After welcoming in a dozen early enrollees in January, the rest of Alabama’s 2022 class is set to arrive on campus at the end of the month. The Crimson Tide will be joined by 11 freshmen summer arrivals as well as junior college transfer Miles Kitselman, who committed to Alabama earlier this month.
Over the next two weeks, BamaCentral will break down the arrivals one by one. Today we begin with the top offensive lineman in this year’s class, Elijah Prichett.
Pritchett ranks as the No. 1 offensive tackle and No. 16 overall player in this year’s SI99. The 6-foot-6 lineman bulked up during the offseason and is set to arrive at Alabama weighing in around 325 pounds, 25 pounds heavier than when he signed with the Crimson Tide in December. The added size should complement his impressive reach as his arms were measured at over 34 inches during the All-American Bowl in January.
Pritchett’s rise to prominence is an interesting one. The five-star talent experienced a slow start to his career as academic struggles made him ineligible for much of his eighth-grade season, stunting his development on the field. However, he was able to turn things around in the classroom the following year, earning Muscogee County (Ga.) School District’s 180 Degree award given to students who have shown tremendous improvement in academics, behavior and attendance. From there, the towering offensive lineman began to display his potential on the field, earning a starting spot his sophomore season before becoming the anchor of his high school team’s offensive line the past few years.
Pritchett has drawn comparisons to former Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood. He has the power to drive defenders to the dirt as a run blocker and the athleticism to guard against quicker edge rushers as a pass blocker. While he still has parts of his game that he needs to clean up, he is one of the Crimson Tide’s most promising prospects in the offensive line unit.
How he fits into Alabama
Pritchett’s towering frame and impressive reach will likely see him remain at the tackle position in college. That being said, Alabama has recently made a habit of starting offensive linemen off at the guard position before moving them outside, as was the case with fellow five-star talents Alex Leatherwood, Evan Neal and J.C. Latham.
Pritchett worked at right guard while participating in the All-American Bowl in January but told BamaCentral earlier this year that Alabama has notified him that they see him at the tackle position. That makes sense considering the Crimson Tide returns both of its starting guards in Javion Cohen and Emil Eikiyor Jr. while losing last year’s starting tackles in Neal and Chris Owens.
Still, Nick Saban has always looked to put the best five offensive linemen on the field. If that plays out to where Pritchett is called on to move to guard, his added weight and relentlessness as a run blocker should allow him to capably make the transition.
What to expect next year
During the Saban era, only three true freshmen have locked down full-time starting roles on the offensive line. Cam Robinson was the first to do so, starting at left tackle during his freshman season in 2014. Jonah Williams followed, taking on the starting right tackle position during his first season in 2016 before Neal began his Alabama career as the starting guard in 2019. All three of those players joined the Crimson Tide as early enrolees, an advantage Pritchett won’t have this fall.
Based on pure talent alone, Pritchett would certainly be in the mix to start right away for Alabama. However, it’s a bit impractical to predict the freshman to master the Crimson Tide’s offense over a three-month span. A more realistic target might be to lock down one of the backup roles at either of the tackle positions. That would put him in a position to possibly fill in due to injury later in the season while setting him up for a starting opportunity in his second season next year.
“I love proving people wrong. When people tell me I can’t do something, I have to go out of my way just to prove them wrong. All my life, people told me I couldn’t do this or I couldn’t do that. People who didn’t think I could make it this far are now congratulating me. It’s a good feeling.” — Elijah Pritchett