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Stephen's Report

Position breakdown for 2016: Center

Cedric Mason- Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Someone will have some huge shoes to fill.

Ryan Kelly was consistent at Alabama during his three seasons as a starter (2013-15). He controlled all traffic from center and helped the Crimson Tide maintain a balanced offense.

Kelly—who won the Remington Trophy, Jacobs Blocking Trophy and Scholar Athlete of the Year—is regarded as one of the top center prospects heading into the NFL Draft. 

Alabama returns much talent on its offensive line, but there are four names in particular that will contend for the title of being Kelly’s heir apparent in 2016. Yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine provides a breakdown below.

J.C. Hassenauer

Hassenauer was one of the top center prospects nationally in Alabama’s 2014 recruiting class.

A former four-star recruit, he got his feet wet in the Crimson Tide’s 59-0 shutout win over Texas A&M in 2014. Hassenauer saw action in seven games last year, with much of his work coming against the No. 9-ranked Aggies at Kyle Field.

He took over for the injured Ryan Kelly.

Hassenauer, a native of Woodbury, Minn., blocked for 200-plus rushing yards in both meetings. He guided running back Derrick Henry to 236 yards and two scores in a 41-23 victory.

He was the top-ranked center in the nation per 247 Sports and Scout, while being listed at No. 2 on ESPN’s recruiting service.

Bradley Bozeman

Bozeman was one of many decorative sign-ons in Alabama’s 2013 class.

He has strong hands, exceptional footwork and size (6-foot-5, 320 pounds). He played in nine games during the 2014 season after redshirting his freshman year. The Roanoke, Alabama native filled in admirably for Kelly when he went down with a knee injury against Ole Miss in 2014.

Bozeman earned two starts against Arkansas and Texas A&M, with Alabama winning both games. He graded out at 90 percent against the Aggies, blocking for 298 rushing yards and four touchdowns. His redshirt sophomore campaign had his number called in 14 games in 2015.

Bozeman came off the bench as a reserve at guard and center.

He competed with Ross Pierschbacher and Alphonse Taylor for a starting role at one of the two offensive tackle positions last season, but came up short.

Richie Petitbon

Petitbon was one of five offensive linemen signed in the Crimson Tide’s 2015 class. A four-star prospect, he was regarded as one of the top offensive guards nationally (No. 5 OG). He excelled in both the Under Armour All-America Game and Nike’s “The Opening” competition.

Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 315 pounds, Petitbon was listed at No. 151 in the ESPN 300 recruiting database.

With Alabama returning both Pierschbacher and Taylor at the guard positions, Petitbon’s size and instincts could come into play as spring practice inches closer.

Brandon Kennedy

Kennedy, like Petitbon, was signed in Alabama’s 2015 recruiting class. A January enrollee, Kennedy participated in spring practice and earned some looks on A-Day.

He was listed as the nation’s fifth-best offensive guard in his class and the No. 3 center, according to Rivals.

A former four-star recruit, Kennedy was ranked No. 86 in ESPN’s 300 network database.

He is a product of Wetumpka (Ala.) High School, who finished as a Class 6A All-State selection in 2014 by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Kennedy competed in the 2015 Under Armour All-America Game.

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama MagazineYou can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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