Vlachos Talented Leader At Center

Draw up a blueprint for a football position and it would look something like Alabama's situation at center. The Crimson Tide has an all-star returning, developed good depth in spring practice, and has an outstanding prospect entering The University this fall.

Not many people would have taken note of the graduation of little-used back-up center David Ross after last season, but Ross was an important cog in the Alabama football machine. That made finding back-up help at center an important goal for Coach Nick Saban in spring practice.

There are seven centers in the Southeastern Conference who are on the watch list for the Rimington Award, given to the nation's best center. When pre-season All-SEC teams were announced – both the squad selected by the conference coaches and the unit picked by media – Crimson Tide senior William Vlachos was the first team nominee.

Vlachos, a 6-1, 294-pound senior from Birmingham, is also a nominee for the Lombardi and Outland awards for outstanding lineman.

Vlachos will be the starter for Alabama this year, his third consecutive year in the number one position. This is the first season offensive linemen will be working under assistant coach Jeff Stoutland, who replaced Joe Pendry, who retired.

Center is a particularly important position because of the duties beyond the snap and blocking on runs and passes. The center is also the man who must quickly calculate the play called against a defensive front and assign the offensive line blocking scheme.

In the spring, Saban said he wanted to find "at least one young center who we thought had the potential to be a starter."

After trying a handful of players, Bama finished spring practice with two players Saban thinks fit the bill as capable of being winning football players at center.

Kellen Williams, a 6-3, 307-pound sophomore who came to Alabama rehabilitating a knee injury in 2009 and played in only one game last fall, appeared to emerge from spring drills as the number two center.

Saban also indicated satisfaction with Chad Lindsay, a 6-2, 287-pound redshirt freshman.

Under any circumstances considering the depth in front of him, it would be highly unlikely that Ryan Kelly would see the field in his true freshman season. And that is even considering that the 6-5, 281-pound center from West Chester, Ohio, was a Scout.com four-star prospect and rated the number two center in the nation last year. Kelly has spent the off-season rehabilitating from surgery to a badly injured knee, which occurred in the final game of the season of his senior year.

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

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