Football Fight: Left Tackle

Years ago in a conversation with then-Alabama Coach Gene Stallings, it was suggested that surely somewhere on his squad of 130 or so players he could find one who could kickoff into the end zone. He answered, "You'd think I could find one who could play left tackle." Today we are looking at offensive left tackle. Later we will examine other offensive positions, defensive spots, and special teams. Here is the second in a series as we look at the competition for jobs on Alabama's 2006 squad.

The 2006 starter is almost a sure thing at a number of Alabama football positions, mostly spots where first team players return from Bama's 2005 football team that went 10-2. But one thing that increases the productivity of a team is having quality competition at every position. The Crimson Tide is not yet to that point, but there are positions where the battle is on.

Alabama Coach Mike Shula has noted the importance of competition and the need to have every position contested. It is good news that overall Crimson Tide quality is on the rise, which leads to greater competition for starting jobs and playing time.

However, the rub at Bama is that much of the depth (and resulting competition) continues to be very young.

The most noticed offensive line position is left tackle. That's the one position among the guards, tackles, and center that most often doesn't have anyone protecting fans in much of the stadium from seeing how he does. And if he's beaten, almost everyone sees him chasing the defender who is sacking or pressuring the quarterback or fouling up a running play. It's no surprise when a left tackle is flagged for holding, either.

Second to center it is considered the most important offensive line spot. The left tackle usually draws the assignment of protecting the backside of a right-handed quarterback from the opponent's best pass rusher.

Chris Capps took over at left tackle last fall after the departure of Wesley Britt. Britt was very good at his craft. Capps, an upcoming junior who had played only 77 snaps prior to becoming the 2005 starter, started every game at left tackle last season. Capps, 6-6, 286, played a total of 734 snaps. His back-up, Cody Davis, was in on 151 snaps.

Shula had expected Davis to provide good competition for Capps this spring, but Davis had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder on February 2 and missed spring practice. Davis, a 6-7, 279-pound sophomore, will take part in summer workouts.

With Davis out of contact work in the spring, redshirt freshman Mike Johnson (6-6, 285) was the number two left tackle. He appeared to have a good spring, but that is not to say that it was better than Capps' or good enough.

Coaches said that Capps showed natural improvement, the result of a year of experience. But no one is touting him for all-star honors.

If there is an offensive line position that an incoming freshman might win the starting job, it could be that the difficult left tackle spot is that position. And there has been much speculation that Andre Smith (6-5, 315) will get an early opportunity at left tackle.

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