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Alabama Crimson Tide 2021 Fall Football Preview: Offensive Line Rebuild

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

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama
Man... Evan Neal is one BIG dude.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Fall camp is well under way and the begin of the college football season is only three weeks away. For your dining and dancing pleasure, RBR bestows upon you the position previews for the coming season. Many position battles are under way. We will present you with the candidates and our depth chart predictions.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Despite returning two starters, Alabama’s offensive line will have a much different look for the coming campaign.

Under the guidance of Kyle Flood, the 2020 offensive line was awarded with the Joe Moore Award as the best collegiate football offensive line unit. With Flood moving on to Texas, it is the task of Doug Marrone to rebuild the line that saw three starters head to the NFL. Having coached the position since 1992, as well as being a head coach at Syracuse (2009–2012), the Buffalo Bills (2013–2014), and the Jacksonville Jaguars (2017–2020), he is the most experienced OL coach the Tide has ever had. They may need ever iota of his knowledge and skill to patch together a championship-caliber line.

DEPARTED

The Crimson Tide have three significant losses on the o-line - three multi-year starters who were all drafted into the NFL. Remarkably, they are the only offensive linemen on the roster who are not returning.

RETURNING STARTERS

  • LT Evan Neal (True JR, 26 career starts) - This just isn’t fair. This young man is already a Godzilla among plastic green army men. Now, he has slimmed down to 345 pounds from 360 a year ago. He told reporters this week, “I’m a lot more light on my toes.”

Lord, have mercy on the poor souls who line up against him this season. I don’t think it is hyperbole to state that he might just be the best Alabama offensive lineman of the post-Bryant era. If I had any complaints, it would be that I’d like to see more vocal leadership out of him.

  • G Emil Ekiyor (RS-JR, 13 career starts) - This Indianapolis native won the right guard starting job in 2020 fall camp and started all 13 games. Due to nagging injuries, he did not to participate much in spring practice. Despite his absence, Ekiyor is expected to retain his spot. But there are no guarantees at the Capstone. We have seen starters like Lester Cotton and Matt Womack lose starting roles to young hungry players.

RETURNING RESERVES WITH PREVIOUS STARTS

  • C Chris Owens (SUPER-SR, three starts in 2020, four in 2019) - The seventeenth-year senior has dropped ten pounds down to 305 as he is expected to man the center position. As the senior citizen member of the unit, he has taken on a leadership role among a young cast of position mates. I am still waiting on a phone call from Nick Saban. When he does call, I might opine to him that Owens is not the best five of the roster. Come @ me.
  • TE/T Kendall Randolph (RS-SR, six starts at in-line tight end) - Randolph is listed here because technically he was an OL starter last year and he is battling for a tackle spot. He likely resumes his vital role as a blocking tight though he is not much of a threat to catch a pass.

RETURNING RESERVES

  • C/G Darrian Dalcourt (True Jr.) - At many FBS schools across the country, Dalcourt would be entering the season as the returning starting center. He will challenge for playing time. Should Owens struggle as he did to start 2019, hopefully Saban will have the vision to insert him. Along with late game snaps, he has seen time on the field on the field goal/PAT unit.
  • G Javion Cohen (True Soph) - At last month’s SEC Media Days, Saban made a surprising declaration that Cohen will “be a starting, probably, left guard.” Since he has all of 18 college career snaps of experience, he must be blowing it up in practice.
  • T/G Tommy Brown (RS-Jr.) - Brown looked like a favorite to lock down a starting spot at one of the guard positions until Saban made his SECMD comments. He played in 10 games as a sophomore (57 snaps) and eight games in the 2019 season (95 snaps). I would not count him out just yet.
  • T/G Pierce Quick (RS-Soph) - This former 5-star has yet to break out but there is no better time than now. Quick can play anywhere along the OL which earns him a good long look. He has battled injuries that might be stagnating his progress. Since last season, he is up from 280 lbs to 306.
  • T/G Damieon George (RS-Frosh) - This 339-pounder has made some noise and could be moving up the charts. After Evan Neal, he is the biggest player on the roster.
  • G Tanner Bowles (RS-Soph) - After bulking up to 293, Bowles played in five games last season. He won’t start his year but keep an eye on him for the future.
  • G Seth McLaughlin (RS-Frosh) - Mac may have made the biggest transformation going from 280 to 295. He got an extended look against Kentucky last year playing 10 snaps off the bench. He is also a project for future seasons.
  • T Amari Kight (RS-Soph) - This former high 4-star has been a bit of a disappointment. In two years, he has played a handful of snaps in three games. It would be surprising if he ever becomes a starter.

NEWCOMERS

  • OT JC Latham (5-star #2 ranked overall) - This guy looked incredible in high school. How quickly can he adjust to the college game? Some believe he can grab one of the starting positions this fall but it won’t be easy with who is in front of him.
  • OT Tommy Brockermeyer (5-star #5 ranked overall) - Here is another true frosh with a chance at major playing time this fall. After rehabbing an injury last year, he lost some weight down to 283. He was up to 292 by spring and now stands at 305.
  • 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 and can also play guard. At 281 lbs, he needs to put on some more mass before he can crack the starting lineup.
  • G/C Jaeden Roberts (4-star #253 ranked overall) - Mammoth (6’5”/328) summer enrollee won’t factor in this year, but keep an eye out for him in garbage time.

PREDICTED DEPTH CHART

Honestly, this might be the deepest offensive line unit Alabama has seen in many years. So many prospects on the roster could be starters almost anywhere else. But there can only be five.

Neal looks like the only lock to be a starter. He will move to left tackle as he begins his Outland Trophy campaign. Ekiyor should repeat as a starter as long as he is healthy.

The following is the most commonly projected depth chart from the “experts” across the nation:

  • LT - Evan Neal
  • LG - Javion Cohen
  • C - Chris Owens
  • RG - Emil Ekiyor
  • RT - Kendall Randolph

Why does that make me so nervous? IMHO, I am not buying Randolph at right tackle. Also, you may have noticed my lack of confidence in Owens. It will be interesting to see how much influence Marrone will have and how short of a leash Saban will have on the new starters.

Below is what I’d like to see:

  • LT - Evan Neal
  • LG - Emil Ekiyor
  • C - Darrian Dalcourt
  • RG - Tommy Brown
  • RT - JC Latham or Tommy Brockermeyer
  • Blocking TE - Kendall Randolph

First off the bench: Javion Cohen.

What do you think? Am I off my rocker or spot on? Share your depth chart in comment below.