Kouandjio Big Gun For Tide Offense

Napoleon is said to have declared, "God is on the side with the best artillery," and the football equivalent would be that linemen are those cannons. But as important as the big guns are, the artillery has a limited view of the battle plan.

To understand the full picture, it may be best to talk to players who have a little better view of the field than a lineman, who mostly sees only the man in front of him.

The point was brought home in the first week of Alabama fall camp when the Crimson Tide's outstanding left tackle, Cyrus Kouandjio, was asked about the potential of sophomore T.J. Yeldon as Bama's starting tailback.

"I wish I could answer that question," Kouandjio said, "but it's kind of tough because he's always behind me. I don't see what he's doing and I don't know how to judge running backs.

"But I hear he's pretty good and does what he's supposed to. He's real technical and performs pretty well."

Unquestionably, Yeldon and other Bama backs have a clear understanding of the good job that Kouandjio is doing. The upcoming junior left tackle is a 6-6, 315-pound mass of muscle, projected by many to be the first tackle taken in next year's NFL draft.

Even if Kouandjio has a limited sight-line of events on the football field, he has a mature perspective.

As a true freshman on Alabama's 2011 national championship team, Kouandjio was a back-up to All-America Barrett Jones at left tackle before being injured in the Tide's eighth game of the year. Last year Koundjio moved into the left tackle spot, enabling Jones to take over at center as the Tide won another national championship.

During the season, Alabama Coach Nick Saban was asked about the performance of Kouandjio and Saban said, "We considered him a first team talent in his freshman year."

Now Kouandjio and company are preparing for the 2013 season. Bama opens the quest for a third consecutive national championship on Aug. 31 against Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dome.

Kouandjio and right guard Anthony Steen are the only returning starters in the offensive line, but that fits with Kouandjio's philosophy.

"I feel as if every summer camp we all, as a team, have a mentality that it's a brand new team," he said. "We have not accomplished anything. Clean slate and it's time to make a move, do something. So we all have the same mindset to excel every year, I feel."

Incidentally, those three lost offensive linemen – Jones, Chance Warmack, and D.J. Fluker – were lost to the NFL, Warmack and Fluker in the first round of the draft. That NFL goal would seem to be a possible motivating factor for Kouandjio, but he said that is not the case.

"Everyone finds something that motivates him," Kouandjio said. "I've been self-motivated for a long time. It's true we lost a couple of guys and we have to fill those spots, but I have confidence in my teammates, especially my brother."

Alabama opponents will get a good look at Kouandjios as Cyrus's brother, Arie Kouandjio (6-5, 315) is the early leader to start at left guard.

"We have all the tools we need," Cyrus said. "I think we'll be all right."

In addition to new starters in at least three spots on the offensive line, that unit has a new coach in Mario Cristobal, former offensive tackle at Miami and last year's head coach at Florida International.

Kouandjio said, "It feels good to be coached by Coach Cristobal. He used to play offensive line himself and he knows how it is. It's easier for me to get coached by someone who played the position. He's real technical with his stuff. He knows all his stuff."

Kouandjio said the summer was good for rehabilitation of old hurts – he's particularly pleased with the remodeling of the player area in the Mal Moore Athletics Building – and for getting into condition to start practice. "We don't have pads on," he said, "but it's easy to go into camp because you're already conditioned; you're stronger.

Another summer development is the release of pre-season polls, almost all picking Alabama to win another national championship.

"I try not to get too much into media," Kouandjio said. "I try not to listen to any of that stuff. I don't want to watch ESPN. I don't get into that stuff, because pride comes before the fall.

"We just need the same attitude that we have been having for years – that we haven't accomplished anything. It's a brand new team; it's a brand new year."

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