Andre Smith, a prep All-America last year at Huffman High School in Birmingham, competed very well in pre-season practice work. And when the Crimson Tide opened the season against Hawaii, Smith was in the starting lineup. In fact, he played more snaps than any other Alabama player in that first game: 62 at left tackle on offense and six on special teams.
He started again last week and, once again, no one played more downs than Smith. He and right tackle Chris Capps (whom Smith displaced at left tackle) both had 68 plays on offense and four on field goal and extra point kicking situations.
Smith became just the seventh player in Alabama history to start his first game on offense or defense since freshmen became eligible for varsity competition in 1972. He was the fourth offensive tackle among those seven.
"I'm enjoying it," Smith said Tuesday. "Everything has been wonderful. Great. It was very exciting to be the starter in the opening game."
Smith expected to be a left tackle when he came to Alabama. But he was also coming without benefit of much prep experience as a pass blocker. "We averaged passing about seven plays a game," he said of his Huffman career.
But Smith took measurers to learn about pass blocking techniques, going to summer camps, then reporting to Bama last summer. He still works hard learning to recognize "the concepts of defense and the techniques of defensive end play."
He said that fellow offensive linemen B.J. Stabler, Antoine Caldwell, and Capps are his mentors. "We watch a lot of film together and talk about situtations," Smith said. "Chris talks to me about footwork in various situations."
Smith said that defenses are stacking in so that Alabama is passing more than might have been expected. "You have to take advantage of the situation," he said. "It would be great to get both [pass and run] going."
Smith, a shade under 6-5 and 333 pounds, is within sight of one goal. He wants to be at 330. He was nearly 360 when he reported for summer workouts.
Smith thought the offensive line made progress in the second game, even though there were some blown scoring opportunities. "We could have done better," he said. "We were excited about how we came out and made that long touchdown drive to start the second half, but we weren't happy about the miscues in the Red Zone."
He said he expected Bama's offensive line to improve after the Hawaii game. "Coach Connelly (Offensive Line Coach Bob Connelly) told us we could only get better, because we couldn't get any worse," Smith said of the opening game critique.
Alabama followers seem to be watching Smith, and almost all in Bryant-Denny Stadium saw him on one notable play against Vanderbilt. On a quick screen to Keith Brown, Smith kicked out to block the cornerback, definitely eliminating the surprised Vandy defender.
"I got a little piece of him," Smith said. "It's not what I wanted to do. I wanted to demolish him. Bury him. It was a good block, but not a great block."