Football Fight: Left Guard

For several years, Alabama football talk has included extensive conversation about the offensive line. Never mind that a handful of offensive linemen have been drafted into the NFL in recent years, consensus Bama opinion every season is that the area needs shoring up.

Alabama football returns four of five starters who played in the offensive line, tackle to tackle, last year, and every position has come in for discussion. Left tackle probably leads the offensive line topics because the position is so visible and was sometimes a weak spot last year. Right tackle and right guard have come in for their share of conversation with the possibility of 2005 starting right guard B.J. Stabler possible learning the right tackle spot to compete with three-year starter Kyle Tatum. That opens up the possibility of Justin Britt becoming the third of his brothers to start in the offensive line, this year at right guard after a freshman year at defensive tackle.

Even before a fluke injury ended the career of Alabama center J.B. Closner in the ninth game of 2005, almost everyone expected there would be a change in the Crimson Tide's football depth chart at left guard this year. Part of the change came in the Cotton Bowl.

Antoine Caldwell started at left guard the first 11 games of last season, but almost everyone expected him to move to center this year. He made that move in the Tide's 13-10 Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech as Bama attempted to remedy the offensive line problems that were in great part responsible for the Crimson Tide's loss at Auburn. Caldwell didn't do everything required of a center in the Cotton Bowl. For instance, there were no plays from spread (shotgun) formation because he wasn't proficient in the deep snap. Learning that skill was reserved for spring training. But Caldwell could block, and that was important for Alabama running its record to 10-2 in 2005.

Caldwell is firmly established as the Tide prepares for 2006. The man who started at left guard in the Cotton Bowl, Taylor Britt, has graduated.

And it's as if a light comes on. Oh, yeah. Left guard. Who plays there in 2006?

There are two offensive positions where there are certain to be new starters when Bama opens the season September 2, hosting Hawaii in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Millions of words have been written about the elevation of John Parker Wilson to replace Brodie Croyle at quarterback.

But left guard? Not much.

Based on spring practice, there's not much doubt about the starter. Marlon Davis is moving from back-up right guard to left guard. And in the spring Davis was selected winner of the Paul Crane Award, given to the most improved offensive lineman. Davis, a 6-2, 303-pound sophomore, started the second game of 2005, against Southern Miss, but played in only four games, all at right guard, as a true freshman.

Justin Moon, 6-5, 288, hasn't had much playing time in his first three years. He was redshirted in 2003, played 48 snaps as a back-up offensive tackle in 2004, and was in on 100 plays in 2005. He was a solid second team at left guard in the spring. He is a favorite of coaches because of his strong work ethic.

Although Alabama is like most college football teams, not playing many back-up players in the offensive line, a couple of incoming freshmen could get a look at the position. David Ross, 6-4, 295, is considered more likely to work at center, but he could also be at guard. Also penciled in as a potential guard candidate is Brian Motley, 6-4, 275.

Editor's Note: This is one in a series of summer stories in which the Alabama football depth chart is examined position-by-position.


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