An offense can have all the skill players it wants, but it means nothing if the men in the trenches don’t block and protect. A dominant mindset starts on the offensive line. It’s their job to protect the quarterback and provide lanes for running backs.
Alabama has recruited some of the best offensive linemen in the Southeastern Conference. The Crimson Tide’s coaching staff prides itself on teaching offensive linemen how to be physical, yet smart. They demonstrate how to explode off the ball quickly and lock up at the point of attack.
When executed correctly, these techniques help prepare offensive linemen for the National Football League. Here is a list of the top 10 offensive linemen in Alabama history.
Top 10 Offensive Linemen
10. Jim Bunch (1976-79)
- Bunch was an important factor on Paul Bryant’s latter Alabama teams.
- In his four seasons, Bunch helped Alabama post a 43-5 record.
- He was a 3x First Team All-SEC selection (1977-79)
- Bunch was a consensus selection to the 1979 College Football All-America Team
- He was a two-time SEC Champion (1978-79).
- Bunch was a two-time Sugar Bowl Champion (1978-79).
- He was a two-time national champion (1978-79).
9. Billy Neighbors (1958-61)
- Neighbors was a member of Alabama’s first team under Paul Bryant.
- He guided the Crimson Tide to a 26-3-4 record in four seasons.
- Neighbors was an All-American in 1961.
- He was an SEC Co-Champion in 1961.
- Neighbors was a Sugar Bowl Champion (1961 season).
- He won a national title with Alabama (1961 season).
- Neighbors made three bowl appearances with the Crimson Tide.
- He was selected in the sixth round (46th pick) of 1962 AFL Draft by the Boston Patriots.
- The Washington Redskins drafted Neighbors with the 43rd pick (fourth round) of the 1962 NFL Draft.
- He played eight seasons (1962-69) in the AFL with the Patriots and Miami Dolphins.
8. Antoine Caldwell (2005-08)
- Under Mike Shula and Nick Saban, Caldwell flourished as an offensive lineman.
- As a freshman, Caldwell made first-team All-SEC and Sporting News Freshman All-American in 2005.
- He was named First-team All-SEC and consensus All-American in 2008.
- Caldwell helped Mark Ingram set the freshman rushing touchdown record (12) in 2008.
- He guided Glenn Coffee to 1,928 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns (2007-08).
- Caldwell appeared in four bowl games for Alabama.
- He was selected in the third round (77th pick) of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.
- In four seasons (2009-12), Caldwell was a two-time AFC South Champion in 2011-12.
7. Evan Mathis (2000-04)
- Despite coaching changes, Mathis displayed consistency on Alabama’s offensive line.
- He was awarded the Paul Crane Most Improved OL Award in 2001.
- Mathis made First-team All-SEC in 2004.
- He started three seasons at left tackle before switching to left guard in his senior year.
- Behind Mathis, Alabama led the SEC in rush yards per game (185.1) in 2004.
- He was drafted in the third round (79th pick) of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.
- Mathis has played nine seasons in the NFL with Carolina (2005-07), Cincinnati (2008-10) and Philadelphia.
- He has made three playoff appearances (one with each team).
- Matthis won an AFC North title with Cincinnati in 2009.
- He won an NFC title with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013.
- Mathis made a Pro Bowl appearance and was voted All-Pro in 2013.
6. Andre Smith (2006-08)
- Like Caldwell, Smith anchored Alabama’s offensive line under Shula and Saban.
- In his freshman season, Smith led the team with 62 pancake blocks (2006).
- He made All-Freshman First Team in 2006.
- Smith made AP All-SEC First Team and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 2007.
- In 2008, he led Alabama with 103 key knockdowns, six downfield blocks and allowed one quarterback sack (334 pass plays).
- Smith was rewarded as a unanimous All-American, AP All-SEC First Team and Outland Trophy winner in 2008.
- He appeared in four bowl games for Alabama.
- Smith was selected with sixth pick (first round) in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
- He has started 59 games in four seasons (2009-present) and has made four playoff appearances with Cincinnati.
- Smith has guided the Bengals to two AFC North titles (2009, 2013).
5. Barrett Jones (2008-12), Chance Warmack & DJ Fluker (2009-12)
- The trio of Jones, Warmack and Fluker paid dividends for Alabama under Saban.
- These gentlemen guided Alabama to its first SEC and national title since Gene Stallings (1992 season).
