Stuart McNair

Alabama likely set at left guard, but right guard is question mark

Second in series looking at Alabama positions prior to spring practice

Considering how things transpired last season at Alabama’s offensive guard positions, things look a bit muddled as the Crimson Tide approaches spring practice. Bama Coach Nick Saban discussed a difference between guard and tackle last year when he noted that “things happen quicker at guard.” One thinks of the guards as the “road graders,” joining forces with the center to move out the middle of the defense.
This is part of a series looking at all Alabama positions prior to the start of spring drills.
Prior to last season, Alabama experimented with a returning Freshman All-America from 2015. Ross Pierschbacher had started every game in the Tide’s national championship season at left guard. In the spring and fall camp he worked at center and seemed the likely starter there until just over a week from the season-opener, when he went back to guard.
Pierschbacher started Bama’s first three games last year at right guard, then moved back to his previous left guard spot for the remaining 12 games of 2016.
Keeping that in mind, expect Pierschbacher, a 6-4, 304-pound upcoming junior, to be No. 1 at left guard when the Tide begins spring drills.
Pierschbacher’s time at right guard to start 2016 was only part of the turnover at the position.
Alphonse Taylor moved into the starting position at right guard beginning with the fourth game. He had been the returning starter at right guard from the 2015 season. After Taylor started four games, however, he missed the last nine games of senior season with an injury.
Lester Cotton had started the first three games at left guard and when Taylor was injured, Cotton took over for three starts at right guard. Saban then said that Cotton might be better suited to play tackle and his backup work the rest of the year was at right tackle.
The final six games of the season, Korren Kirven was the starter at right guard. Kirven has now graduated.
So what’s expected?
Closest to a sure thing is that any experimentation with Pierschbacher is over and he’ll be at left guard. Dallas Warmack (6-2, 299), an upcoming junior who is brother of former Tide star Chance Warmack, was backup to Pierschbacher last year and likely will be there at the start of spring drills. He played in a dozen games last year.
Two men who played in backup roles last year could be in the battle for the starting job at right guard. Junior Josh Casher, 6-1, 287, and sophomore Brandon Kennedy, 6-3, 301, were listed as the backups to Kirven at the end of last season.
Two redshirt freshmen linemen are expected to be in the competition at one of the guard spots. They are Deonte Brown, 6-4, 350, and Chris Owens, 6-3, 307.
Additionally, Richie Petition, 6-4, 302, missed his freshman season with a knee injury and saw only spot duty as a redshirt freshman last year, but could be in the mix at guard this season.
Although a starting date for Alabama spring practice has not yet been announced, it is expected to begin in mid-March. The A-Day Game will be April 22.

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