You can’t really replace a player like Landon Dickerson, a permanent team captain and potentially a unanimous All-American. Somebody had to take over for him, however; and Alabama was lucky enough to have a player with previous starting experience at center.
Chris Owens started the first four games of 2019 for Alabama and then kept contributing as a back-up and blocking tight end. And now he’s been tasked with the unenviable job of filling in for Dickerson at the most critical time of the year.
1st and 10: It’s the second snap for Owens (#79). He steps to his left and joins a double team with Deonte Brown (#65) on the defensive tackle. The tackle gets by Brown, but Owens has a handle on it. Owens is sideways and just carries the defender down past Mac Jones. The penetration forces Jones to his right, though, preventing a throw to a wide open Jahleel Billingsley (#19) to the left; but a checkdown to Najee Harris (#22) also ends up being pretty effective.
1st and 10: Nothing fancy here. Owens snaps it, gives the defensive tackle a punch, and moves up to the second level. He engages the linebacker and holds his block long enough for Harris to have plenty of running room.
1st and 10: Owens goes to block the DT to his left after snapping it. The defender, however, gets one hand in Owens’ chest and one on his inside shoulder; and he just flings Owens aside. Emil Ekiyor (#55) is able to get over and slow the defender down enough for Jones to get a quick pass off to DeVonta Smith (#6).
1st and 10: Owens and Ekiyor pull to the right on this play, and you can see some hustle and quickness on display. He gets over and smashes into the linebacker coming down to set the edge and spins him around a bit, giving Najee, who got bumped into by Evan Neal (#73), space to work with.
1st and 10: Owens steps to his right to chip the defender and help Ekiyor. He is then supposed to take care of the linebacker, but the linebacker has other plans. He attacks the inside hard, and Owens doesn’t get back far enough to the left. Owens gets a little shove in, but it doesn’t do anything. And Harris is greeted by the linebacker three yards behind the line of scrimmage. Harris manages to beat him, but another defender trips him up shortly after.
2nd and 10: Owens gets up to the linebacker, attacking the inside shoulder. He then turns his man to wall off a lane for Harris. Unfortunately, though, Notre Dame quickly has 8 men in the box; and there’s just no running room for Harris. Still, Owens ends up driving his man into ground despite how the rest of the play went.