Will the Offensive Line Hold Up?

Evan Mathis has started every game since his freshman season at Alabama, but the senior from Homewood said he's never played in a game feeling as well as he is now. Mathis has suffered from painful stress fractures in both of his legs since the beginning of his college career.

"I'm ready to get out there and play healthy because that's something I haven't done in long time," Mathis said. "I don't remember the last time I played at 100 per cent."

"I wasn't 100 per cent in the spring, but it was soon after that when it did heal up," he said. "I was scared that it might come back during two-a-days when I was putting all that pressure on it but it's 100 per cent healed and its not coming back.

"I used to be timid last year knowing that some of the steps I made were going to end up hurting my leg which would make me less of a player," Mathis said. "The pain was unreal back then. I'll be able to finally show what I can do."

Head Coach Mike Shula likes the way Wesley Britt is making his return to the field after a season-ending broken leg a year ago.

"Wesley looks better now than when I first met him," Shula said. "His weight is actually down from last year, he looks like he moves around better than he ever did, and yet his strength is up.

"He's really worked hard in the off-season. I know I haven't been around him that much as far as during his rehab process, but talking to Rodney Brown and Kent Johnston, a lot of it had to do with his attitude and the way he's worked to get back inot shape."

Britt and Mathis obviously anchor the offensive line, but it takes at least five productive linemen to be effective. JB Closner at center and Danny Martz at right guard have received high marks to this point from the coaching staff, leaving much of the impetus on first-year offensive right tackle Kyle Tatum.

"We've still got to find out what Kyle Tatum is all about," Shula said.

Offensive coordinator Dave Rader said the staff should be able to find out what Tatum is about on Saturday. He's been pleased with Tatum's progression over the last several days in practice.

"We've moved the furniture around a little bit and we like the look," Rader said. "And probably in the last eight days, we like the way Kyle Tatum has come along. We feel much more confident about what he's doing. We think we have a good match-up there. They have a tremendously strong defensive tackle in front of Kyle. Kyle will have his hands full (and) he's going to be tested. There defensive tackle Tupea is one that they tout as an NFL prospect so he'll find out in a hurry just what he's up against."


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