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 and news. For future reference, they will all be listed under our stream entitled 2023 Alabama Football Fall Practice Coverage & Previews found on the front page.
The popular quip for Bama-haters the last few years is to claim that “tHE dYnaStY Is dEAd” every time the Crimson Tide falls short of a National Championship (I mean, really! It’s been two and a half years!). Now, the cool thing to say is that Nick Saban is “washed”, as in “washed up”. For Tide fans, the proper response is “Trust the Process”. Anyone questioning Saban’s modes or methods often end up with egg on their face as the G.O.A.T. raises another trophy.
All that said, I find myself doubting Saban’s recent strategy when selecting the starting five for the offensive line. The OL unit is unlike any other position in that the number of players and placement on the field never changes. Barring injury, those five are often entrenched as the starters from wire-to-wire. For this reason, it is so vital to get it right from Day 1.
My issue with Saban started in 2021 with one of the least effective OLs of his time in Tuscaloosa. In the last two seasons, it feels like the Bama head man is making decisions based on seniority. In particular are his love affairs with Chris Owens, Kendall Randolph, and now Darrin Dalcourt. They are all fine young men, but it seemed Saban was putting them on the field over more talented younger players.
I was among those howling from the back row that despite being a freshman JC Latham deserved more playing time with the ones in 2021. Last season, Tyler Booker started one game - the Sugar Bowl after Javion Cohen basically quit. However, he could be considered a “co-starter” with an asterisk because he regularly rotated in at guard for both Cohen on the left and Emil Ekiyor on the right beginning Week 3 against ULM after the near Texas debacle. IMHO, Booker should have been a starter and let Cohen and Ekiyor rotate until one takes over. Of course we are not privy to practices or locker rooms but from what was seen on the field, Booker was the best interior lineman of 2022.
Another questionable move was Saban’s repeated insistence on reinserting Dalcourt over Seth McLaughlin at center over the last two seasons when the team consistently played better with the latter snapping the ball. [ED. NOTE: The preference for seniors over young-uns seems to be seeping into the running back position too, but that is a rant for another day.]
On Wednesday, Saban told the press “I really like the attitude and maturity of the offensive line and the leadership that we have at the position. Those guys are going to be pretty demanding.” That is defeinitely great news to hear but it’s those words “maturity” and “leadership” that make one wonder. Those qualities are skills in which Owens, Randolph, and Dalcourt all excel, for sure. But at the end of the day, the most important aspect of an offensive lineman’s skillset is the ability to keep the opponenets from knocking his quarterback’s block off and that quality should take precedence.
Coming into 2023, the Tide are also breaking in new starters among several of the ball carriers and it is of upmost importance to figure out who the best five offensive linemen will be to block for them asap - seniority be damned. Rant over.
- Tyler Steen - 3rd round pick of the Eagles, projected starter at guard
- Emil Ekiyor - undrafted free agent signed with the Colts
- Kendall Randolph - undrafted free agent signed with the Seahawks
- Tommy Brockermeyer - transferred to TCU, projected back-up
- Damieon George - transferred to Florida, projected starter at RT
- Javion Cohen - transferred to Miami-FL, projected starter at LG
- Amari Kight - transferred to UCF, projected starter at LG
- Tanner Bowles - transferred to Kentucky, projected back-up
Bama has one full-time returning starer and two who shared starts in 2022. However, the numbers are a little skewed due to Booker’s playing time.
|Returning Starts||0||1*||8+5 = 13||0||13|
* Booker had a great deal of playing time in games with the first team.
Also on Wednesday, Saban stated he believes there are 6-7 guys that could be OL starters. It is pretty easy to figure out who those 6-7 guys are.
It is a tale of two tackles this fall. Last season, Steen and Latham started every game and took the bulk of the snaps. Latham logged in a robust 875 offensive snaps (excluding special teams plays) which comes to around 98% of total offensive snaps. That number was the most snaps of any player on offense. Steen came in at 841 snaps (94%) and is projected to start for the 2022 NFC Champion Eagles. However, Latham was the better of the two.
Thus, we have one tackle spot locked down by a likely All-American and potential 2024 first round pick. The other end will be filled by a newbie. It would seem logical to swap Latham to the left side, but he has not been lining up that way in observed practices.
- 65 JC Latham (6-6/335, True JR, 13 starts, 27 games played) - Depending how the other side works out, he could play either side. TBD.
At the other tackle, it appears to be a two-man battle.
