The good news is that Alabama returns starters at what are regarded as the two most important positions in the offensive line, center and left tackle. And not just any old starters. At center – the man who handles the ball on every play and makes the offensive line blocking calls – the Crimson Tide has three-year starter and pre-season All-America Ryan Kelly.
The left tackle may be the offensive lineman who is most noticed, because he’s frequently on the exposed – and blind – flank of the quarterback. The left tackle is often responsible for blocking the opposing team’s best pass rusher and protecting the back of a right-handed quarterback. (Alabama’s five quarterback candidates are all right-handed.)
Cameron Robinson did that job extremely well last year, earning Freshman All-America.The 6-6, 326-pound Robinson finished the year with 32 knockdown blocks and allowed just three sacks in 861 snaps.
Robinson and his Bama teammates are practicing for the opening game Sept. 5 against Wisconsin in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
For the Tide, what could be better than having Cam Robinson back at left tackle? How about an outstanding player who feels more comfortable in the offense?
Compared to his freshman season, Robinson said, is “How comfortable I am in the offense. It’s not how I’ve matured physically as how I’ve matured mentally. I have a better understanding of what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to do it.”
Robinson said he owes much to his returning starter teammate, Kelly.
“My appreciation for Ryan Kelly is through the roof,” Robinson said. “He’s the heart and soul of the offensive line. Everything starts with him. He’s a great player, great competitor, extremely smart. He does an incredible job for us.”
When Robinson arrived at Alabama prior to the 2014 season, he was soon the leader for the starting left tackle position. Robinson said that perhaps the best thing Kelly did “was he didn’t make a big deal. They didn’t put a lot of pressure on me, like, ‘Man, he’s a freshman starting!’ They just treated me like I was another one of the guys. I think that was part of the reason I played, I guess, pretty well.”
In addition to Robinson and Kelly, the offensive line seems to be shaping up with Dominick Jackson at right tackle, Ross Pierschbacher at left guard, and Bradley Bozeman and Alphonse Taylor competing at right guard.
“The whole offensive line is playing extremely well,” Robinson said.
One reason for that, he said, is the Alabama defensive front that Bama’s offense practices against. Robinson said the Tide front seven is “amazing.”
Robinson said he never wants to downplay any opponent, “but I play against the best competition in practice every day. That’s how I feel about it.”
Is there one defensive lineman who he would single out?
“All of them,” he said.