball, today’s piece will be all about the offensive line. If you missed the previous installments, here are pieces on the QBs, RBs, and WR/TE. Often the most overlooked position group, the offensive line is really the most integral part to the success of an offense. They can’t rack up flashy stats, but every single play depends on all five members to do their job perfectly. It’s a thankless task, but today I plan to give them some extra attention.
With Jonah Williams, Ross Pierschbacher, and Lester Cotton all moving on from the Tide’s starting lineup from 2018, the five new freshman will all have as good a shot as any at carving out a starting role in their rookie season.
As usual, I will be referring to SPARQ, an analytical tool used to quantify and compare a player’s athleticism.
I pull all my rankings from the 247Composite, and all heights, weights, and athletic tests are from ESPN, since they pull data from the Opening combines. However, most of the players have changed somewhat in their weight since participation in these combines last summer, so their college-arrival size may be much different. I just keep that old weight because it shows what size the player was when he ran that 40-yard dash.
Pierce is already enrolled at Alabama and began practicing in December, so he’ll have a leg up on the others. He’s a good overall athlete for an offensive lineman. His forty and vertical are acceptable if not special, and his shuttle and powerball toss are decent scores.
Quick was one of the earliest members of this recruiting class and one of the most vocal recruiters for the Tide for over a year. He’s also been a protector for QB Paul Tyson over the last couple of years at Trussville. Though his final ranking is a 4-star, he was a 5-star for most of his recruitment and is only a couple of slots behind the rest of the 5-stars in the class.
Quick is a versatile player who has spent time at both left tackle and right guard, though has been a stalwart at right tackle for the last two years. He also will sometimes move over an be a “tight end” in an unbalanced set. He’s a powerful blocker who does a great job of doing all of his pushing with his lower body and keeping his feet churning forward. He makes it a point to end pretty much every block with the opposing defensive lineman on the ground.
He’s got the ability to absorb a block until a defender gets just a little off-balance, then can transfer his strength into a quick downward shove that sends them sprawling.
He moves well in space and is used as a trap blocker (coming from the outside, in) quite often. Though not the quickest around, he backpedals well and does a good job in pass protection at staying in position and engaging the defender before they initiate the contact.
The only real issue I can see to his game is his positioning. He has a tendency to overrun blocks when trying to get to the second level and winds up having to reach around behind him and twist awkwardly make the block.
He also often gets his hands outside of the shoulder pads of the defender. While he usually doesn’t grab their jersey, he’s still going to be a prime target for easy holding penalties.
Quick is probably best suited to right tackle at the college level, though he has the versatility to move inside or even play left tackle. With Jedrick Wills locking down RT and unlikely to move positions, I don’t think Quick will be a starter this year. He’s too good to not play, though, and I think he winds up being a key reserve in year one that is often one of the first to substitute in and is solidly on the 2-deep.
Though an intimidating presence at 6’7”, Kight is much less of a pure athlete than Quick. I was very, very high on his performance in the all-star games this winter and thought he performed admirably against some of the top pass rushers in the nation.
Kight is a tall dude with a whole lot of length. He’s a natural tackle who’s comfortable working all alone on the outside, as his team ran a wide-open spread that often had him spread further out wide than what Alabama ever does. He’s adept at sidestepping in either direction to keep between his QB and the pass rusher, and does a great job of jabbing up and out quickly when engaging the defender— often knocking them off balance and stopping any momentum for a speed rush.
In the run game, he does a good job at getting fairly low (especially for his height) and driving into the gut of the defender. When he has a man line up against, he usually drives them backwards a solid 5 yards.
He’s not the fastest around, and can struggle to make much of an impact blocking in the open field. If he doesn’t have a man to block initially, he can be a bit slow at getting into place against another target. He’ll never be an interior guard or be used extensively as a pulling blocker around the edges.
I think Kight will redshirt. Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood are most likely your two tackles in 2019, so he’ll take the year to work on speed and footwork training while being groomed as a potential lengthy left tackle in the future.
