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Alabama 2021 Spring Football Preview: Offensive Line

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Crimson Tide loses three starters, but has amassed a wealth of talent behind them.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Alabama at Texas A&M
The Aggie in this picture, Justin Madubuike (52), is listed as 6’3”, 300 lbs. Evan Neal is a BIG man.
Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As you saw on Tuesday, we have begun our Spring Previews with the first Alabama practice commencing last Friday. These studies will cover spring camp participants only, meaning those who have yet enroll will not be included in the discussions. Click on the stream to see all the position previews leading up to A-Day on April 17.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Alabama is not as fortunate as they were this time last year when it comes to returning starters on the offensive line. However, this team still has an amazing array of talent that most programs would kill for.

As we have seen is the past several seasons, the starters will not be restricted by “position”. If need be, tackles will play guards and guards will play center. It is all about getting the best five on the field.

Setting the lineup will be difficult but the Crimson Tide’s new OL coach should be up to the challenge. Doug Marrone has been coaching the position since 1992. He had led the offensive lines at Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Tennessee among other stops, and was head coach at Syracuse (2009–2012), the Buffalo Bills (2013–2014), and the Jacksonville Jaguars (2017–2020).

DEPARTED

The Tide is losing three starters on the o-line. Remarkably, they are the only ones on the roster who are not returning... for now.

  • LT Alex Leatherwood - Unanimous All-American, Outland Trophy winner, Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner.
  • G/C Landon Dickerson - Unanimous All-American, Rimington Trophy winner, Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner.
  • G Deonte Brown - All-SEC; 13 starts in 2020.

RETURNING STARTERS

  • G/T Evan Neal (True Jr.) - Coming into his freshman campaign, this former 5-star tackle had the daunting task of trying to supplant two future NFL starters (Jedrick Wills and Leatherwood) at one of the tackle spots. That scenario didn’t happen but Neal was too good to leave on the sidelines. He started at left guard as a frosh and then moved to right tackle last season. Coming into this season, he is the big favorite to win the left tackle spot. Expect his name on many Award watch lists for 2021.
  • G/C Emil Ekiyor (RS-Jr.) - Early on, it appeared the Tide staff was grooming the Indianapolis native as the next Bama center. He has played some center but most of his playing time over the past three seasons has been spent at guard. Last season as a redshirt sophomore, he started all 13 games at right guard. In his press conference on Friday, Nick Saban mentioned Ekiyor among players who were still recuperating from injuries and are “not really expected to participate a whole lot in spring practice”. Despite the spring limitations, Ek should be a favorite at one of the guard spots or possibly center if nobody else can lock that one down. But there is no guarantee. We have seen starters like Lester Cotton and Matt Womack lose starting roles to young hungry players.

RETURNING RESERVES WITH PREVIOUS STARTS

  • G/C Chris Owens - This super-senior was an early enrollee way back in January 2016. He was in the same recruiting class as Josh Jacobs and Mack Wilson who are prepping for their third NFL seasons. To say he has been around awhile is a bit of an understatement. We may have to start calling him Dr. Owens with all the book-learning he has got going. He has seen playing time at tackle, guard, center, and even tight end during his time at the Capstone. The fact that he is one of only two super-seniors the Crimson Tide allowed to come back for 2021 speaks volumes of Nick Saban’s faith in him. He may appear the favorite at center but it is certainly no shoo-in that he will be a starter come fall.
  • TE/T Kendall Randolph - Not just Levi’s kid brother anymore, this redshirt senior started six games in 2020 at in-line tight end (Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio State) and served as the main back-up to Leatherwood at left tackle. He will be in the fight for a tackle spot as well as his vital tight end role.

RETURNING RESERVES

G/C Darrian Dalcourt (True Jr.) - Many thought he would be the starting center by now. Will this year be the year? Along with late game snaps, he has seen time on the field on the field goal/PAT unit.

T/G Tommy Brown (RS-Jr.) - Saw increased play time in 2020 playing in ten games and is a prime candidate for a starting job at guard and at Joe Dirt mustache of the year. He was also used on FG/PAT. Brown could be a dark horse starter at one of the guard spots.

T/G Pierce Quick (RS-Soph) - On many other teams, this former 5-start would probably already be a starter at this point in his career. Quick can play anywhere along the OL which will earn him a good long look. However, he was also mentioned by Saban as battling injuries. He’ll have to work that much harder to earn a starting role.

T Amari Kight (RS-Soph) - This former high 4-star has either taken a long time to develop or there are just too many better players ahead of him. In two years, he has played in three games.

G Tanner Bowles (RS-Soph) Bowles arrived at the Capstone weighing 280. That number popped up to 293 last season. It’ll be interesting to see what his spring number is. He played in five games last season.

G Seth McLaughlin (RS-Frosh) - Mac could turn into one of those underrated blue-collar types for Alabama. He got an extended look against Kentucky playing 10 snaps off the bench.

G/T Javion Cohen (True Soph) - Earned playing time in five games. His play was good enough to have him selected to the SEC All-Freshman Team. He is listed as 325 lbs.

T Damieon George (RS-Frosh) - This 345-pounder played in three games including 14 snaps against Arkansas. After Evan Neal, he is the biggest player on the roster.

WHEW! That is quite a list of reserves. Seriously, you could pick any five of them and they could win a LOT of FBS games.

NEWCOMERS

OT JC Latham (5-star #2 ranked overall) - It is unfair how good this guy is. He has an excellent shot at one of the starting positions in the coming campaign.

OT Tommy Brockermeyer (5-star #5 ranked overall) - But not if this guy has anything to say about it. He is another mega-star in the making who could grab one of the five top spots. He is up to 292 and should get bigger.

G Terrence Ferguson (4-star #57 ranked overall) - In most recruiting classes across the nation, TJ would be the best OL in the class. Don’t sell him short.

C/G James Brockermeyer (4-star #189 ranked overall) - Good pedigree and training made him the top center prospect for 2021. He can also play guard but probably needs to put on some more mass before he can crack the starting lineup.

(Freshman Jaeden Roberts will not enroll until summer.)

PREDICTED DEPTH CHART

Neal looks like the only lock to be a starter. Ekiyor is limited this spring, making it uncertain how much he will play on A-Day, if at all. Saban seems to want to give (upperclassman) like Owens and Randolph every opportunity to win jobs, but there are too many other good options.

A real depth chart is hard to predict right now. Below is my guess for the first team on A-Day:

  • LT - Evan Neal
  • LG - Emil Ekiyor (inj.) Tommy Brown
  • C - Chris Owens
  • RG - Pierce Quick (inj.) Darrian Dalcourt
  • RT - Javion Cohen

Come September 4, expect the lineup to be somewhat different.

  • LT - Evan Neal
  • LG - Emil Ekiyor
  • C - Darrin Dalcourt/Chris Owens
  • RG - Tommy Brown
  • RT - JC Latham
  • Blocking TE - Kendall Randolph

First off the bench:

Javion Cohen, Kendall Randolph, Pierce Quick, Tommy Brockermeyer

Poll

Will a freshman(men) crack the starting lineup in the fall?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Yes, JC Latham
    (242 votes)
  • 7%
    Yes, Tommy Brockermeyer
    (37 votes)
  • 34%
    Yes, JC Latham AND Tommy Brockermeyer
    (179 votes)
  • 10%
    No.
    (54 votes)
512 votes total Vote Now