- 57 Elijah Pritchett (6-6/312, RS-FR, 13 snaps over two games) - For reasons known to only a few, this former 5-star only played in two games last season, Austin Peay and K-State. Evidentially, he has progressed enough that he is a candidate for a starting role this year. But he has a young-un breathing down his neck.
- 74 Kadyn Proctor (6-7/354, True FR, Des Moines, Iowa) - Already a fan favorite, this gigantic human being may soon become a coach favorite. Despite being so young, he has excellent technique and held up really well against his counterparts in the spring A-Day Game.
Kight played okay when he subbed in last season (83 snaps) and probably could have been in the mix this year, but he opted to transfer out instead.
One new starter to go with a returning co-starter*. Here again, it appears to be a two-man race as a new starter unless some freshman or freshmen step it up.
- 52 Tyler Booker (6-5/335, True SO, 376 snaps) - After Latham and Steen, Booker was one of the most impressive lineman last season. It appears that he will line up next to Latham on the right side, but that could change. He is capable at either side. 55.1% of Booker’s snaps came at LG with the other 44.9% coming at RG.
- 71 Darrian Dalcourt (6-3/310, GRAD, 299 snaps) - I was an early fan of Dalcourt after seeing him as a recruit. Most of his Alabama playing time has come as a center. But the line seems to struggle when he is hiking the ball. Guard always seemed like a more fitting position for him. Saban brought him back as a Super-senior for a reason.
- 69 Terrence Ferguson – (6-4/318, RS-SO, 50 snaps) - We’ve heard nothing but good things about this guy since he stepped on campus. He has gone from 290 lbs. as a freshman to 300 last season, and is now up to 318. Of Freguson, Saban says he is “playing really, really well. He’s very confident in what he’s doing. He’s showing a lot of maturity. I look at him as a starter on our team.” This quip is in reference to the 6-7 starters comment.
POSITION BATTLE AT CENTER
It would seem like a slam dunk that Seth McLaughlin has finally won this job after two seasons of successful “relief” jobs that saved the Tide’s seasons. But if Dalcourt gets beat out at gurd, would Saban have the audacity to slide him over one spot foro the third straight year?
- C/G Seth McLaughlin (6-4/301, RS-JR, 619 snaps) - After playing at 295 the last two season, McLaughlin has finally topped 300 pounds! What kind of pounds those are matter, but likely just an extra steak dinner the day before weigh in. Seth is not the biggest player, not the strongest, not the meanest. But daggum it, the line just plays better with him calling assignments. Saban on Seth McLaughlin: “He’s done a really, really good job. He’s gotten bigger, gotten stronger. I don’t think anybody’s ever gonna go wrong hiring him, no matter what he’s doing.” Was that a back-handed comment? It’s hard to decipher what his message here was but it kinda sounded like “Great dude. He’s gonna get a great job in the corporate world someday. Just not here.” I’m probably wrong but I’m still going to fret about it all year until kickoff of the National Championship Game in January.
- James Brockermeyer (6-3/285, R-JR, 9 snaps) - There is a reason James hung around when his brother, Tommy, transferred out. He is probably hoping to be the center of the future. But 285 is not going to cut it. He is a smart and technical player but needs more mass. For now, he is a great option as an emergency replacement.
- Jaeden Roberts (6-5/316, R-SO, 15 snaps) - He is still young and has time to develop but he better get going. There are some darn fine freshmen coming up behind him.
In addition to Proctor, Alabama signed four other offensive line freshmen. At this point, none of them appear to be ready to break into the starting lineup, but it is not for lack of talent.
- 75 Wilkin Formby (6-7/320, Tuscaloosa / Northridge) 4-stars No. 135 overall recruit.
- 73 Olaus Alinen (6-6/326, Pori, Finland / Connecticut) 4-stars No. 172
- 54 Miles McVay (6-6/350, East Saint Louis, IL) 4-stars
- 55 Roq Montgomery (6-3/332, Anniston, AL) 3-stars
PREDICTED DEPTH CHART
About that “6-7 starters” thing. Might we see a rotation strategy like we saw last season? If so, will it ever result in one guy finally taking over?
My predicted fall depth chart:
- LT - Elijah Pritchett with Kadyn Proctor subbing in a lot
- LG - Darrian Dalcourt
- C - Seth McLaughlin
- RG - Tyler Booker
- RT - JC Latham
What do you think? Am I off my rocker or spot on? Who am I to question the almighty G.O.A.T., right? Share your depth chart in the Comments section below.