Another recruit hailing from the new Alabama pipeline in the Baltimore/DC area, Dalcourt is a true interior lineman who can play both guard or center. He’s definitely on the lower end of athleticism for an Alabama recruit, but is still above the national average in his overall testing numbers.
Dalcourt is a shorter offensive lineman at only 6’3”, and he uses that to his advantage often. He’s really good at dropping down low right before impact and then firing himself upwards right into the defender. It leads to them having problems ever being able to get any semblance of leverage against him.
He’s also nimble on his feet and flexible in his hips. In pass protection, he’s good at taking on a block and being able to keep his feet underneath him no matter which direction the defender tries to go. In run blocking, he uses that same skill well to rotate his defender around to open up holes for the running back.
He’s not the most athletically gifted of guys out there, so he can get beat straight up against stronger or faster defenders. He isn’t fast in his backpedal and doesn’t have the size or length to really be able to hold his own if playing tackle.
As he’s already enrolled, I think Dalcourt will be right in the mix to replace one of the interior linemen. Though not a center in high school, he did play center during the UA All-Star game and performed admirably. Ultimately, I think he’ll get beat out by the more experienced Chris Owens, but winds up solidly as the second team center by the time the season rolls around.
A bit of a forgotten man in a star-studded class, Bowles is an undersized offensive tackle from Kentucky with solid-if-not-spectacular athleticism. He’s right on the line between a 4- and a 3-star player, and many project him to wind up moving to guard at the college level.
Bowles has a trim body and looks to carry a good bit less fat than a lot of offensive linemen. As such, he plays with a speed and suddenness that you don’t see often and really goes against his 40-yard dash time. He’s fast off the line of scrimmage and fires himself into the fray, knocking defenders back before they get a chance to brace. He can move into the second level quickly and is fast enough to pick out defensive back and linebacker targets before they can slip around him.
In pass protection, he does a good job at dropping back and can keep up with most any speed rusher and change directions to stay in front of anyone trying to counter across him back to the inside.
He has a bit of an issue with getting his head way out in front of his feet when driving his defender, leading to a lot of his blocks ending with him falling on the ground in front of the man he’s blocking. With his light frame also comes the issue that he’s just going to be smaller than a lot of SEC defensive linemen, who will be able to just overpower him and knock him backwards.
I think Bowles will have to redshirt this year to add some good weight to his frame. Very few Alabama starting offensive linemen have ever played under 300 pounds, so under 280 is definitely too light for Nick Saban’s offense. However, as he bulks up, he has the athleticism to really be a force in a wide open offense.
Evan Neal is the most mountainous of any Nick Saban recruit thus far. Though since enrolling in campus he has trimmed down to 360 pounds from his high school weight of 390, he’s still absolutely massive. Another project of IMG Academy, Neal joins Trey Sanders as a pair of top 10 recruits that both committed to Alabama at the last second on signing day and is already enrolled on campus.
Though his 40, shuttle, and vertical tests were all pretty subpar, there’s really only so fast someone that big can actually move. And his powerball toss of nearly 48 feet was a nearly inhuman display of strength and upper body explosiveness, and that test alone put him in an upper echelon of offensive linemen by SPARQ’s metric.
You can’t talk about Neal without talking about his size. He can play both tackle and guard, and excels at just blowing defenders out of the way. When you’re pretty much 100 pounds heavier than everyone you block, they just kind of get knocked around. He can move fairly well for his size as well, and can really be a wrecking ball if he pulls around or gets into the the second level to block for his running back.
As is expected of someone from IMG, Neal already uses his hands really well. Rather than just locking into a defender and wrestling with them, he uses a flurry of shoves and palm-punches to keep them from ever getting any traction or balance against him.
He is always going to have to focus on finding the right balance of being bigger than everyone else without getting too big to be athletic enough to play. He can be slow off the line of scrimmage and struggles to keep up with speed rushers around the edge. He’ll likely always have to fight to keep his weight at an acceptable level, and as such will be required to have even more dedication to training and the weight room than most players.
I imagine he’ll follow a similar career path to DJ Fluker. He may need to redshirt in year one to figure out the right playing weight to maximize his game, but will be in contention to become a multi-year starter by year 2.