The first question we reviewed related to the 2011 edition of the Crimson Tide was “how well will our new quarterback play?” Our next question to tackle is also on the offensive side of the ball and how it’s eventually answered will directly affect how our new quarterback plays.
Today’s question: Who’s going to play left tackle?
Our last two starters at left tackle went on to become first round draft picks of the NFL. After the 2008 season, Bama left tackle Andre Smith was the sixth overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals. He was replaced by junior college transfer James Carpenter who went on to become the 25th pick of first round by the Seattle Seahawks.
So even though four offensive line starters return from last year, there’s a gaping hole on the left side that must be filled. Like the quarterback position, though, we know who the candidates are to fill the job, we’re just not sure when the position will be settled and how well the new guy will perform.
There appear to be two likely scenarios for the spot. One option is to move returning All-American candidate Barrett Jones over to left tackle from right guard. This would allow Chance Warmack to remain at left guard, William Vlachos at center and D.J. Fluker at right tackled. Anthony Steen would slide in at Jones’ old right guard spot.
The other option would include true freshman Cyrus Kouandijo at left tackle, Jones at one guard and either Warmack and Steen at the other.
I don’t think we’ll find out the exact lineup until game day, but Internet reports from practice viewing periods indicate that Kouandijo is running second team. That would seem to indicate option one is the likely lineup versus Kent State.
Practice reports also indicate Kouandijo is having a really good fall camp and it would not be surprising at all to see him crack the starting lineup early in the season.
All of this discussion about the lineup, though, is happening without much anxiety. Despite losing Carpenter to the NFL, this lineup is talented and deep. We’ve listed six possible starters above and Alfred McCullough also played significantly last year and can play guard or tackle. That’s seven quality players for five spots.
Last years offensive line struggled on and off for pretty much the whole season. Part of the struggles were due to experience. Warmack, Fluker and Steen were playing for the first time, for example. But part of the struggles were also due to injuries. Fluker was injured and didn’t play versus LSU. Jones was injured and didn’t play versus Auburn. Those two injuries were major factors in losing those two games.
Of course, it would be great to avoid injuries this year, but if the bug does hit again, this year’s team appears to have the depth to overcome at least two major injuries.
Next up we’ll tackle the question of how to replace Julio Jones.