There is little question that Kyle Tatum's holding call on a pass play against Arkansas was a huge negative play for Alabama in that 27-10 loss. Trailing 14-10, Bama seemingly had driven to a first down to the Arkansas 28. But a flag on Tatum took the ball back to Bama's 36 and killed the drive. He also had a hold in the Tide's loss to South Carolina last week that wiped out a nice gain and a first down.
Tatum, a 6-7, 298-pound sophomore from Prattville, isn't proud of his mistakes. But he understands them. "Sometimes I get a little over-aggressive and get outside my block," he said. "The thing I have to do in a game is forget about the mistake and try to have a good play on the next snap."
And Tatum has been doing that. Even with the holding calls, which are minus marks when he is graded by Assistant Coach Bob Connelly on Sundays, Tatum graded 94 against South Carolina and 88 against Arkansas. For the year his grade is "about 90."
Tatum regrets his mistakes. "But they are correctable," he said.
He also takes pride in the performance of the offensive line this year. With questions about starters at each of the five offensive line positions and a lack of depth, the front was an area of pre-season concern. But Alabama has been able to move the football, leading the Southeastern Conference and ranking 14th in the nation in rushing. And the Tide has allowed only five sacks in five games. The best SEC mark is four sacks allowed.
"I think we're doing our job pretty well," Tatum said. "The thing about offense is you can't have one breakdown. You need all 11 on every snap. I think we've made a lot of improvement since last spring. It's a matter of improving techniques and studying opponents. The offensive line has to keep working to get better. I think we're going to be okay as a unit. We need to eliminate missed opportunities and the small things that hurt you."
Tatum said there is no head-hanging among Tide players after consecutive losses. "No one has a negative point of view," he said. "Our goal is to win. We're 3-2 and we want to be 4-2 after this weekend."
Tatum did not come to Alabama as an offensive right tackle. He was a defensive tackle. Head Coach Mike Shula said in the spring that he thought Tatum could be a starter on either side of the ball, but that he was needed more on offense. At the time it appeared both offensive and defensive lines needed him, but Shula's observation as proved correct with reasonable depth having been developed at defensive tackle.
Tatum said there were adjustment problems for him. "Football is football in a lot of respects, but I think you have to change your attitude when you go from defense to offense," he said. "You still have to be aggressive, but offense is more mental."
It wasn't good for Alabama when Tatum found himself back in defense mode last weekend. Midway through the third quarter Alabama had gone back on offense after an Anthony Madison interception. But on the first play from the Bama 22, Tide quarterback Marc Guillon was intercepted. The South Carolina defender picked the ball off at the 34 and headed towards the Bama goal. He was wrestled down by Tatum at the Alabama 20. "I still had it in me," Tatum said. "I didn't lose that moving to offense."