Why Landon Dickerson is the key to Alabama’s offensive line moving forward

Christopher Walsh

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s a love/hate thing. There’s really little in between when it comes to Alabama offensive lineman Landon Dickerson.

He’s relentless, no-nonsense and doesn’t shy away from anyone or anything.

Dickerson the kind of football player that everyone wants to have on his team, and absolutely doesn’t want to see on the other side.

He also wouldn’t have it another way.

"I wouldn't say it is mean,” Dickerson said when asked if he plays with a mean streak. “I just like to play football how I think it should be played. That's just playing through the whistle. Simple as that."

Although the Crimson tide returned some key players on the offensive line this season, including junior tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Alex Leatherwood, the key to the unit moving forward might be the guy who arrived over the summer as a graduate transfer from Florida State.

He’s big. He’s thick. He has experience after a couple of injury-plagued seasons with the Seminoles.

But more than anything, Dickerson brought an attitude.

He doesn’t just try and beat an opponent, he tries to bury him on every play. The redshirt junior then ties to do it again, and again, again.

“I just try and bring energy,” Dickerson said. “Just being positive and try and bring some energy on to the field. That’s one thing that I think can help a team through adversity at times. That’s what I want to be, someone who can steady out the highs and lows and keep everyone good.”

It’s more than that, though.

He’s the kind of player who looks across at the opposing defensive line, finds the biggest, badest guy over there and says, “I want him.” During Alabama’s practices that’s Raekwon Davis, who is listed as 6 foot 7, 312 pounds and has a freakishly long reach.

To say they’ve been mixing it up the past couple of months would be a huge understatement.

“He’ll tell you he hates me on the field,” Dickerson said Davis. “It’s awesome because we just go at each other every day.

“We just push each other.”

When asked, Davis, who says he’s having fun on the football field again like he did in 2017, was in total agreement with everything Dickerson said except for the hate part.

“I love him,” he said. “On the field, I can tell him that because he like the best … I’m not saying he’s the best O-lineman on our line, but I’m saying he’s great. He’s the reason why I got better at double-teams. He’s a great guy.”

That sentiment is already popular among the Crimson Tide. Wills called Dickerson “special,” while senior offensive lineman Matt Womack said “I love Landon. He’s a great guy.”

No one on the Alabama side was saying that kind of thing after the 2017 season opener against Florida State, when Dickerson definitely caught the eye of many Crimson Tide players. However, the best example of how he can get under an opponent’s skin occurred during his season debut during the neutral-site game against Duke.

During the second half, Edgar Cerenord simply snapped. TV cameras didn’t catch it all but the defensive lineman got so frustrated that he threw a couple of punches and kicked Dickerson when down on the ground, prompting his ejection.

Dickerson simply laughed it off and waved bye-bye from Alabama bench.

“I can only imagine was 92 [Cerenord] was going through,” Davis said with a laugh. “That’s just him, though. He likes to compete. He’s that type of guy. But he brings that energy that makes people go hard and if you don’t do right he’s going to try and make you look bad. So you have to come with it.”

Meanwhile, Alabama’s coaches already have enough confidence in Dickerson that they tried him at center, where he even started a game. In addition to snapping the ball, the position also has the responsibility of making a calling out pre-snap line adjustments.

Alabama considers the position so important that it once moved Barrett Jones over from left tackle the season after he won the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in college football. Last year it did something similar with Ross Pierschbacher, who had been a three-year starter at left guard.

So for Dickerson to play there just a couple of months after arriving on campus was telling, especially since he had never played the position before (high school or college).

This past week he went back to right guard, which is more of a natural fit, and he responded by being named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week. That was despite continuing to play a part in the snap process at South Carolina. When you noticed Dickerson looking back at the quarterback after lining up, and the crowd noise was loud, he would help tell the center when to hike the ball.

“That’s called a guard tap,” he said.

Even after three games, Alabama’s offensive line is still in a learning phase with players trying to figure each other out and how best to work together. Nick Saban has said he feels like he has even starters in five spots, but next week Deonte Brown will be back from a suspension and freshman Darrian Dalcourt is making a real push at center so it’s becoming more like nine.

That the Crimson Tide is still working through getting its best five on the field yet has been a factor in its growing pains up front, but there has been improvement and growth. Building on that is a major focus at practice this week, as Alabama aims to get the running game going against Southern Miss (11 a.m. CT, ESPN2).

Part of that will be based on bulk and talent, in addition to familiarity.

However, a major component will be attitude.

“The mentality is competition, and that’s going to drive everything, whether its collegiate level or NFL, you know?” Dickerson said. “The best five are going to be on the field. So it’s nice that we have the competition every day in practice. Someone’s coming for your spot, so it really makes everyone be on top of their game every day.”