Changes Afoot on Offensive Line?

Alabama's offensive line, which returns four of its five starters from last year's 10-2 Cotton Bowl champion team, is nevertheless shaping up to have a new look when fall camp begins in just over a month.

B.J. Stabler, a sophomore, started 10 games for the Crimson Tide last fall at the right guard position, but for the past month he's been preparing for the possibility of sliding over to a new position.

"They have been talking to me about playing (right) tackle," Stabler told BamaMag.com at a media gathering with a handful of Crimson Tide players on Thursday. "I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I'm trying to learn both positions."

A move by Stabler to right tackle would open up room for Justin Britt, who was a defensive tackle last year, to potentially move in at right guard where he worked in the spring on a limited basis as he recovered from shoulder surgery.

At the same time it would create a head-to-head competition between Stabler and two-year starter at right tackle Kyle Tatum. But if Stabler can learn both positions successfully, it would provide a huge lift to the offensive line regardless of which players ended up starting.

It was a hotly debated topic about what position Britt would play when he was signed from Cullman in 2003. He played offensive line and linebacker in high school, but was always considered a possibility as a lineman on either side of the ball.

Antoine Caldwell, who will without question be Alabama's first-string center when fall camp starts, said that Britt and the possibility of other newcomers seeing the field as true freshman gives the Crimson Tide offensive line great hope of something it has been lacking in recent years.

"Justin Britt has been working hard and he will give us some depth," Caldwell said. "We might require one or two of our freshman to come in here and play early, also."

There has been intense speculation over whether or not prized signee Andre Smith can come into fall camp and win a starting spot at left tackle over junior Chris Capps, who was often beleaguered in 12 starts last year. Capps faced no serious challenge to his position in the spring.

Smith, Caldwell said, has the tools to play offensive line as a freshman.

"I have worked with Andre going over plays and stuff like that," Caldwell said. "I can see him stepping in early. He's 350 pounds, but he runs like he's 200 pounds. He seems like he wants to learn and he's real bright."

Caldwell is uniquely qualified to judge, considering he was on the verge of breaking into the playing rotation as a true freshman before an injury setback forced him into a redshirt season. He's been talking with Smith and Shades Valley's Taylor Pharr over the summer about the Alabama offense.

"It's real tough (to play offensive line as a true freshman)," he said. "You've got to come in kind of with a chip on your shoulder. And to be able to take coaching is probably the biggest thing. Technique is also a big step. He's definitely got all the tools, and all the hype behind him. I definitely hope that works out.


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