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Vote for the RBR All-Saban Team: Offensive Guards

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The true unsung heroes of a football team get their time in the spotlight

No word on whether the NCAA will try to constrain the sexiness of Warmack's Belly
No word on whether the NCAA will try to constrain the sexiness of Warmack’s Belly
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Moving on to the next position of the offensive line, we’ll be creating the first and second team All-Saban guards with some of the biggest guys around. The guards often get outshined in conversations by the tackles and even the center, so they’re often afterthoughts in awards teams.

But at Alabama, there are some pretty star-studded names.

The rules are fairly simple here, but also they absolutely will not be totally consistent. I’m making them up as we go and each position will be handled differently. I will choose the top candidates for spots on the All-Saban team, and different members of the RBR staff will present their argument to you as to why his player should be considered over the others. There is no criteria on the type of argument, so anything from stats, to important plays, to NFL performance is fair game.

For the first team, we have two guys that stand out above the others- Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones. (Barrett also played tackle and center at elite levels in his Alabama career, but we’re putting him at guard so as to get the best five in the 1st team group.

Both of these guys are going to be first-team. There’s not really much point in even trying to argue for anyone else. But, we will have a poll for which of the two was truly the better guard.

Roger on Barrett Jones:

Duh! This one is a no brainer. Barrett Jones, one of the most decorated athletes in Alabama history. An All American at guard, tackle, and center. Winner of the Outland Trophy for outstanding interior lineman as a tackle, and the Remington Trophy as the nations top center, should definitely be included somewhere on the offensive line for an all Saban team.

Jones came to Tuscaloosa out of Memphis’s Evangelical Christian School as a 4* that was all state in Tennessee. Jones also came to Alabama as a Crimson Tide legacy. His dad, Rex, played basketball for Bama in the 70’s. Rex’s father was a legendary basketball coach at UNA where he coached for years.

The 6’5” 310 pounder redshirted his first year at the Capstone, then took over at right guard in 2009, helping pave the way for Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and keeping AJ McCarron clean as the Tide rolled to a 14-0 record and a National Championship.

After staying at right guard as a sophomore Jones moved to left tackle in 2011, helping the Tide to another National Championship and claiming the Outland Award for himself along the way.

In 2012 he continued his team first ways and moved to center, where, you guessed it, he led the way to another National Championship, and was awarded the Remington Award as the nation best at the position. As if Jones couldn’t be loved anymore by Tide fans, he endeared himself even further when he got in a pushing battle with McCarron at the tail end of the beat down of Norte Dame in the championship game. It was later known that he played the last few games with a Lisfranc fracture to his left foot, but he never considered not playing.

Jones’ awards and achievements would take up two more pages, and he garnered as much academic hardware as he did football. Jones graduated with an Accounting degree with a 4.0 GPA, followed by a Masters in Marketing and was a Summa Cum Laude graduate with another 4.0 GPA. Space doesn’t allow for me to list all the many awards, but you can look it up, and should come away knowing Barrett Jones truly earned his spot on the All Saban Team. Roll Tide, Believe in the Process, and vote Barrett Jones!

Brent on Chance Warmack:

How many guards can you say truly were iconic players for their football team? Chance Warmack became a legend in his time at Alabama by embodying all the things that defined the Crimson Tide at that time: a huge, physical run game that totally overpowered the will of their opponents. And to throw that overbearing presence in the face of his opponents, Warmack played for two years with his jersey pulled up above his belly, the style becoming known as “Warmacking” and going viral.

Warmack was a three-star prospect out of Mississippi who few expected much from, and he proved them all wrong by becoming the Tide’s starter at left guard in just his sophomore year. He then blocked for the 2011 and 2012 Alabama teams that featured Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, and T.J. Yeldon in two of the most overpowering rushing teams that college football has seen in this decade on his way to becoming a consensus All-American as a senior.

He went on to being drafted in the top-ten of the 2013 NFL draft— the first time a guard had been picked that high since 1997. He started for the Titans for three years before a hand injury forced him to miss the final year of his contract.

He moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles and backed up one of the best interior guards in the NFL in Brandon Brook for a couple of years and has now signed with the Seattle Seahawks to attempt to win another starting job.

There have been few offensive linemen in any level of football to really become an icon, and Warmack is in the least-heralded position on the offensive line... and did it anyway. He was a three-year force who absolutely dominated opposing teams and led the way for some of the most impressive rushing teams this side of 2010.

Vote for the belly.

Poll

Who was the better guard?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Barrett Jones
    (217 votes)
  • 48%
    Chance Warmack
    (204 votes)
421 votes total Vote Now

Things get more interesting on the debate for 2nd team. We’ll see arguments for Ross Pierschbacher, Mike Johnson, Arie Kouandjio, and Anthony Steen, and then you vote for who you think was best. The top two vote getters will be 2nd team All-Saban.

BamaBrave4 on Ross Pierschbacher

Well, honestly, I feel like Pierschbacher has an argument to be on the 1st Team, so this should be an easy choice for the voters.

Ross P. is one of just a handful of players in the Saban era who can proudly claim that he was a four-year starter on the team. As a redshirt freshman in 2015, Pierschbacher took over the starting left guard position, in between All-Americans in Cam Robinson and Ryan Kelly. As such, he was a key contributor to the “Run Henry Left” strategy that led Alabama to an SEC and National Championship, helped Derrick Henry win the Heisman, and saw the offensive line become the inaugural recipient of the Joe Moore award for the nation’s best offensive line, despite the right side of the unit being as weak as it has ever been under Saban.

