Fluker's Spring ‘Phenomenally Good'
The offensive line is considered to be the strongest segment of an Alabama football team that will be among the favorites for the national championship. It returns four starters, including the 2011 Outland Trophy winner for the nation's best interior lineman.
After first challenging the reporter's hypothesis that the offensive line was the strength of the team, Saban noted that "We have four guys back with a lot of experience who have started a number of games."
Then came surprise number one:
"D.J. Fluker has had a phenomenally good spring," Saban said. "He's moving better, he's more confident, he knows what he's doing."
The 6-6, 335-pound ("335, 336, something like that," Fluker claims) is an upcoming junior who many expected to go out for the NFL draft following last season. He was eligible for the draft because he was redshirted in 2009, and he has been a starter the past two years.
Fluker said he's "a little more leaner" this spring. He said he had 22 per cent body fat "which is pretty good for an offensive lineman, especially a tackle."
As a result, he said, "I'm moving better."
Saban's surprise number two?
Even though Barrett Jones won the Outland Trophy and was an All-America and even though 2011 center William Vlachos was first team All-Southeastern Conference, Saban said left guard Chance Warmack "was probably the most consistent player we had last year in the offensive line, and he's had a good spring."
The Tide coach also said that right guard Anthony Steen "has had a very good spring."
He said that Jones moving from left tackle to center was a work in progress, and also said that Jones's replacement at left tackle, Cyrus Kouandjio, was having to work himself back into playing shape following his injury last year. Kouandjio was unable to go 100 per cent through the off-season program. Saban said with an ACL injury as suffered by Kouandjio in the eighth game of last season, "it takes about as long to come back to 100 per cent as long as he was out."
The Tide coach also praised the work of a couple of back-ups, Kellen Williams and Austin Shepherd.
"I like those guys," Saban said of the offensive line, adding that it was a position where there is a need to develop more depth.
Fluker, who came to Bama from Foley High School, said the offensive line is "grinding, working hard."
He thinks the 2012 Alabama team can be great, "especially the offensive line. Our team has really been molding together, especially offensively."
Fluker thinks that he has improved because he has learned more about defenses – knowing what to expect from rotation, seeing where blitzes come from.
"It's been a good spring so far," he said.
Fluker has also been impressed with some young defensive linemen. "They play hard and they are physical up front," he said. "They give great effort and I think they are going to be real good." He mentioned particularly redshirt freshmen linemen D.J. Pettway and LaMichael Fanning as giving good effort. "They're very, very quick," Fluker said. "When they get more experience, they'll be fine."
He also listed sophomore outside linebacker Xzavier Dickson as a much-improved speed rusher. "He's come a long way," Fluker said. "I have a little trouble with him every now and then."
In a recent drill, Fluker and Kouandjio (6-6, 322) were lined up side-by-side in an unbalanced line. Fluker laughed about the possibility of that situation in a game. "He's a big guy, too," Fluker said.
And if he was a defensive lineman facing that tandem?
"I'd kind of run away."
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