By Left Side vs. Right Side, it would be a lot simpler to select the best tackle of the nine-year Nick Saban Era at Alabama on the right. But our examination of the top players in Saban’s Crimson Tide tenure, 2007-15, combines left and right.
Lending credence to the adage that the left tackle position is most important because it is the side that protects a right-handed quarterback from a blindside rush, there are already three solid candidates who have finished their Alabama careers and moved on to the NFL, and another who may be the best of the bunch when he finishes his career, probably after his junior season in 2016.
Saban inherited his left tackle in 2007, Andre Smith, and Smith was outstanding, a first team All-America in 2008 and a first round NFL draft choice by Cincinnati. The one check mark against listing Smith as the number one tackle of the Saban Era is that Smith ran afoul of team rules prior to his final game, a Sugar Bowl contest against Utah that ended badly, in part because Smith was sent home mere hours before kickoff.
Another first round draft choice (by Seattle) was the starter in the 2009 national championship season and in 2010 was James Carpenter.
Cyrus Kouandjio started in the national championship season, 2012, and in 2013 when he was an All-America, and he was a second round draft choice by Buffalo.
Coming along quite well at the left tackle spot is Cam Robinson, a Freshman All-America in 2014 and first team All-Southeastern Conference in his second year as a starter in last season’s national championship run.
At right tackle, it seems pretty clear cut. D.J. Fluker was the starter in 2010, 2011, and 2012, the last two on national championship teams. He was drafted in the first round by San Diego.
Austin Shepherd succeeded Fluker in 2013 and 2014 and was a seventh round selection by Minnesota.
Drew Davis (2008-09) and Dominick Jackson in last year’s national championship season are other starters being considered. Jackson got a bad rap for his play in the title game win over Clemson, but throughout his final season was generally very good.
There were two other prominent offensive tackles in the Saban Era. Mike Johnson was right tackle in 2007, but in this series was listed with the guards where he was an All-America in 2009. Barrett Jones was left tackle in 2011 (and right guard in 2009 and 2010), but was listed with centers, where he was Rimington Award winner as senior in 2012.
Mixing the tackles, left and right, and not considering Robinson since he has at least one more year to play, we would rank them:
1. Cyrus Kouandjio, 2. D.J. Fluker, 3. Andre Smith, 4. James Carpenter, 5. Austin Shepherd, 6. Dominick Jackson, and 7. Drew Davis