- Behind the trio, Mark Ingram totaled 3,261 yards rushing, 42 touchdowns (career) and hoisted the Heisman Trophy in 2009.
- Trent Richardson recorded 3,130 rushing yards, 35 touchdowns (career) and was the Doak Walker Award recipient in 2011.
- The trio helped Eddie Lacy notch 2,359 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns for his career.
- Jones, Warmack and Fluker guided T.J. Yeldon to 1,108 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012 (Yeldon’s freshman season).
- Barrett Jones was versatile. He played left guard, right tackle and center.
- Chance Warmack was an athletic left guard and D.J. Fluker was exceptional at right tackle.
- All three players were two-time SEC Champions (2009, 2012) and three-time national champions (2009, 2011, 2012 seasons).
- Jones finished his career collected numerous awards, including Wuerffel Trophy (2011), Outland Trophy (2011) and Jacobs Blocking Trophy (2011).
- Warmack was a unanimous All-American in 2012.
- Fluker made First-team All-SEC and All-American in 2012.
- Warmack (10th pick—Tennessee) and Fluker (11th pick—San Diego) were taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
- Jones was selected with the 113th pick (fourth pick) in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Saint Louis Rams.
4. Don Whitmore (1941-44)
- Whitmore helped pave the way for Alabama football in the 1940s.
- Under head coach Frank Thomas, Whitmore guided the Tide to a national title (1941 season).
- He made three bowl appearances with Alabama, including wins the Cotton Bowl (1941) and Orange Bowl (1942).
- Whitmore was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1956.
- The Green Bay Packers took him with the sixth pick (ninth round) of the 1944 NFL Draft.
3. Chris Samuel (1996-99)
- Samuel defined the term “pass protection” for Alabama in the late 90s.
- He started 42 games without yielding a sack.
- Samuel allowed no quarterback pressure and had 91 knockdown blocks in 1999.
- He helped Shaun Alexander have a huge season in 1999.
- Behind Samuel, Alexander totaled 1,383 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.
- He was a Consensus All-American and All-SEC first team in 1999.
- Samuel won the Outland Trophy and Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 1999.
- He was a two-time SEC West Division Champion (1996, 1999).
- Samuel was an SEC Champion in 1999.
- He was taken in the first round (third pick) of 2000 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
- In 10 seasons (2000-09), Samuel was a 6x Pro Bowler (2001-02, 2005-06, 2007-08).
- He made NFL All-Pro in 2001.
- Samuel made the 80 Greatest Redskins list.
2. Dwight Stephenson (1977-79)
- Paul Bryant called Stephenson the best player he ever coached, regardless of position.
- Stephenson was an All-American in 1979.
- He is a member of Alabama’s All-Century Team and 1970s All-Decade Team.
- Stephenson’s contributions helped Alabama win three SEC titles (1977-79), two national titles (1978-79) and three Sugar Bowl Championships (1977-79).
- He was drafted in the second round (48th pick) in the 1980 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins.
- In eight seasons (1980-87), Stephenson started 87 of 114 games.
- He was a 5x Pro Bowler (1983-87).
- Stephenson made NFL All-Pro five times (1983-87).
- He led Miami to two AFC Championships (1982, 1984).
- Stephenson made the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team
- He was the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 1985.
1. John Hannah (1970-72)
- Paul Bryant called Hannah the best offensive lineman he’s ever coached.
- Hannah was a two-time All-American (1971-72).
- He led Alabama to two SEC titles (1971-72).
- Hannah was named to the University of Alabama’s All-Century Team
- He was named to Alabama’s 1970s All-Decade Team.
- Hannah made the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
- He also participated in wrestling as well as Track and Field.
- The New England Patriots selected Hannah with the fourth pick (first round) of the 1973 NFL Draft.
- He played 183 games and registered 10 fumble recoveries (one touchdown).
- Hannah was a 9x Pro Bowler (1976, 1978-85).
- He was a 10x NFL All-Pro (1976-85).
- Hannah guided New England to an AFC title in 1985.
- He made the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Team.
- Hannah is a member of the 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Teams.
- His No. 73 jersey was retired.
Vaughn Mancha (1944-47)
Sylvester Croom (1972-74)
Justin Smiley (2000-03)
Mike Johnson (2006-09)
James Carpenter (2009-10)