In the history of Alabama football, there may not have ever been an offensive line as good as the one that will trot onto the field in 2012. From left tackle to right tackle and everything in between, this line is being ballyhooed as the best in college football. Ever. Think about that. Most scouts feel that each one of these guys will be selected in the third round or better whenever they choose to come out for the NFL draft. And, before you crush Anthony Steen, most say he’s the strongest OL on the team and he continues to play at a high level. In fact, this line is so good, they had to move the Outland Trophy winning left tackle to center because the new left tackle was BETTER. BETTER! Good Lordy. Size and athleticism abounds across the front five and they have loads of experience to boot. Here come the Elephants – indeed!!!!!
The Projected Starters
Any time you want to discuss the 2012 Alabama offensive line, it has to start with Barrett Jones. Saban has called Jones the best offensive lineman he’s ever been around and it’s no wonder. Jones was an All SEC guard until there he was called upon to play left tackle with the departure of first rounder James Carpenter. To say Jones adjusted to his new left tackle position is an understatement as he was named as the nation’s most outstanding offensive lineman last season. But, with the emergence of all world Cyrus Kouandjio (6’6, 311) at left tackle, Barrett Jones finds himself on the move once again – this time to the center position to replace William Vlachos. At 6’5, 302, Jones is the biggest center Alabama has had in quite some time. Jones will be flanked by two road graders in Chance Warmack (6’3, 320) and Anthony Steen (6’3, 303). Warmack is rated as the best OL in this group, though that’s likely only because Cyrus has yet to start a game. At any rate, Warmack may be the best pulling guard in the country. Lastly, at right tackle stands huge D.J. Fluker and at 6’6, 335 he’s the biggest and the baddest of the group.
OL Coach Jeff Stoutland did a really nice job with the group last year and this year he’ll have even more toys at his disposal. Every starter except, maybe, DJ Fluker has the ability to get out and pull so it’s going to be fun to see how Stoutland allows his massive front line to inflict its damage.
While Alabama’s starters are perhaps the best OL in college football, the backups seem to be leaving a little bit to be desired. In fact, at this point it appears that only two or three backups have earned the trust of the coaching staff. That’s not good. If one of the starters other than Barrett Jones gets injured, the current plan is for redshirt freshman Ryan Kelly (6’5, 288) to come in and play center – allowing Jones to take the place of the injured starter. Two other OL who have stood out during camp are soph Arie Kouandjio (6’5, 310) and soph Austin Shepherd (6’5, 312) but it’s hoped that they can be slowly introduced into games in mop up situations rather than having to rely on them full time.
First, a note about the “Incoming” section. The kids in this section have only given a verbal commitment to Alabama and, as we’ve seen in recruiting, things can change before signing day. But, with that being said, I think it’s important to know what the future holds at the position. Here’s a look at the OLs coming soon (2013 class) to a campus near you.
Bradley Bozeman – 6’5, 315. 4 Star from Roanoke, AL.
While many may consider Bozeman to play in a tiny 3A classification, Bozeman is anything but tiny, himself. The big man is a beast in the weight room, reportedly throwing up 470 lbs as his current max. All this before he even begins his senior season.
Leon Brown – 6’6, 316. 3 Star from Brooklyn, NY.
Big Leon Brown burst onto the recruiting scene when some tape of him trickled down to coaching staffs everywhere. Suddenly, there was a mass influx of recruiters to Brooklyn to see what Leon Brown had to offer. What they saw was a very raw but very gifted big man who sported some intriguing athleticism. He’s only ranked a three star because, frankly, he has a long way to go with his technique. But, you can’t teach this kind of size and athleticism so he projects to be a good one down the road.
Grant Hill – 6’6, 315. 4 Star from Huntsville, AL.
No, this isn’t THAT Grant Hill but with the work ethic this big man has, he may become just as successful. Hill is reported to be a hard working kid who a special, shall we say, physicality to the table. Size, strength and a mean ole nasty streak. Yeah, I’ll take one of those, please.
I typically try to stay away from excessive superlatives on any level as huge expectations are rarely reached. But, the starting OL group for the 2012 team has legendary, wait for it, le-gen-dary abilities. The only thing that could possibly de-rail this group would be for Barrett Jones to become injured and, if that happens, all bets are off. With Jones set to fill in at four different positions, his value to the team simply cannot be underestimated. One can hope that reserves like Kelly, Shepherd and Arie Kouandjio can continue to improve but, at this point, it appears to be vitally important to keep the starters intact and upright this season.