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Alabama Football Film Room: How’d the offensive line look against the Aggies?

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It’s been an up and down ride for the line.

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama has scored 104 points in its two games this season; and if you just went by that, you may think there wouldn’t be questions about the offense. Despite the high scoring outputs, however, many have voiced concerns about the offensive line. For instance, if you take away Henry Ruggs’ 75 yard “run” and Keilan Robinson’s 74 yard run in garbage time during the New Mexico State game, the Crimson Tide’s yards per carry drops from 6.26 to 4.36. No offense to the Blue Devils and the Aggies, but you’d expect that number to be higher against that level of competition.

In the offensive line’s defense, there has been a different starting line-up in each game thus far. In the opener, there were three new starters, including one true freshman, and another player starting in a different spot than he played last year. There will be some growing pains.

1st and 10: Tua Tagovailoa is in shotgun with Najee Harris (#22) to his right. Landon Dickerson (#69) snaps it above Tagovailoa’s head, and the play is dead from there. The extra time it takes for Tagovailoa to jump and corral it throws off Harris and also allows the nickel blitz to arrive. Harris avoids him, but the edge rusher has beaten tight end Miller Forristall (#87) now and hits Harris. It’s actually fairly well-blocked, but the simple fact of the high snap screwed the rest up.

1st and 10: Tagovailoa’s in the gun again with the back to his left. The tight end is on the right side, and he pretends to stay in to block before going out for a route. The left defensive end rushes inside initially before hitting an excellent spin move to beat right tackle Jedrick Wills (#74), and he has a clear path to the quarterback. Tagovailoa has to hurriedly throw it with the defender in his face, and DeVonta Smith never has a chance at it.

2nd and 10: The very next play is much better for the offensive line. Alabama is in 10 personnel (1 running back, 0 tight ends), or “red” as Alabama calls it. Brian Robinson (#24) is the running back here, and the play is going to the left side. Left tackle Alex Leatherwood (#70) gets in the defensive end’s chest, turns him to the sideline, and drives. Dickerson and left guard Evan Neal (#73) double team the defensive end and neutralize him. Dickerson isn’t quite able to get disengage and get to the second level and block the linebacker, who admittedly does a decent job of avoiding Dickerson. Robinson still has a huge hole to amble through and picks up nine yards.

2nd and 10: I am not quite sure what happened on this one. Leatherwood steps forward with his inside leg and punches the defensive end, but he’s in no way ready to fully engage. Before the play is even over, you can see him turn to his right and spread his arms out like he’s confused. The man who would’ve been to his right, Evan Neal, pulled to the right (and whiffs on blocking the linebacker) and can’t help Leatherwood. The end Leatherwood had punched, meanwhile, has easily gotten past Leatherwood and hits Najee Harris two yards behind the line of scrimmage. I don’t know the call; but, to me, it looks like either Leatherwood or Neal messed up the call; Leatherwood certainly looked like he expected to have help to his right. To top it off, the snap from Dickerson was also high.