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BamaCentral 22 for '22: Who will win Alabama’s battle at center?

Darrian Dalcourt and Seth McLaughlin will battle for the starting spot in the middle of the Crimson Tide's offensive line this fall.

After falling one win short of adding a 19th national title last season, Alabama will look to rebound and take the next step this year. The Crimson Tide returns a loaded roster, including reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young and a rebuilt offense as well as one of the most talented defenses in the Nick Saban era.

Alabama will open its season on Sept. 3 when it hosts Utah State inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. To help pass the time, BamaCentral’s Joey Blackwell, Tony Tsoukalas and Katie Windham will discuss 22 topics and questions concerning the 2022 season.

Today we continue our series predicting who will win Alabama's battle at the center position this fall.

Blackwell's take

When it comes to the center position for Alabama, there are really only three options to take the starting job in 2022.

Senior Darrian Dalcourt certainly brings with him the most experience at the position, making 11 starts last season before missing both the Cotton Bowl and the CFP title game due to injury. His replacement, redshirt-sophomore Seth McLaughlin, performed admirably at the position. While not as polished as Dalcourt due to lack of experience, McLaughlin performed very well despite still learning the ins and outs of the position with the Crimson Tide.

The third and final candidate is redshirt-freshman James Brockermeyer, who saw no action for Alabama last season. However, Brockermeyer was a unanimous four-star recruit out of high school and was the nation’s top-ranked center according to ESPN, PrepStar and the 247Sports Composite. While he might not have the same level of college experience as Dalcourt or McLaughlin, Brockermeyer is sure to impress once his time comes.

That time isn’t this season, though. When it comes down to it, it’ll either be Dalcourt or McLaughlin, and I’m leaning McLaughlin. Dalcourt might be the most experienced returning player at the position, but McLaughlin impressed when his number was called in 2021. His development continued in the spring, and if he is able to replicate that at the same pace in fall camp, he’s poised to have a solid season.

It's obviously still up in the air right now and is difficult to predict, but I’m going McLaughlin.

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Tsoukalas' take

This is arguably Alabama’s biggest positional battle heading into the fall. Darrian Dalcourt and Set McLaughlin have both proven capable of manning the center position, but both have their flaws.

Dalcourt had an up-and-down season before suffering his injury last season, grading out well in games against Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Tennessee while struggling against Florida and Auburn. It’s also worth noting that his poor performance in the Iron Bowl came as he was battling an ankle injury he suffered against LSU three weeks earlier.

McLaughlin filled in nicely during both the SEC Championship Game and Cotton Bowl, allowing just a pair of pressures over his first two starts. However, when Georgia amped up its pressure in the national championship game, he struggled, surrendering a team-high seven pressures.

McLaughlin had the advantage of working with the first-team offense this spring while Dalcourt recovered from his injury. However, I expect the senior to reclaim his starting role once he returns to full strength this fall. Either way, it's going to be a close call. 

Windham's take

As we've discussed in some of the previous questions, the offensive line is one of the biggest concerns for the Crimson Tide heading into the 2022 season. And one of the biggest questions surrounding the line, hence the topic for today, is who will be the anchor of the group as the center?

Alabama has been led by some outstanding centers in the Nick Saban era, and the position can be so important to set the tone for the rest of the offensive line unit. Darrian Dalcourt received the majority of the starts at the position last year before being sidelined with an injury for the final few games and all of spring. Seth McLaughlin replaced Dalcourt during the season as a redshirt freshman and took the first team snaps during the spring.

McLaughlin was part of an impressive offensive line performance in the SEC Championship game against Georgia when the Crimson Tide did not allow any sacks. But it wasn’t the same story a few weeks later in the national title game as the Bulldogs were able to successfully get to Bryce Young multiple times. McLaughlin was spoken highly of by his teammates last season after he stepped in for Dalcourt and did win the Lee Roy Jordan Headhunter Award at A-Day, so the coaches clearly are impressed by his approach as well.

However, I still think it’s Dalcourt’s job to lose. Once the senior returns to full health, I expect he will slide back in to that starting center spot as the Crimson Tide enters a new season. No matter what, it will be a position battle to keep an eye on in fall camp.

Jahmyr Gibbs
Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws the ball during the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Alabama Crimson Tide defeated Auburn Tigers
Will Anderson Jr. at Florida
Phidarian Mathis and Will Anderson Jr. at Auburn
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Auburn Tigers safety Smoke Monday (21) sacks Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) during the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal after being selected as the seventh overall pick to the New York Giants during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater.
Ainias Smith vs Alabama, 2021
Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dallas Turner (15) celebrates after a sack against the LSU Tigers during the second half at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
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Alabama linebacker Henry To'o To'o (10) celebrates after helping on tackle against Mercer Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Bryant-Denny Stadium.