A longtime observation is that the difference between good teams and great teams is often the result of offensive line play. Alabama’s championship teams have had good players and good leaders in the offensive front.
When the Crimson Tide begins spring practice next month, an important part of the work will be developing a potential new starter at right tackle and building depth at both tackle spots.
On signing day, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, “I think this class reflects some of the needs that we have. I’m really pleased that we got five quality offensive linemen in this class.”
Three of those five have enrolled for the spring semester at Alabama and will take part in spring practice. Charles Baldwin, a 6-5, 300-pound junior college transfer, and Jonah Williams, a 6-5, 290-pound freshman, are both expected to work at tackle in the spring.
Chris Owens, 6-3, 315, is also a freshman enrollee. He is expected to compete at guard
In August camp, Alabama will add Scott Lashley, 6-7, 325, who is expected to be a tackle, and Deonte Brown, 6-4, 350, who is penciled in as a guard candidate.
In that signing day press conference, Saban said that Baldwin appeared to be “the best junior college offensive tackle-type that we could find,” and added that (as at all positions) junior college signees are expected to come in an play immediately.
Regarding the other early enrollee, Jonah Williams, Saban said, "Jonah is one of the most athletic guys we saw out there in recruiting. I think he can play center, guard or tackle. He's very smart, very athletic, good feet. So we were excited about him.”
Scout.com rated Baldwin a five-star prospect, the third best junior college prospect in the nation regardless of position and the second best offensive tackle in the JUCO ranks. He is a native of Windsor, Conn., and comes to Bama from ASA College in Brooklyn, where he was second team All-America. He had been an all-state player in Connecticut, and is believed to be the first player ever signed from the Nutmeg State.
Baldwin chose Alabama over Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Ole Miss.
Williams was a four-star prospect ranked as the nation’s fourth best offensive tackle and 58th in the Scout 300 regardless of position. He was a second team prep All-America by USA Today at Folsom (Calif.) High.
Williams chose Alabama over USC, Florida,Georgia, and Auburn.
Although Williams came to Alabama from California, he grew up in Atlanta and was a fan of Southeastern Conference football. His father, a Georgia alumnus, moved to California for his job. Williams’ mother went to Auburn. In selecting a school, he said, “I just had to find the best fit for me. I wanted to be back in the South. So I didn’t really take any bias toward a team. I came in and found a place that suits me and my personality, my work ethic.” He also said that his mother “knew it was the best place for me and she supported me.”
Williams said the perception of Alabama in California is “Powerhouse. I don’t think they understand the work ethic, they don’t understand the type of talent and how we cultivate it here. I think they just see a successful program year in and year out. There’s a lot of respect for the physicality, and the level of play down here.”
Williams said he isn’t concerned about what position he might play. “I’m just trying to work, learn everything, get better every day, improve myself as an athlete,” he said. “The coaches are going to find a place for me.. I’m not concerned about that.”
He realizes he is in a competitive situation. He said, “I think that we want to work to push each other, work to be the best that we can be week in and week out. I think we have high expectations. Losing one game is crazy, but I think it’s important that you don’t look at the big picture; you just have to look at each day to see what you can do to get better. I think that level of competition is what drives us here.”
Williams also thinks the level of competition at Alabama may intimidate some prospects and drive them away. He said, “Anyone who would sign here I already have a little bit of respect for because they’re willing to come to an environment like this, where you’re expected to be the best.
“I think that’s what we live for, it’s what we work for here.”
That work has already begun with the off-season program and will continue through spring practice. Williams said his attitude towards that “is the work ethic and the time, just be willing to come in and work my butt off every day, and just be unselfish like that. Then as a player I just have to develop.”