There's A Lot On Line For Tide

Alabama lost its starting quarterback. Alabama lost its starting tailback. Alabama lost its first and second tight ends. Certainly there is interest in those high profile positions and progress there will be monitored as closely as possible during Bama spring football practice.

The biggest question for Alabama football, however, may be the offensive line. There is a reason that 32 NFL teams sent scouts to Tuscaloosa this week. Those teams want to see what Andre Smith and, to a slightly lesser degree, Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis can do.

Smith was Alabama's left tackle the past three years. If left tackle isn't the most important position on the offensive line then center is. Caldwell was the Tide's starting center the past three years. In addition to those two starters, Bama lost right guard Marlon Davis to graduation.

Alabama gets a hiccup start to spring football practice Friday. In order to not have a practice on Easter weekend, Alabama Coach Nick Saban decided to have a practice on Friday, the day before The University's spring break begins. The second of the 15 spring practice dates will come 10 days later, when Bama players return from spring break on March 23. Practice concludes with the A-Day Game on April 18.

The returning starters are left guard Mike Johnson (formerly a right tackle and the left tackle starter in the Sugar Bowl when Smith was suspended a few days before the game) and right tackle Drew Davis.

It would be interesting to know the plans of Saban, Offensive Line Coach Joe Pendry, and Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain.

In the Sugar Bowl, Bama moved Johnson to left tackle and started David Ross at left guard. Might Ross be the top candidate at right guard? Or might Johnson make the permanent move to left tackle?

Pendry teaches his offensive linemen to play more than one position, so movement can come in a number of areas. When Johnson got hurt in the Sugar Bowl, Drew Davis moved to left tackle and John Michael Boswell, a true freshman last year, took over at right tackle.

When they were signed, Tyler Love and Barrett Jones were considered top tackle prospects. This year Alabama has brought two offensive linemen in for spring drills. Junior college transfer James Carpenter is being penciled in by some observers as the number one left tackle. Chance Warmack, a December graduate from high school, could be a tackle or a guard.

Brian Motley, Taylor Pharr and Scott Deaton have had a lot of practice experience, not much game experience, and will be in the guard-tackle mix.

Center is a curiosity. For two years Evan Cardwell was Caldwell's back-up and he gained a lot of respect, particularly when he took over for Caldwell in the suspension just prior to the 2007 Tennessee game. Last year, William Vlachos became the back-up center. There is talk of Alfred McCullough (you last heard his name as Dwight Stephenson Award winner in last year's A-Day a defensive end) being a center or a guard. Barrett Jones might be a center.

The first couple of days of practice – Friday and March 23 – will be learning sessions, helmets and shorts. After that it's likely to get down and dirty, particularly in the offensive line.

BamaMag Top Stories