Alabama is fortunate only needing to replace one offensive lineman with just right tackle Jedrick Wills leaving. Of course, that will likely lead to some shuffling, as Nick Saban likes to have his best five linemen out there and then make the exact positions fit.
Left guard Evan Neal seems likely to kick out to right tackle (similar to how Alex Leatherwood played guard as a freshman before moving to tackle). That would create a battle along the interior with Deonte Brown at one of the guard positions and Landon Dickinson at either center or guard.
Redshirt senior Chris Owens started four games in 2019 and has played both guard and center. Sophomore Darrian Dalcourt established himself as the back-up center as a true freshman and looked pretty good in limited action.
Redshirt sophomore Emil Ekiyor saw extensive action as a back-up, though he was limited early in the season with a knee injury. Ekiyor was in contention for one of the starting spots for much of the offseason and was listed as a co-starter at left guard, which is also where he saw most of his playing time.
Others could, of course, factor into the battle as well; but we’re going to look at Ekiyor here.
All but one of these plays are from the Arkansas game. That and the Western Carolina game are where he saw most of his action; and, no offense to the Catamounts, I wanted to stick with FBS opponents.
1st and 10: Ekiyor (#55) is the left guard. He steps to his left and engages the defensive end, getting low. Ekiyor drives the defender around, forcing him to stumble; and he walls him out from the rest of the play. The play, of course, has gone well away from Ekiyor; so his actions don’t have any effect on the outcome. Still, he did a nice job at what he was supposed to do.
2nd and 7: It’s playaction with the pass designed to go to DeVonta Smith (#6) who was in motion left to right. Ekiyor pulls to his left and goes around the line. Again, the play is going opposite him; and what he does won’t have an impact. Ekiyor still finds the cornerback and blocks him, easily driving him back before the two go out of screen. It’s not some amazing play by Ekiyor, but I love seeing guys who aren’t really factors in a play still taking it seriously.
3rd and 10: Ekiyor is one-on-one with the defensive tackle. He gets lower than the defender and stops the initial rush. The tackle tries to rip out of the block and go to his left, but Ekiyor doesn’t allow it. So the defender then tries to spin to his right and win that way, but he begins to lose his balance. Ekiyor takes advantage and shoves him down to the ground. Ekiyor does end up on the ground, too.
1st and 10: Ekiyor is supposed to shoot up to the second level and block a linebacker, and he does just that. It’s not a difficult job, but you can see Ekiyor moves well and does his job.
1st and 10: Ekiyor chips the defensive tackle to help center Chris Owens (#79) before moving up to the second level. He takes a bad angle, however; and the linebacker does react quickly as well. These two things result in the defender running right through the line with Ekiyor following in vain.
1st and 10: Ekiyor is at left guard. He pulls to the right to pick up the defensive end. Ekiyor crashes into the defender’s chest, stonewalling him and helping keep the hole open for Brian Robinson (#24) to dart through for a solid gain.