Alabama Football: Early Preview of the 2012 Offensive Line
As the season rolls to a close for Alabama the players must stay focused on the next game. As fans we have the luxury to look ahead of next year, and next year will see a new and powerful lineup on the Tide's offensive line.
The lineman corps has the possibility of losing up to four players, but William Vlachos is the only certain departee, as 2011 is his redshirt senior year.
Vlachos looks to be a sure 2012 NFL Draft pick, and will likely go in the middle rounds, as many draft pundits have him as a top-five center nationally.
Barrett Jones is a redshirt junior this year, but his sky-high draft stock will be too much to keep him at Alabama, as Nick Saban strongly supports players declaring early if the first round looks likely, as is the case for Jones.
Chance Warmack at left guard could declare early, but with little to no draft stock it would be foolish for him to take a risk at the free-agency. I expect he will stick around.
D.J. Fluker is the strange case. He's only a redshirt sophomore this year, but his size and athleticism would ensure he gets drafted, but his lack of experience and need to work on technique would make him a much lower pick than he has the potential for. I also expect him to stay, despite being one of the top-ten tackles eligible for the draft.
Regardless of who stays or who goes, the new front five is going to be a mean bunch.
Here is a glance at what the 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide offensive line could look like, including their class and projected weight.
Left Tackle: Cyrus Kouandjio, Sophomore, 6'6", 330 Lbs.
Cyrus Kouandjio earned considerable playing time backing up Barrett Jones at left tackle this year, but his season was cut short by a knee injury against Tennessee, which may have been aggravated when he stayed in for another play after it was apparent that something was wrong.
His leg is still attached, so in all likely-hood he'll be just fine come September 2012.
Barrett Jones will be in the NFL, and there is no one better on the team to take over at left tackle than Cyrus Kouandjio.
He's big, tall, fast, strong, and he is not fat. You'd be hard pressed to find another 330 lb. man in all of collegiate football as lean as Cyrus. His BMI is probably lower than many linebackers.
He got his feet wet in 2011 where he got a full season of learning from the best, and he'll be all set to be the Blindside Guardian for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Left Guard: Chance Warmack, Senior, 6'3", 325 Lbs.
Chance Warmack will be entering his final season with the Tide in 2012, and while he has the potential to be an NFL lineman one day he isn't quite there yet.
He will be the team's most experienced lineman next year and will be expected to step up into a leadership role. He'll be an important asset to breaking in whoever becomes William Vlachos' replacement at center.
Chance is one of the most dominant run-blockers in the SEC, and has adequate pass-protection ability, which he will really need next year.
The running back corps will be solid, but maybe not quite as good without Trent Richardson. The starting quarterback, whether it be A.J. McCarron again or Phillip Sims, will have the experience to really air it out more, and that is exactly what the coaches will do.
2012 will be his third year as the starting left guard, and though a position change is possible his natural fit is just where he is now.
Center: Chad Linsay, Redshirt Sophomore, 6'2", 295 Lbs.
The battle to be the new starting center will be a fierce one, and I see current sophomore Kellen Williams and Chad Lindsay being the prime candidates.
After a tough fight that will linger well into fall practice, I believe Chad Lindsay will earn the honors.
He has a very chubby face, but don't be fooled. He doesn't have much in the mid-section compared to most offensive linemen.
It's a bit of a mystery how he will perform on the field, but William Vlachos, a fifth-year senior, has three years worth of starting experience and will be sure to leave his successor with all the knowledge he needs to succeed.
Right Guard: Anthony Steen, Redshirt Junior, 6'3", 315 Lbs.
Anthony Steen has been a hot and cold player all year. On some plays he looks like an All-American, stomping the opposition into the ground, and on other plays he looks mighty lost.
I expect Arie Kouandjio to compete for this spot, but he wont get it for two reasons.
First, Arie will be too important to the depth chart as a tackle, and it would require just too much line shuffling to start him at right guard and move him to tackle in the event of an injury.
Second, Anthony Steen will be in his fourth year at Alabama, and will be one of the most experienced lineman on the roster.
As one of the strongest members of the team, nearly rivaling that of Josh Chapman, Steen will finally shine in his redshirt junior year. He's always had the body to perform what is asked, and now he has the experience.
Right Tackle: D.J. Fluker, Redshirt Junior, 6'6", 330 Lbs.
D.J. Fluker has plenty of draft stock right now, but he'll be the starting right tackle for the Crimson Tide for the third year in a row in 2012.
Fluker came to Alabama weighing over 350 lbs., but he's cut a lot of that bad weight off and built muscle under strength coach Scott Cochran.
The offensive line is one of the most difficult positions to learn, but D.J. Fluker will finally have all the X's and O's figured out by next season.
His footwork was always his weakness, but he has improved every game since he earned the starting position as a redshirt freshman in 2010.
He's become a ferocious run-blocker, and will pave the way for Eddie Lacy and Demetrius Hart next year, especially on outside runs, a place where they will be deadly.