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Alabama 2022 Fall Football Preview: Offensive Line

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Big expectations for Emil Ekiyor in 2022. | Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Crimson Tide lost both starting tackles and there is a battle at center. But most of all, this unit needs to gel.

Allen Iverson may not care much for practice, but the folks in the Yellowhammer State sure do. As the Crimson Tide opens their fall camp, RBR will bring you a series of position reviews. For future reference, they will all be listed under our stream entitled 2022 Alabama Football Fall Practice Coverage & Previews found on the front page.

Nick Saban just told us on @macandcube that

“Last year was a rebuilding year”

Alabama won 13 games, won their division, won their conference & the QB won the Heisman

— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) August 3, 2022

We all said it last year, but I guess nobody outside our circle noticed. Last season was a rebuilding year for Alabama from the start. No unit more than the Tide offensive line was evidence to that fact. That group was not up to the standards that fans were used to seeing under Nick Saban. Despite their issues, quarterback Bryce Young was still able to set some school records and win the Heisman. This year there is optimism that the unit has improved.

Bama must find two new starters at the tackle spots, and have many excellent candidates. A battle between two returning players with starts at center has been ongoing since the Iron Bowl. Only the two guards appear to be set but nothing is given to anyone at the Capstone.

A new position coach should help reboot and refresh the look of the line.

DEPARTED

LT Evan Neal – first round pick of the NY Giants in the 2022 NFL Draft, No. 7 overall.
C/T Chris Owens – trying to catch on with the Steelers so he can help raise his grandchildren.

Tommy Brown former 4-star transferred to Colorado, projected starting left guard.

Pierce Quick former high 4-star transferred to Georgia Tech, projected starting left tackle.

Dayne Shor former high 3-star transferred to Jim Mora’s UConn.
OL coach Doug Marrone “allowed to seek other opportunities.”

RETURNING STARTERS

Bama has five returning players who earned starts in 2021 with a total of 46 starts among them. Only two could be considered full-time starters.

2021 GAMES
LT
LG
C
RG
RT

Miami
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
Owens

Mercer
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
Owens

Florida
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
Owens

Southern Miss
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
Owens

Ole Miss
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
Owens

Texas A&M
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
Owens

Mississippi State
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
Owens

Tennessee
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
Owens

LSU
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
Owens

New Mexico State
Neal
Tommy Brown
Owens
Ekiyor
George

Arkansas
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
George

Auburn
Neal
Cohen
Dalcourt
Ekiyor
George

Georgia
Neal
Cohen
McLaughlin
Ekiyor
Owens

Cincinnati
Neal
Cohen
McLaughlin
Ekiyor
Owens

Georgia
Neal
Cohen
McLaughlin
Ekiyor
Owens

Returning Starts
0
14
11+3=14
15
3

G Emil Ekiyor (RS-SR, 29 career starts, 15 in 2021) – Big expectations have been heaped on the shoulders of this Indianapolis native. He has been voted 2022 First-Team Preseason All-SEC and named to the 2022 Outland Trophy Preseason Watch List. He is the most experienced lineman on the squad and will be looked to in a leadership role – something the OL seemed to lack in the previous campaign. Ekiyor was limited in the spring after separating his shoulder during the Cotton Bowl. All reports say he is back to 100%.
G Javion Cohen (True JR, 14 career starts, all in 2021) – Perhaps a surprise starter in 2021, Cohen grew into the role of left guard playing next to All-American Neal and had a fine season. Now, it will be his turn to mentor. He has been named 2022 Second-Team Preseason All-SEC. He should be the starting left guard but could move to tackle if needed. Perhaps more so than Ekiyor, Cohen has taken on the role of an outspoken leader for this unit.

RETURNING PLAYERS WITH PREVIOUS STARTS

POSITION BATTLE AT CENTER

This competition is one of the more intriguing ones of fall camp. Dalcourt is probably the stronger blocker of the two, but McLaughlin appears to have a better feel for the position and the other linemen respond better to him.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Something just clicked with Seth McLaughlin snapping the ball.

C/G Darrian Dalcourt (True SR, 11 starts at center in 2021) – Many Bama fans (present company included) bemused the fact that this Maryland native was not starting sooner in his Alabama career. Finally, in 2021, he got his chance and he was… okay. He was the starting center through the first nine games of 2021 but left early in the LSU game with an injury and then again in the Iron Bowl. On the former occasion, he was replaced by Owens. In the latter instance, Seth McLaughlin entered the game and would stay at center the rest of the season. For the first time perhaps all season the offensive line started clicking. Dalcourt would not play the rest of the season. He has battled injuries throughout his career and missed all of this past spring’s practices.
C/G Seth McLaughlin (RS-SO, started the final three games of 2021) – McLaughlin is a bit of an underdog story. As a 270 pound recruit ranked 3-stars and the No. 476 prospect of the class of 2020, many eyebrows were raised over his signing. But if you saw him play in high school, you’d know why Nick Saban liked him so much. After gaining 25 pounds, the Georgia product kept working and when Dalcourt went down against Auburn, he stepped in and changed the unit. The Tigers famously (infamously?) sacked Bryce Young seven times in the 2021 Iron Bowl, but only once after McLaughlin entered the game. He played well in the SECCG and against Cincinnati. However, when the Bulldogs turned up the heat in the Championship game, he struggled. Although he did not allow a sack during his 301 snaps at center, he needs to get stronger to compete against these 300 pound behemoths on the other side of the ball.

