Crimson Tide Position Preview: Offensive Line
Each week leading up to Alabama's A-Day game, I will highlight two position groups and preview both the presumed starters and key depth pieces, as well as players that could challenge for a starting role this season. Today, let's take a look at what may be the most question filled position group of all: offensive line.
Center - Seth McLaughlin
Seth McLaughlin, a redshirt sophomore from Buford, GA, stepped in last season for an injured Darrian Dalcourt, but looked to lock up the job with his impressive play. Entering the game late against Auburn where Alabama's line looked like a revolving door, McLaughlin helped sure up the front five and allowed Bryce Young to construct his memorable comeback. From there, McLaughlin went on to start the next three games, posting an incredible performance against Georgia's Jordan Davis in the SEC Championship game and nearly helping the Tide secure another national title.
With Dalcourt out for this spring, McLaughlin should remain the starter and could truly solidify himself as such for the fall.
RG - Emil Ekiyor
Emil Ekiyor enters his fifth season with the program and brings the most experience of the entire line. Since joining the team in 2018 as a four-star from Indianapolis, Ekiyor has made 29 starts, including 15 in 2021, and has been one of the Tide's most consistent pieces on the offensive line. A two-year starter, Ekiyor has allowed just 4.0 sacks and was a crucial member of the Tide's Joe Moore Award winning 2020 offensive line. Though the unit struggled as a whole at times in 2021, Ekiyor was quietly one of the best in the nation, and should only get better this season.
As the senior incumbent, entering what will be his third season as a starter, Ekiyor has his role as right guard locked up for this season.
LG - Javion Cohen/ JC Latham
Javion Cohen, a former four-star from Phenix City, AL, enters his junior season after starting 14 games in 2021 at left guard as a sophomore. While Cohen seems to be the easy choice to continue serving as the left guard, the 6-foot-4, 305 lb. lineman features the athleticism and versatility to play tackle as well. Alabama lost its starting left tackle from a season ago in Evan Neal, who is set to be a top selection in this year's draft, but can Cohen replace his production enough to justify making the switch?
For Cohen, while he seems to be locked in as left guard for now, do not be surprised to see the junior moved over to left tackle this spring as the Tide looks to replace its generational talent in Neal.
If Cohen does make the move to tackle, expect a name like JC Latham to be heavily considered for left guard. Latham is a former top-five overall recruit out of IMG Academy in Florida that stands at a massive 6-foot-6, 326 lbs. While he was recruited to play tackle, Latham mostly saw time at guard and on special teams last season. Against Cincinnati, Latham stepped in for an injured Ekiyor at right guard and played extremely well, helping the Tide's offense dominate the bearcats en route to a 27-6 victory.
RT - Amari Kight/ Damieon George, Jr./ Kendall Randolph
The departure of Chris Owens leaves a wide open hole at right tackle that could be filled by any of these players. All three saw snaps at tackle last season and appear to be in a similar competition heading into this one.
Kight saw time in seven games last season, all of which coming off of the bench, but appeared to have worked his way up the depth chart by the end of the year when he stepped in briefly for Owens in the Cotton Bowl. A member of the 2019 recruiting class, Kight was a four-star prospect out of Alabaster, AL that features size similar to that of an Evan Neal at 6-foot-7, 322 lbs.
Damieon George, while he did see time in 12 games last season, three of which as a starter, his performance in those three games left much to be desired. George stepped in at tackle against LSU in 2021 when Owens was forced to move over to center, and started the next three games. Making his final start against Auburn, George was benched in the second half in favor of Owens who would not relinquish the job the rest of the season.
Kendall Randolph enters his sixth season with the program, and with it, his best opportunity to take over as right tackle. The former four-star from Madison, AL, featuring a slimmer build than that of a typical Crimson Tide lineman, has been utilized mostly as a blocking tight end since joining the team in 2017. While Randolph's size (6-foot-4, 298 lbs.) is slightly smaller than that of a typical right tackle, his sheer amount of experience could help him greatly.
While George is the most experienced of the three, Kight could be the favorite to win the job, leaving George to remain a backup and Randolph a blocking tight end.
LT - JC Latham/ Javion Cohen/ Tommy Brockermeyer
Similar to right tackle, left tackle is another gap on Alabama's line. The departure of Neal, once more, leaves massive shoes to be filled that could be filled by any of these players.
JC Latham, the aforementioned five-star, seems to be one of the favorites to take the job, but will have to compete with another player with a bit more experience.
While Latham certainly looks the part of a left tackle, Cohen has the leg up on the sophomore in experience and could be bumped out from his spot at left guard. Cohen played tackle in high school and features above average athleticism. While he may be slightly undersized, standing at just 6-foot-4, his experience could help him win the job.
Tommy Brockermeyer was another five-star member of the 2021 recruiting class alongside Latham and could also be in play for the starting left tackle spot this season. While he was undersized upon joining the Crimson Tide, Brockermeyer has seen significant growth in his one season in the program, and now enters his sophomore year at 6-foot-5, 304 lbs. Hailing from Fort Worth, TX Brockermeyer comes from a long line of incredible football athletes, including his father, Blake, and older brother, Luke.
Terrence Ferguson II, 6-foot-4, 300 lbs.
Ferguson is a plug and play backup that could likely replace any of Alabama's five starters if necessary. The former four-star from Fort Valley, GA saw time in just a single game his freshman season, but appears to be ready to take on a larger role in his second year with the program. Featuring a build similar to that of Cohen, Ferguson could see time in the guard rotation, and could also solidify himself as the next man up for the front five this spring.
Out for Spring
Darrian Dalcourt came to Alabama as a four-star out of Baltimore in 2019, immediately taking over the role of backup center and seeing time in seven games as a freshman. In his sophomore season, Dalcourt again was the backup center, seeing time in seven games. His junior season, 2021, Dalcourt earned the starting role and kept the job until an injury sidelined him in week ten against LSU. Dalcourt briefly returned to the starting lineup, but was injured again and replaced by McLaughlin who remained the starter the rest of the season. Now, with Dalcourt out all spring, his chances of regaining a starting role are dwindling, but the senior could make an excellent backup.