Britt ahead of schedule at Quick Tackle

Throughout all of spring training, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione consistently pointed to the offensive line as a principal area of concern. With only Strong Tackle Dante Ellington returning as a full-time starter, there are numerous holes to be filled. But the silver lining in that mostly dark cloud is that young talent is ready to step in, and redshirt freshman Wesley Britt can't wait to begin. "I knew if I came in and worked hard then I'd have a chance to start," Britt said.

"I wanted to play, and I knew this was the place for me. I knew I'd get to play here."

As Franchione is quick to point out, the offensive line is one place where a coach does NOT want to be young. But sometimes athletes are simply too good (and eager) to be denied, and Britt emerged from spring drills listed No. 1 at Quick Tackle. "It's been a great transition for our team," Britt said. "The guys are coming together. There are a lot of new things to learn, but we're hungry and want to win. The coaches have done a great job of pulling us together. I think it's going to be a great year."

At 6-8, 300+ pounds, Britt has the prototypical size for an offensive tackle.

Britt is listed at 6-8, 304 pounds, and anyone that has stood next to the lineman wouldn't argue with those numbers. But it's Britt's competitiveness that caught his head coach's eye. "Wesley has great size, and even though he's still young he's got some strength," Franchione said. "He's learning how to be a tough enough competitor. He's still got some growing up to do in that area, but he's getting better. He's definitely a big body."

Standing a head taller than most players on the team, Britt also starred on the basketball court in high school. But it's his footwork and agility that earned him the placement at ‘Quick Tackle.' "I'm keeping the same attitude about starting," Britt said. "I'm still working to start. I worked with the first group (during spring), but I wouldn't say I'm the starter now. I've still got to work as hard as I did when I was a backup to keep on producing. I've got to do everything I can to keep that position."

And for the casual fan accustomed to ‘left' and ‘right' tackles, the new terminology shouldn't be too hard to grasp. "Usually the Quick Tackle will be on the wide side of the field," Britt explained. "I'm doing more pulling and reach blocking than the Strong guy. Less man blocking and more zone blocking on pass (protection)."

In high school Britt was honored as the Class 5A ‘Lineman of the Year,' while earning SuperPrep All-America status. The Cullman native actually grew up an Auburn fan, but signed with the Tide after a fierce recruiting battle involving several major schools.

Britt and Quick Guard Justin Smiley arrived last fall at Alabama as highly touted line prospects. But with four returning starters, Bama's starting O-Line was pretty much set, and they both wound up redshirting their first year of college. "Honestly, there wasn't really a hard part about it," Britt said. "I just made sure I kept a good attitude all year long. I kept on working hard. That (decision to redshirt) was really on a game-to-game basis. The hardest part I suppose was never knowing whether I was going to play or not. I had to get mentally prepared for every game and then go out there and not play. So I guess that was a hard part."

Shown doing agility work ‘at the beach,' like the rest of the Tide squad Britt has spent the off-season summer months working hard in the weight room and with outdoor running to become a better athlete.

Though most fans suspected the decision had already been made, virtually every week some staff member or another would remark that Britt and Smiley "just might" see action in the next game. And whether or not the coaches knew what they were going to do--the athletes certainly did not. "We really didn't know," Britt said. "The coaches told us to be ready all the time. During the Ole Miss game one time (Neil Callaway, Bama's offensive line coach) told me to get ready to play. He said, ‘You're going in.' Coach Callaway was in the box and we were on the sideline. He said, ‘You'd better start warming up, because you're getting ready to go in.' Then he called back down and said, ‘No, we're going to try and redshirt you.'

"I don't know. From the press box to the bathroom and back to the press box, I guess they decided to redshirt us."

But despite the uncertainty during the season, Britt is definitely happy with the way things turned out. "I got a great year in practicing and getting to know the system," he explained. "Also, I learned how to play on the collegiate level, adjusting from high school. That's a big help with a redshirt year. Plus, I've got another season to be able to produce for The University of Alabama. (Redshirting) lets you get better."

Like most gifted athletes, Britt was able to dominate in high school based on size and speed alone. So he's very grateful to have had the year to adjust to the college game. "The speed is totally different," Britt explained. "That was a definite adjustment, no question. It's both mental and physical. There weren't any linebackers in high school running a 4.5. Here we've Saleem Rasheed and Victor Ellis running 4.5s. They can fly.

"And then you've got to get your mind right. In high school in our system it wasn't very complex. We did the same thing on just about all our plays. Now, we've got to use our hands; read the defense. At the line before the quarterback says ‘Hut!' we've got to read the defense, decide on which guy to block and what technique we're going to use."

His long arms and tall frame make Britt ideally suited for pass protection, but most young linemen are more efficient at run blocking early in their careers. "I wouldn't say I was better at either one," was Britt's assessment. "I just try my hardest at both. Neither one comes easily. Right now I'm probably a little ahead on run blocking.

"We've got good coaching. They teach us when and where to take our steps, and that's something that worked on in the off season."

Shown in the media suite last fall when he reported to campus as a true freshman, Britt is definitely ahead of schedule athletically, finishing spring drills listed first string at Quick Tackle.

Obviously things can still change. But at this point, along with center Alonzo Ephraim and Quick Guard Marico Portis, Britt is one of three new starters on the Tide offensive line. "I think we definitely made progress," he stated. "The offensive line is coming together. We're really gelling in the locker room, on the field and off the field. We're so much closer than we were last year.

"Coach Helduser (Bama's new O-Line coach) is a great coach. He and Coach Callaway have different techniques. I'd say they do different stuff on the field and the way they act toward their players. But Coach Helduser is a great guy. I think he really cares about us.

Under Helduser's tutelage, Britt hopes to develop into Alabama's next great offensive tackle. And though the former All-American had departed for the Washington Redskins by the time he got to campus, Britt still looks up to Chris Samuels. "You watch great players on film, to try and pick up their techniques," Britt said. "You want to see how Chris uses techniques. I'm working on getting my steps down right for different pass protections.

"Actually, Chris was down back in the spring, and he told (the offensive linemen) some things. Just some of the little things we need. He used to punish guys out there. He really told us some stories."

Like the rest of the Bama squad, Britt has put the summer months to good use. But now he's frankly ready for some football. "I've been trying to work real hard in the weight room. Also, I concentrated on plyo-metrics--just getting quicker. And I've watched tons of film, getting ready for the games."

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