Stuart McNair

Alabama will see some of nation’s best football players at all positions

Alabama will have a new center, but his offensive line skills are kown

Have you ever wondered how college players get rated, thus making preseason all-star teams? Obviously, it is based in great part on how well they perceived the year before. But it is not the same for all positions. Skill position players – quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, defensive backs, kickers – have statistics, and those can be compared.


Some of it has to do with team success. A good player at Alabama has a better chance of being an all-star pick than does one at a school that has had less success (which, basically, is all of them).


And some of it has to be just on what is said about them, particularly if it is said by someone like Nick Saban.


The selectors of these all-star teams ordinarily don’t know much more about an offensive guard than the average fan. And other than left tackles, almost no observer of a college football game has seen much that offensive linemen do or do not do.


The quality of Alabama’s football team is matched by the quality of its schedule, so when the Crimson Tide is playing there often are all-star players on both sides of the field.


Although Ross Pierschbacher was outstanding in his freshman season in 2015 for a national championship team, the Alabama offensive lineman played last year at guard, which has always been his position. Following the graduation of Rimington Award winner Ryan Kelly, Bama needed to have a new center. Saban suggested it to Pierschbacher at the end of the 2015 season and the 6-4, 304-pound sophomore had an exceptional spring at the position.


That’s one reason he is being counted among the top 10 centers heading into the 2016 season.


Pierschbacher isn’t the only all-star center candidate Alabama will see this year. Among teams on the Tide schedule with outstanding center prospects are LSU with senior Ethan Pocic, Arkansas with senior Frank Ragnow, and Tennessee with junior Coleman Thomas.


Ohio State senior Patt Efflein is generally regarded as the nation’s top center entering 2016.


With Pierschbacher moving to center, Alabama does not have a preseason all-star guard, even though Alphonse Taylor was Bama’s starter at right guard last season. Taylor was notable primarily for his demotion during spring work, and Saban said it would be a continued demotion unless that Taylor worked himself back into good football condition.


In what has been called a “down year” for guards, only two teams on Bama’s schedule have men at that position who are on all-star watch lists, junior Braden Smith of Auburn and sophomore Will Clapp of LSU.


Senior Dan Feeney of Indiana is the overwhelming favorite as the nation’s best guard.

BamaMag Top Stories