Kouandjio back to 100 percent after injury

After tearing his ACL midway through last season, Alabama's starting left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is fully healed. Summer workouts and rehab helped him get to that point.

Funny how any man standing at 6-6, 311 can be considered a baby.

But that's kind of what Cyrus Kouandjio is on Alabama's offensive line, in terms of age and experience.

Kouandjio, a sophomore, is the lone underclassman on Alabama's offensive line. At left tackle, he lines up alongside senior left guard Chance Warmack (6-3, 320), senior center Barrett Jones (6-5, 302), junior right guard Anthony Steen (6-3, 303) and junior right tackle D.J. Fluker (6-6, 335).

The four upperclassmen are returning starters and Kouandjio might as well be, as he played in eight games last season as a true freshman before tearing his ACL, but because he is the youngest, his superiors give him some light-hearted grief.

"We have jokes on the offensive line," Kouandjio said. "We joke around a lot and they make me look like the baby, but it's cool with me. I'm just having fun."

After surgery and rehab, Kouandjio was able to participate in the spring even though he wasn't completely healed. Seven days into fall camp, he says he's feeling much better.

"I really needed the extra time in the summer to get to 100 percent," he said. "I was about 85-90 percent going into spring. I feel good now."

Kouandjio is taking over the starting left tackle spot this year since Jones moved to center. He said the reigning Outland Trophy winner has been a great teacher in learning how to play the position.

"When I first got here, [Jones] taught me a lot about the technique, hand placement, foot placement, stuff like that," he said. "I'm trying to put that to work."

Alabama's offensive line has been getting a lot of hype. When all is said and done, this group could be the best front five the program has ever had. But aside from the toughness, athleticism and obvious size, what stands out about this group and makes them special?

"I like the energy we bring," Kouandjio said. "Fluker on the right side is always trying to pump everybody up. Chance, Steen, everybody has good energy. We're trying to stay positive, trying to make things work. I like that."

But with all the publicity surrounding the starters, what's there to say of the backups? If injury strikes, who can step in without any drop-off? Kouandjio says he sees that group growing and working hard every practice. He mentioned junior Kellen Williams as a guy who's improving.

Kouandjio's freshman season ended in the second half of the Tennessee game last October. Though he had to sit out five full games, including both LSU match-ups, he feels the experience he gained was incredibly valuable heading into this season.

"It gave me a taste of how SEC football is and how to play in front of 100,000 people and it gave me a little bit of experience, which is what I need to play at this level this year," he said.

Kouandjio, who worked on getting his pass-blocking technique down over the summer, said that Damion Square and Adrian Hubbard are the biggest handfuls and best pass rushers on defense. And he would know as he has to go up against them everyday at practice.

"The defensive line is packed," he said. "They all try to give us problems. They're all good."

"Everybody has a different type of pass rush," he added. "Hubbard is long and faster, puts speed and power on you. Damion Square is different and I couldn't say which one is best."

Last week Alabama head coach Nick Saban said that Cyrus' brother, Arie Kouandjio who missed all of last season with knee injuries, has come further than expected in terms of rehab and development over the summer.

Cyrus said Arie is getting looks at both guard and tackle.

"I'm glad to see him back on the field with me," Cyrus said. "He's working. He's a hard worker and he has a good attitude. I'm proud of my big brother for that."

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