TUSCALOOSA, Ala.– In questions that discuss who’s the most important Alabama player for next season and who can improve their NFL Draft stock, the primary answers tend to be Calvin Ridley and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Although both are impact names, the most crucial part of the Crimson Tide going into the upcoming fall lies on its offensive line. Bradley Bozeman’s decision to return for his senior year was one of the biggest offseason wins for the Tide. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 314 pounds, the three-star prospect lined up at center for all 15 games a season ago. He made the switch from left guard in fall practice, after Ross Pierschbacher encountered some issues snapping the ball during the latter portion of camp.
With Bozeman anchoring the controls, Alabama carried the Southeastern Conference’s top-ranked scoring offense – averaging 38.8 points a game. The Roanoke, Ala., native open lanes for 11 100-yard rushing games and four 500-plus yard rushers, including quarterback Jalen Hurts.
His intelligence, size, footwork and hand technique led to him earning player of the week honors from the Tide’s coaching staff against Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn and Florida. Bozeman was a big part of Bo Scarbrough’s breakout performance in the College Football Playoff semifinal versus Washington, as he aided the sophomore back to a career-high 180 yards rushing with two touchdowns on 19 carries.
As for pass protection, Bozeman assisted Hurts to winning the SEC’s Freshman of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year honors. He shielded the talented freshman from some of the best pass rushers nationally, to a tune of 2,780 passing yards, 954 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns.
Bozeman did not allow a sack in 12 of 15 games – 80 percent.
Prior to last season, he saw action in two games as the starting center. Bozeman filled in admirably for the injured Ryan Kelly in 2014 against Arkansas and Texas A&M, after he went down with a knee issue versus Ole Miss. He played in all 15 games during Alabama’s 2015 national championship run; however, his field time came as a reserve offensive lineman.
After redshirting his freshman year (2013) and waiting behind Barrett Jones and Ryan Kelly, Bozeman has a chance to be just the third Tide player in school history to win the Remington Trophy. Named after Dave Remington, center for the University of Nebraska from 1979-82, the Remington Trophy is presented to the player considered to be the best center in college football.
Barrett Jones was the first to win the award in 2012, following his time at right guard in 2009 and left tackle in 2011. Ryan Kelly took home the honor in 2015, prior to guiding Alabama to a CFP national championship victory over Clemson and helping Derrick Henry win the Heisman.
Bozeman is one of three starters returning on the offensive line.