I heard an interesting story today, one that I have not verified but which rings true. A companion at lunch said that he had talked to Justin Britt about his move from defensive tacklewhere he had performed well the past two yearsto the offensive line. The explanation of why Britt would make that change made sense.
Justin Britt, the man said, wants to move to offense because he doesn't like to come off the field.
In Alabama's scheme, the defensive linemen are rotated with frequency. Additionally, Alabama doesn't always play with four defensive linemen, and it is not unusual for only one tackle to be in the game on a number of plays.
Britt was a defensive tackle the past two years, a back-up as a true freshman in 2004 and a co-first teamer (though starter in only three games) last season.
Alabama's offense had a huge margin in time of possession and averaged about 10 more plays per game last season, so an offensive lineman had a chance to have more plays. But the difference in plays for starting offensive linemen and starting defensive linemen is startling.
And while a back-up like Britt had nearly the same number of plays as the starter, a back-up at offensive tackle like Cody Davis had 151 snaps–51 of them in one game.
Britt, 6-4, 194, got a little action in the spring after having missed the Cotton Bowl. On November 29, Britt had shoulder surgery that forced him to miss Bama's Cotton Bowl victory over Texas Tech. He was not expected to have much work in the spring, but did work in the final week of spring practice.
The former Cullman star, whose brothers Wesley and Taylor preceded him as offensive linemen at Bama, worked at left guard.
The left guard spot last fall belonged to Antoine Caldwell, who moved to center for the Cotton Bowl and remained there through spring practice. Number one at left guard in the spring was sophomore Marlon Davis, backed by junior Justin Moon.
Marlon Davis started one game, but played in only four and had fewer than 100 plays as a back-up at right guard last fall. Justin Moon subbed in all 12 regular season games and had exactly 100 snaps.
Britt is gambling that he can win the starting job. To start in the offensive line is to play a lot of football. But to fail to win the job means drastically fewer playing opportunities. On the other hand, starters and top back-up defensive linemen get about equal playing time.
Kirk McNair is a writer for BamaMag.com, the Alabama affiliate on the Scout.com network.
Wesley Britt is a member of the New England Patriots. Although he has not seen any playing time with New England, he is expected to battle for a roster post in training camp. The elder Britt was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the fifth-round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He was released by San Diego and signed by New England where he remained a member of the practice squad.