Nick Saban Praises Emil Ekiyor Jr., Still Figuring Out Best Offensive Line Grouping Ahead of Opener

Tyler Martin

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The veteran leadership of the University of Alabama's offensive line group can not be questioned with four seniors leading the way in that position room with Alex Leatherwood, Deonte Brown, Landon Dickerson, and Chris Owens. 

One of the younger guys with plenty of starting experience from last season is sophomore Evan Neal, who has made the transition to right tackle during fall camp. 

But there is one redshirt sophomore that should be overlooked.

Emil Ekiyor Jr, who appeared in eight games in 2019 at the guard spot. 

On Wednesday evening, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban heaped praise on Indianapolis, In. native's performance in camp with the media via Zoom.

"Emil has played really, really well," Saban said. "He’s had a really good camp. He’s lost weight. He’s in really good shape. He’s got very good power. He’s very smart as a player. He can play multiple positions, center and guard. We look at him as a starter and he can start multiple positions for us, and he’ll get a lot of playing time for sure. Although when I say a starter, I think we have probably maybe seven guys that I look at as starters.

"Only five of them can play at once, but he’s certainly one of those guys."

Finding the best five lineman, and where each one fits is always a tough job, but it gets even harder when you have the depth that the Crimson Tide have this season. 

Only nine days out from the opener against Missouri, Saban and his coaching staff are still piecing the puzzle together. 

"We have two tackles," Saban said. "And then we move guys periodically from inside to outside, which would be Chris Owens plays some tackle at times. We’re trying to develop some young players at tackle. And we play multiple people at center. Darrian Dalcourt has done a nice job at center. So sometimes we’ll play this center at guard and sometimes – we haven’t played Emil at lot at center lately; he’s played mostly at guard. So every day we kind of mix and match some things. But we probably are a little better depth-wise inside than out. 

"So I think it’s really important that we develop some people who can play winning football at tackle for us as we go down the road."

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