First TEST for New Offensive Line

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I think we all know that the Alabama offensive line last year was dominant.  Not only were they dominant compared to everyone in the country, they were dominant compared to nearly everyone in history.  They were huge, strong, experienced and had excellent leadership.  They were so good that they wore down every team they played to where they could barely stand at the end of the game.  Perhaps the best example of that was against Georgia in the 2nd Half of the SEC Championship game when the Bulldogs didn't have a prayer of slowing down our running game despite all the NFL talent.

Well this year we have a new look.  Gone are massive road graders Warmack and Fluker.  Gone is the clear leader of the offensive line Barrett Jones.  First take a look at Ari Kouandjio replacing Warmack.  Ari is a big man who has made a nice comeback from several injuries to put himself in a position to contribute this season.  However, he is definitely a downgrade from Warmack who was one of the best guards college football has seen in the last 10 years.  At center we have Ryan Kelly replacing Barrett who is probably my favorite Alabama player in recent memory.  That kid had absolutey everything you could want in a football player.  As for Kelly he certainly looks the part but that is big shoes to fill and I don't know if he is that caliber of a football player.  Lastly at RT you have Austin out there replacing D.J.  I think this is where the biggest downgrade on the offensive line will be.  I am not knocking Austin Shepherd but D.J. was a road grader in the running game.  He was so big and so strong that every defensive end he played all season he just drove off the ball.  We were so strong running the ball behind him and I don't know that Shepherd has that same ability.

With all that said we are still returning Steen and Cyrus who are clearly two of the best offensive lineman in the SEC.  While I think it is inevitable to say that we do take a step backwards it will be interesting to see how much of a step back it is.  We will begin to find out late Saturday afternoon against Virginia Tech.


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