Who is it going to be?
Every year the Alabama offensive line has someone step up and take charge of the unit. It was Landon Dickerson last season. Ryan Kelly held that title in 2015 and Bradley Bozeman in 2017. Barrett Jones had the job for two seasons.
Notice anything about those players?
Yes, they were NFL draft picks, and they were also centers.
Center is always an important position at Alabama and the Crimson Tide is in the market for a leader at the position this season.
Chris Owens was the one who stepped in for an injured Dickerson in the playoffs last season and will get his shot to be the starter in the fall.
Asking him to be the undisputed leader of the group is a big task. That’s why that job will likely fall to tackle Evan Neal, a three-year starter heading into his junior season.
What makes Neal the MVP of the line is his versatility. At 6-foot-7, 360 pounds, Neal played left guard and right tackle, and excelled at both positions.
Alabama' s best offensive lineman is moving again, this time to left tackle, to protect the quarterback’s blind side.
“At this point of my career I’ve played so many positions that anywhere on the offensive line is comfortable for me,” Neal said in the spring. “That’s the position I was recruited at, but I can play anywhere on the offensive line.”
Alabama will need Neal to be the leader after the departure of Dickerson and Alex Leatherwood. There are players ready to step up and continue the dominance displayed by last season’s unit, which won the Joe Moore Award for the nation’s top offensive line.
Emil Ekiyor Jr. Is back at right guard, and it looks like Javion Cohen is the man at left guard.
Everyone’s seen those guys play and knows what to expect. It’s the young guys Crimson Tide fans want to know about. They got a pretty good look at the likes of J.C. Latham, Terrence Ferguson and the Brockermeyer brothers, Tommy and James, during the A-Day Game in April.
Then there is Jaeden Roberts, another top-ranked freshman who should join the team for fall camp. That’s two four-star recruits (Ferguson, Roberts) and two five-stars (Tommy Brockermeyer, Latham) joining the offensive line.
The future looks set for Alabama with these guys waiting in the wings, and perhaps earning a staring role this season.
There has to be another leader or two in that group.
2021 Crimson Tide Offensive Linemen
• Returning: Evan Neal, Pierce Quick, Amari Kight, Emil Ekiyor Jr., Tommy Brown, Darrian Dalcourt, Chris Owens, Kendall Randolph, Tanner Bowles, Javion Cohen, Damieon George, Seth McLaughlin
• True Freshmen: Tommy Brockermeyer, J.C. Latham, Terrence Ferguson, James Brockermeyer
• Departed: Landon Dickerson, Alex Leatherwood, Deonte Brown
• Incoming: Jaeden Roberts
This is the sixth story in a series previewing the 2021 Crimson Tide by position.