Ryan Kelly—Anchoring the line
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Former Alabama offensive linemen Austin Shepherd and Arie Kouandjio were important contributors last season. Shepherd was solid at right tackle, allowing 0.9 sacks per game. Kouandjio was stellar in the run game, guiding Alabama’s running backs to 5.1 yards per carry at left guard. Both players along with Leon Brown are pursuing careers in the National Football League.
Ryan Kelly returns in 2015, as Alabama’s most experienced offensive lineman. The 6-foot-5, 296-pound senior started 12 games at center in 2014. He excelled at directing blocking schemes, helping Alabama’s offense total 484.5 yards per game. Kelly’s footwork and leverage provided success on the ground.
Alabama’s backs averaged 206.6 rushing yards per game with 35 touchdowns. Kelly protected both Blake Sims and Jake Coker in the pocket. The Crimson Tide’s aerial attack accounted for 277.9 passing yards per game with 32 touchdowns.
Kelly, an Ohio native, was tabbed to take over the starting job at center in 2013 as a sophomore. He filled in admirably for All-American Barrett Jones. Kelly started in nine games, showing signs of being a solid pass protector and run blocker. Alabama allowed 1.31 sacks per game, good for fourth in the Southeastern Conference. It pounded opposing defenses on the ground with 205.6 rushing yards per game, good for fourth in the SEC. Its 454.1 yards of offense is the second-most in a single season in Alabama history.
Alabama returns Cam Robinson, Bradley Bozeman, Dominick Jackson, Grant Hill and others to its offensive line next season, but all production starts with Kelly. He enters his fourth season as a starter, and will be looked upon to get this offensive line back to playing physical upfront.