Piershbacher followed that up with another strong year in 2016, where he cracked the All-SEC 2nd Team as Alabama continued to decimate opponents on the ground. In 2017, Pierschbacher finally made 1st Team All-SEC, and helped pave the way for yet another Tide National Championship. In 2018, Ross pulled a ‘Barrett Jones’, and stepped up to fill the vacated spot at center as a senior. All he did there was rack up another 1st Team All-SEC appearance and be named a finalist for the Remington award, given to the country’s best center, as Alabama’s offense put up historic numbers and the Tide won another SEC Championship.

When it was all said and done, Pierschbacher won a pair of National Championships and a trio of SEC Championships, each as a starter. He made three All-SEC teams at two different positions, and helped pave the way for Derrick Henry’s Heisman, Jalen Hurts’ SEC Offensive Player of the Year, and Tua Tagovailoa’s Heisman Runner-Up (which he should have won...). Pierschbacher set a school record for starts by a position player with 57, and his 8 career starts in the College Football Playoff will never be topped, provided the format doesn’t expand in the future.

He may not get a chance to be 1st Team All-Saban, but his placement on the two-deep shouldn’t be in doubt. This should be Pierschbacher in a landslide victory.

CB969 on Mike Johnson

Before injuries derailed his pro career, Mike Johnson was a three-year starter, consensus first-team All-American, and a member of Alabama’s first national championship team in 17 years.

As a holdover from the Mike Shula years, Johnson saw playing time in all 12 games in 2006 as a redshirt freshman before Nick Saban arrived the next season.

Along with tackle Andre Smith, the Pensacola native was the only other offensive lineman to start all 13 games in 2007 while manning right tackle.

As a junior, Saban moved Johnson to left guard to make up a devastating tandem with Smith that propelled Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram to rush for a combined 2,111 yards and 22 touchdowns. For his efforts, he was named first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly.

In the spring of 2009, he was given the Mal Moore Leadership Award and would eventually be named a permanent team captain. With Smith and former center Antoine Caldwell off to the NFL, it would be Johnson’s turn to be the leader on the offensive line. With juco newcomer James Carpenter on his left and first-year starter William Vlachos to his right, the Crimson Tide merely ran the ball down everyone’s throat en route to a undefeated season and a memorable National Championship.

In the game against South Carolina in which Ingram basically sewed up the Tide’s first Heisman winner ever, many of the runs were behind the blocks of #78 pulling to the right or straight up beating the man lined up across from him.

That historic senior season, Johnson was named consensus All-American and had his name enshrined at Denny Chimes and at the Walk of Champions. There are no honors higher than those for a Crimson Tide player.

Josh on Anthony Steen

Steen is one of those guys that everyone roots for. The Clarksdale, MS product was a lightly recruited prospect by Saban standards, a three-star who came in as the #30 OG and #467 overall player in the 2009 class. As you’d expect, he took a redshirt year during the national title run in 2009 and was slated for a backup role in 2010. Unfortunately, he was forced into action that season when Barrett Jones went down and the most vivid memory most Tide fans have of him was that awful sack/fumble as Alabama was nearing the end zone.

Anthony kept working, however, and became a stalwart in the guard spot for the next three seasons. He started on that heralded 2012 line, opening holes alongside D.J. Fluker for Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. Headed into his senior campaign in 2013, he was the leader of an OL group that had to replace three starters, and went on to earn second team All-SEC honors. He left Alabama as a three-time national champion. Steen didn’t get to hear his name called at the draft, but latched on with the Miami Dolphins and started some games at center and guard before an injury derailed his career in 2017.

Steen was a versatile interior lineman who would make a fine reserve on the All-Saban team. Give him your vote, won’t you?

DrWhosOnFirst on Arie Kouandjio

Arie Kouandjio has always felt like sort of a forgotten man to me. He was overshadowed by his younger brother, Cyrus, who was more highly-ranked coming out of high school and who started at left tackle for two years. Arie wasn’t even the first or second suggestion for me to argue for here.

He came to Alabama in the Class of 2010, but it was a long journey before he cracked the starting line-up. Kouandjio redshirt his first year, and he suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2011. Then he suffered another knee to his other knee that spring and had to sit out. It was rough enough that Nick Saban wasn’t sure if Kouandjio would be available for the 2012 season, but he fought back and was a valuable reserve that season. Here’s what was said about his “relentless recovery.”

“A lot of the athletic trainers talk about him a lot. They call him Jason, out of Freddy vs. Jason, because he just keeps on coming,” said the younger brother. “They cut up both his knees, they chop ’em up real good and he just keeps on coming.”

In the 2013 offseason, Kouandjio finally was able to seize his opportunity, and he replaced the departed Chance Warmack at left guard. Arie started all 13 games for the Tide next to his brother Cyrus and did not allow a single sack during the regular season (I unfortunately don’t know whether that held true through the Sugar Bowl).

Arie Kouandjio returned for his redshirt senior year and had an incredible season. He once again started every game (14). Through the first 13 games (again, I don’t have Sugar Bowl stats for him), Kouandjio had 32 knockdown blocks (I believe tied for a team-high with Cam Robinson) and missed 6 assignments out of 872 snaps (99.3% assignment rate) while not surrendering a sack. He graded out at a team-high 89% (better than Cam Robinson and Ryan Kelly). Kouandjio was named SEC Lineman of the Week twice. His performance was good enough to be named to the first team All-SEC by the AP and the coaches. He was voted a first team All-American by the AFCA and second team by the AP.

What more could you want for the second string for the All-Saban team? Kouandjio showed grit and perseverance battling through two knee injuries and proved to be a great player over his 27 starts. He improved each year and went on to be a fourth round draft pick.

Poll

Who most deserves 2nd-team guard?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Mike Johnson
    (130 votes)
  • 8%
    Arie Koundjio
    (34 votes)
  • 50%
    Ross Pierschbacher
    (196 votes)
  • 7%
    Anthony Steen
    (29 votes)
389 votes total Vote Now