Tide In Good Shape At Left Tackle

At this year's Southeastern Conference Media Days event in Hoover, Mississippi State Coach Sylvester Croom was asked if left tackle was the most important position on the offensive line. Croom fixed the man asking the question with a mock cold stare. "You're talking to a former center," Croom said. "Center is the most important position."

Alabama has a pretty good offensive tackle in Andre Smith. Like Croom, when he was a center for the Crimson Tide back in the 1970s, Smith is an All-America level player.

Following Alabama's Thursday football practice, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban was asked about the importance of the left tackle in Bama's offense.

"It's important to have a strong left tackle," Saban said. "It's important to have a strong right tackle. It's important to have a strong offensive line.

"We're fortunate to have a good left tackle in Andre Smith."

Saban said a good offensive line enables a team to have balance, running and passing. "You have to be able to pass to make explosive plays, but you want to have explosive plays in the running game, too.

"Smitty is doing very well at left tackle."

Andre Smith, a 6-5, 340-pound junior from Birmingham, has done very well. He is a pre-season All-America, was All-Southeastern Conference as a sophomore, and SEC coaches selected him as the league's best blocker in 2007, presenting Smith with the prestigious Jacobs Award.

Smith agrees that left tackle is "pretty important, but not more important than any other position." As Croom said, Smith thinks the most important position is center. "Every play starts with the center snapping the ball," he said.

Smith said his position is important because "I protect the blindside of the quarterback. I understand if I do something wrong, something bad can happen to John Parker (quarterback John Parker Wilson). I consider him like my mother. You wouldn't want anyone to hit your mother."

Smith said the end of two-a-day practices on Wednesday meant "a little joy in the locker room." But he said the team still will have to work hard. "Coach Saban is going to demand it," he said.

Smith said he thought the team was getting better and that Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain had been instrumental in the Tide getting closer to game-ready.

The first scrimmage last Saturday was important for a starting point and that players and coaches know where improvement is needed. This Saturday Bama will have its second (and final full) scrimmage and Smith said it would be important for both the offense and defense insofar as techniques, etc.

Alabama will open the season two weeks from Saturday against Clemson in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta. Smith said he has been watching Clemson film. "They are very good," he said. He said when Bama has some off days on Sunday and Monday, "I'll rest my body and watch some film."

Smith said that every defensive end he has ever played against has been good. "All of them," he said. "Everyone I've ever played against has been good."

That should suit Smith, who said that he enjoys competition. "I'm just happy to be able to play football," he said.

Smith plays on an offensive line with Antoine Caldwell, who plays the important center position. Caldwell said "Left tackle is very important, especially if you have a right-handed quarterback. We're confident Andre will make the plays. I think we have the best left tackle in the country. He's calm, humble, and confident in his ability. He goes out every Saturday and works his tail off.

"He doesn't just maintain. He dominates."

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