If One Had To Make Guess On O-Line

There are some areas of the 2009 Alabama football team that are particularly intriguing. Quarterback, except that everyone knows Greg McElroy is going to be the starter. Safety, but everyone is reasonably sure there will be a good one replacing Rashad Johnson. Ditto for linebacker, tight end, tailback and any open wide receiver spots.

And most Alabama followers believe they have 80 per cent of this year's offensive line figured out. There are five jobs available. There are two returning starters from last season, one of them a pre-season all-star pick. Mike Johnson was an all-star as a junior and is back at left guard. Drew Davis returns at right tackle.

Most conceded the center position, replacing Antoine Caldwell with William Vlachos.

During the spring, James Carpenter reported in from a junior college All-America career and laid claim to the left tackle spot vacated by All-America Andre Smith.

And that leaves in the minds of most only one position in doubt—the right guard spot that was manned last year by Marlon Davis.

A question regarding that right guard position didn't even get fully asked of Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban following Saturday's scrimmage. "I know there are several candidates and several options you have as far as that last O-line spot…" That was as far as the question got.

"We don't have a starting offensive line," Saban said. "We don't have any starters in the offensive line. Not one. So we have five spots that are open. You keep asking about the one, we don't have any. We don't have a depth chart, so how could we be worrying about that one spot?"

Saban sometimes lectures reporters with the claim, "I know what you guys are thinking." He's not really a mind-reader, but Saban must have known the position everyone is thinking about.

" Barrett Jones played there today and he been doing the best job to this point, but we've got a lot of competition at a lot of positions," the coach said. Jones has been working at right guard. Saban added, " I don't know what five guys are going to end up playing in the offensive line. I really don't. I don't. So you can speculate any way you want, but I don't know. I'm telling you the God-awful truth. I don't really know."

He was asked if he was pleased with the first offensive line in Saturday's scrimmage. In a round-about way, he said he was.

"I was pleased with the way the first offense moved the ball," he said. "I was pleased with the way we moved the ball in the middle of the field situations. We didn't do as good a job in third down. We did a good job in the red area and we did a good job on the goal line. I was pleased in most situations with what we did offensively, which the offensive line certainly contributes to a large degree to that success."

Saban was asked if it was a good thing or a bad thing that the starting offensive five have not yet been selected.

"I think there's good and bad," Saban said. "There are probably less positions on defense where we have more returners and more experience, even though we still have competition. We have some good young players who are pushing the older players. But we have stability to start with.

"I think that the more experience you have the more stability you have. I think that's what I'm talking about today that the younger players, we = need some younger players to establish that kind of stability so whether they become starters or whether they're backups, we feel like they can go in the game and play winning football. So there's good and bad, I guess, in both of those situations. It creates lot of opportunity to have competition, but I think any coach will tell you he'd rather have experience any time that you can have it relative to how that resource of information contributes to consistency."

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