Larry Burton (Panama City, Fl) Nobody seems to be giving Nick Saban and Joe Pendry credit for keeping talent ready to go on the offensive line at Alabama. Last year, even publications like Sports Illustrated said the team may be good, but will have problems with the offensive line due to graduation and early departure for the NFL.
I seemed to be the only voice in the wilderness saying the offensive line would not only be good, but should actually be better. The stats seemed to bear this out, along with the wins they produced.
Losing Andre Smith was smoothed over by James Carpenter transferring in from a junior college, and William Vlachos never missed a beat filling in for Antoine Caldwell. Marlon Davis was seamlessly replaced by Barrett Jones.
Not only did the replacements step up production, but they also managed to have quality second-teamers. Even third-team offensive linemen get lots of valuable playing time.
This year, we will replace Mike Johnson at left guard and Drew Davis at right tackle. Already some publications are talking about the line having to be rebuilt.
Why can they not simply say "re-loaded"?
The 2008 offensive line helped the team rush for 2,585 yards (and a 4.5 yard-per-carry average) and pass for 2,585 more.
The poor, rebuilding 2009 line that was supposed to hurt Alabama helped that team rush for 3,011 yards (and a five yard-per-carry average) and pass for 2,631 yards with far fewer sacks.
The numbers in 2010 are only going to be better.
Drew Davis was a fine right tackle, but he didn't have the size, speed, and force that D.J. Fluker could bring to that spot if he wins that position. Tyler Love is a more than adequate replacement at that position as well.
Mike Johnson was a player more valuable for his leadership than for his play, and that will be hard to replace. But for sheer physical ability, Tyler Love, Chance Warmack, or last year's backup, John Boswell, can more than carry the load.
Also, last year people were saying how Alabama had no experience at tight end.
Colin Peek more than filled the role of replacement and went right into the NFL for his great work.
I see the same thing happening this year with Brad Smelly ready to take over the position, along with Micheal William, Preston Dial, and Chris Underwood.
For everyone that thinks that 'Bama has reached the high water mark and that the Tide is now going out, you are discounting Nick Saban's ability to bring in better replacements and his ability to get the most out of them.
Opponents and naysayers can discount this team all they want, but the truth is that the Tide is still rising. Who knows just how high it will go before finally going back out?
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