Alabama still looking for answers on offensive line
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ University of Alabama coach Nick Saban didn’t mince words last week when he not once, but twice said following the first scrimmage that the offensive line needed to be more physical.
After reviewing the video of the second, and final, scrimmage of training camp, it was junior center Ryan Kelly’s turn.
“It wasn’t one of our best outings,” Kelly said. “We kind of let the offense down. We had a lot of dropped balls in the quarterback-center exchange. I think we got away from what we do best which is knocking people off the ball and protecting the pocket from the inside out in the passing game.
“Those are the two points of emphasis this week; Really get back to moving the line of scrimmage back and letting our big running backs make some plays in the backfield.”
Although the Crimson Tide’s offensive line returns three starters, Kelly, senior guard Arie Kouandjio and senior right tackle Austin Shepherd, most of Saban’s concern appears to be at the other two positions, where the coach said he wants more “intensity, consistency, toughness.”
True freshman Cameron Robinson won the starting left tackle spot in the spring while the right guard position appears to be still up for grabs.
Senior right guard Leon Brown worked there on A-Day (the final scrimmage of spring), but is just now getting up to speed after sustaining an offseason foot injury. Consequently, sophomore Alphonse Taylor (6 foot 5, 325 pounds) has lined up with the first unit.
Junior college transfer Dominic Jackson was expected to compete for immediate playing time, only to sustain a sprained knee during the first scrimmage. He could return to practice this week.
Regardless, with the season opener against West Virginia in Atlanta just 10 days away the line isn’t clicking like it had hoped.
“As an offensive line, we pride ourselves on moving the line of scrimmage back,” said Kelly, who didn’t have a botched snap last season. “That’s something we got away from. It’s kind of hard to watch that kind of stuff on film. But that’s something that drives us this week. We have to get better and get back to what we’ve been doing.”
As for Saban’s critique of the scrimmage, he used the word “potential,” but now wants to see that turned into consistency.
“There’s too many plays where 10 guys do what they’re supposed to do very well, one guy doesn’t, and it affects our ability to be able to have success on that play,” he said. “Whether it’s a penalty, whether it’s a missed call, whether it’s a mental error, a missed tackle, a busted coverage.
“Whatever it is, we need to eliminate those things so that we can play error-free football and let the other team try to beat us with the players that they have rather than our lack of execution. I think you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity when the opportunity exists and we’ve worked all year long for this season, which is ready to come up here.”
Alabama will continue to do some advance work over the next couple of days and then turn its full attention to West Virginia by the weekend.