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Offensive Line Starting to Gel after First Conference Matchup

Saturday's road test at Florida gave the offensive line the chance to work on communication and picking up the pressure in a tough environment.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. —Because of injuries and a couple other factors, the Alabama offensive line was a moving puzzle throughout fall camp, constantly switching pieces in and out across the line. 

Now, a quarter of the way through the season, the same five guys have started on the offensive line in each game, and the group has grown a lot through the first three games according to starting right guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. 

"We mixed and matched a lot through the offseason, so just getting this five guy group of guys to gel and keep working together, I think we're in a work in progress and we're doing a really good job of coming together as an offensive line," Ekiyor said. 

Saturday's game on the road against Florida certainly tested the line's chemistry, communication and blocking abilities. The offense had four false starts and one delay of game against the Gators. Ekiyor credited the crowd in the Swamp for some of the issues, but acknowledged that the unit has to be more disciplined.

"We had changed a couple things as far as snap count and our cadence sometimes," Ekiyor said. "So yeah, we just have to do a better job communicating and make sure we're all on the same page so we won't have those miscues before the snap."

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he thought the offensive line did a good job overall, particularly in pass protection and picking up the pressure brought by the Florida defense, but he wants to see improvement in run blocking. 

"I think a little more consistency in the running game, a little more finishing blocks, but I was not disappointed in the job those guys did," Saban said of the offensive line's performance at Florida. "They are improving, they are playing more and more together, they are playing more fundamentally. 

"I think it’s like every other part of our team – a little more consistent, a little more consistency in performance. Block here, block there, finishing a block here or there will make a big difference in how we’re able to run the ball in the future."

Junior Darrian Dalcourt is in his first season as the starting center for the Crimson Tide and Ekiyor said Dalcourt has done a good job of communicating as the anchor of the offensive line. 

"Starting with Darrian, handling that situation at center, being able to communicate, I’ve thought for the most part we’re on the same page in protections and for the most part Bryce (Young) has stood upright during the games," Ekiyor said. "Just being on the same page with Florida’s exotic blitz package, it was tough, so Darrian did a really good job, calling out blitzes, getting us in the right calls."

The offensive line has given up five sacks through the first three games. 

Before jumping back into the SEC schedule with Ole Miss, Alabama will host Southern Miss on Saturday. It will be a chance for the offensive line to improve the run blocking against a defense that Saban called "one of the toughest defenses to run against of anybody in the country."