Fluker Impresses Football Coaches

Almost all talk regarding the Alabama offensive line in 2011 has centered on the left tackle spot, where James Carpenter was a two-year starter and first round NFL draft choice. Right tackle is one of four spots on the offensive front where the Crimson Tide starter returns.

As a redshirt freshman, D.J. Fluker earned the starting job for Alabama at right tackle last year. To some, it would have been a surprise that it took so long. To others, it may have been a surprise that he emerged so quickly.

There was a roller coaster of opinion regarding the potential of Fluker when Alabama signed him from Foley High School following the 2008 season. For one thing, most of his career had been spent on the defensive line.

An official who worked the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game said that Fluker should have been the most valuable player. At least one scouting service said that he was over-rated.

Fluker, a 6-6, 335-pound sophomore, has impressed college football coaches at Alabama and elsewhere. In addition to being selected to take over the right tackle spot last season by Coach Nick Saban and staff, Southeastern Conference coaches have selected Fluker as a second team pre-season All-SEC team member going into 2011.

Until the completion of his solid freshman season, Fluker had been best known for his feet – and not the "quick feet" coaches talk about. He wears a size 22 1/2 shoe. That came into play in the first game of last season when he put tailback Trent Richardson in a rehabilitation boot after Fluker stepped on Richardson.

Fluker started the first six games and the final three games of last season. He missed a couple of games with a groin injury, then was back-up to Alfred McCullough in two games before regaining his starting job late in 2010.

Alabama players, who have been working out all summer in Tuscaloosa, will "report" on August 4 and begin fall camp on August 5. Bama opens the season September 3 hosting Kent State.

As Bama prepares for 2011, there is no question that Fluker is the number one right tackle. McCullough could be pressed into service there, but Saban has said that McCullough (6-2, 311, senior) is more suited to guard. Moreover, McCullough is likely to keep his hand in at left tackle, where the Crimson Tide is going to have a new starter.

That left tackle could be one of the most talked about incoming Alabama freshmen, Cyrus Kouandjio. Cyrus's brother, Arie Kouandjio (6-5, 309, redshirt freshman), is in the picture at right tackle.

An offensive lineman who was mentioned by Saban several times for his spring practice work is another redshirt freshman. Austin Shepherd (6-5, 321) finished the spring as number two to Fluker.

The Alabama right tackle had a nice situation last year between right guard Barrett Jones and (usually) tight end Michael Williams. A lineup that includes Jones, Fluker and Williams on the right side should be a plus for the Bama running game, but there is a possibility that Jones will move to left tackle.

After a year as starter, though, Fluker might help a new right guard as much as Jones helped Fluker last year.

This is one in a series looking at each position for the upcoming Alabama football season.

BamaMag Top Stories