THE SUPER SENIOR

TE/T Kendall Randolph (SUPER-SR, 13 “starts” at in-line tight end, 4 in 2021) – In the short time that the NCAA has allowed Super-Seniors, Nick Saban has not been too open to allowing a player back for a bonus season unless he thinks the guy can contribute on a high level. Last year, he brought back Brian Robinson to great success and Chris Owens to meh success. This year, only Randolph returns. We are hearing that same ol’ song and dance from last year that he is competing for one of the tackle spots and again skepticism creeps in. It seems more logical that he will continue his role as a blocking tight end – i.e. “third tackle”. He was voted 2022 Third-Team Preseason All-SEC as an offensive lineman.

THE OTHER “STARTER”

Damieon George (listed as a True Junior but played only 3 games as a frosh, 3 starts in 2021) – We are not at practice everyday, and thus are not privvy to the performances that earn players playing time. In 2021 when Dalcourt was injured and later when Owens shortcomings at tackle became glaringly clear, a little shuffling was in order. George and Tommy Brown got opportunities to show their wares in the New Mexico State game. Brown did not play again and now resides in the next time zone. George on the other hand was allowed to stay at right tackle for two more games. After a too-close-for-comfort game against Arkansas and the near-fiasco against Auburn, George returned to the bench and (sigh) Owens reclaimed the right tackle position. George’s experience gives him a leg up on the competition but there is no guarantee he hold that place in line. Despite being 333 lbs, he could get a look at guard.

RETURNING RESERVES

Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
No more garbage time for JC Latham.

JC Latham (True SO, saw action in 14 games) – Coming into last season, many observers thought this former 5-star prospect was a prime candidate for a tackle spot. While it is still a mystery why he did not get more opportunity (was it out-of-his-element Marrone? Was it Saban’s puppy-dog love for Owens?), this year should be different. He is this writer’s pick for right tackle.

Amari Kight (RS-JR) – We keep hearing this guy’s name knocking around but color me skeptical. This former high 4-star has been a bit of a disappointment, playing in only ten games in three seasons. It would be surprising if he became a starter without someone ahead of him succumbing to injury.

Terrence Ferguson (R-FR) participated in six plays against New Mexico State. Potential starter in the future.

Tommy Brockermeyer (R-FR) – DNP in 2021 and may have still been recovering from nagging injuries from high school. Now at 304 lbs, it is time for the former 5-star to make a move at least to second team.

James Brockermeyer (R-FR) – Tommy’s twin brother was also a DNP in 2021 due to nagging injuries. He is up to 282 pounds but probably needs another ten to compete in the SEC. He is likely being groomed for center for the later seasons.

Jaeden Roberts (R-FR) – DNP in 2021. Another project for the future.

Tanner Bowles (RS-JR) – Entering his fourth season on campus, he has played so very little that it is surprising that he did not hit the transfer portal in the spring. It is doubtful he cracks the starting lineup.

NEWCOMERS

OL Coach Eric Wolford – It seems the previous OL coach Marrone was a fish out of water in his attempt to coach college players after a long stretch in the NFL. “Coach Wolf”, however, comes to Tuscaloosa with 26 years as an offensive line coach and nothing but an offensive line coach. His latest jobs were at South Carolina (2017–2020) and Kentucky (2021). SIDE NOTE: Javion Cohen originally committed to him in high school when Wolf was with the Gamecocks.

New threads pic.twitter.com/CVfBSEHCac

— Tyler Steen (@ZzTylerzZ00) July 30, 2022

RS senior LT Tyler Steen has 33 career starts at Vanderbilt. Here again, we can look at a Saban tendency in that he is not going to bring a player in as a tranfer if he does not fully expect him to be a major factor right away. Steen has a ton of experience and he is expected to man the left side of the line for the Tide this fall. Without playing a snap in crimson and white, he earned 2022 Third-Team Preseason All-SEC.

Tyler Booker (True FR, IMG via New Haven, CT) had the advantage of being a January enrollee. While he was highly ranked as a recruit – No. 57 overall by 247sports composite – he is likely second team as he works towards 2023.

Elijah Pritchett (True FR, Carver, Columbus, GA) joined the team in the summer and will need to really impress to make a move this season. He was ranked No. 37 overall for the class of 2022.

PREDICTED DEPTH CHART

Due to all the injuries and experimenting in the spring, the Crimson Tide gave few clues to how this lineup could unfold in September. One scenario could see McLaughlin at center, Dalcourt at guard (a more natural spot for him IMHO), and move Cohen to tackle. However, it really feels like Dalcourt will get the call over McLaughlin at center (sad face emoticon) with a mighty short leash.

My predicted fall depth chart:

LT – Tyler Steen
LG – Javion Cohen
C – Darrian Dalcourt
RG – Emil Ekiyor
RT – JC Latham
Blocking TE/Third Tackle – Kendall Randolph

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

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