Breaking Down the Strengths, Weaknesses of Alabama's New O-Line
Every year, college football teams experience turnover at every position, even at the University of Alabama. But one unit, in particular, will be a challenge for the Crimson Tide to rebuild.
The offensive line was a strength for Alabama last season, as it paved the way to a second national championship in as many years. But the departures of Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones is a big blow for head coach Nick Saban and company.
Two players are returning for the 2013 season and there is depth at the position, but can this new group meet the expectations that the talented crew set last season?
Here we break down the strengths and weaknesses of Alabama's new offensive line.
Strength: Cyrus Kouandjio
Cyrus Kouandjio is considered by many to be a future first-round NFL draft pick, but right now he is busy defending quarterback AJ McCarron's blind side at Alabama.
Kouandjio, 6’6” 310 pounds, stepped into the starting lineup last season and did not miss a beat with the rest of the first team. He proved to be balanced in both run and pass-blocking in 2012.
Now he will be looked upon to set an example for the younger players to follow.
The left tackle gives the Crimson Tide an elite athlete at a pivotal position on the offensive line.
Weakness: Inexperienced Replacements
Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones are destined to be drafted by NFL teams later this month, and replacing players of their caliber is no small task.
So far this spring, sophomore Ryan Kelly has worked at center, sophomore Austin Shepherd has worked at right tackle and junior Arie Kouandjio has worked at left guard, according to The Crimson White. None of these players have started a game while at Alabama.
They have entered games where the Tide jumped out to big leads, but they have not been tasked with putting together drives in a close-score situation.
They will be thrown into the fire quickly, as the Crimson Tide faces Virginia Tech in Atlanta on Oct. 31.
Strength: Anthony Steen
Anthony Steen, or the "Steen Roller," is the seasoned veteran on Alabama's offensive line and the line's only senior. He has played in 38 games as a member of the Crimson Tide, starting 24 of them.
Steen is considered to be one of the strongest players on the entire team and excels in run blocking.
The right guard is the leader of the offensive line and will serve as a mentor for the inexperienced players around him. He will prove to be the unsung hero of the O-line, and maybe even the whole 2013 team.
Weakness: No Chemistry
This group of offensive linemen has never taken a meaningful snap together as a unit.
Cyrus Kouandjio and Steen worked together all last season on the first-team line, while Kelly, Shepherd and Arie Kouandjio practiced with the second team. But the unfamiliarity with each other will be a major obstacle for this group to overcome.
The offensive linemen must be in sync with one another in order to move the football and adequately protect the quarterback. If there is no chemistry among the players, then they will fail in becoming a well-fueled, balanced unit.
Strength: Stable of Running Backs
T.J. Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns on 175 carries for Alabama last season.
Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart are both returning from knee injuries they suffered in 2012.
Kenyan Drake is back in the fold after a successful freshmen year as a backup player.
The Tide also welcomes four running back recruits to Tuscaloosa from the 2013 recruiting class in Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, AlteeTenpenny and Tyren Jones.
Needless to say, the depth at running back for the Crimson Tide is deep. With so many talented tailbacks running behind them, the offensive line should be licking its chops when a run play is called.