Mississippi State gave Alabama its second hardest challenge this season, and despite earning a 31-24 comeback win, the Crimson Tide did not have one of its better offensive linemen.
Ross Pierschbacher, a junior at left guard, exited the matchup in the first half, following an injury to his ankle. Hailing from Cedar Falls, Iowa, the former five-star recruit is a three-year starter on the offensive line – dating back to signing in the Tide’s 2014 (redshirt) recruiting class.
Senior J.C. Hassenauer replaced him and was able help establish Alabama in both its rushing attack and passing game, to a tune of 444 total yards. He took care of his man on the game-winning touchdown, giving Jalen Hurts time to locate wide out Devonta Smith for the score.
Upon getting news on Pierschbacher having a high ankle sprain, Nick Saban said the talented 303-pounder will be out for this week’s meeting versus Mercer at home.
“It will be a medical decision after this week to see where he is moving forward,” he said on Pierschbacher.
Although it has been able to withstand injuries on defense, Pierschbacher is one of Alabama’s veterans up front.
He was a critical part of the Tide’s Southeastern Conference and national championship run in 2015, where he assisted running back Derrick Henry to 2,219 yards rushing with 28 touchdowns and quarterback Jacob Coker to 3,110 passing yards with 21 scores.
Last season, he kept Jalen Hurts upright in aiding him to 3,734 total yards with a single-season school record of 36 touchdowns – en route to winning the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Pierschbacher would also clear the way for Damien Harris to have a 1,000-yard season (1,037) and the Tide to have its second consecutive national title game appearance of the College Football Playoff era.
Going with Hassenauer may not be a bad move for Alabama.
Like Pierschbacher, the Minnesota native arrived in Tuscaloosa as a four-star recruit and one of the nation’s top center prospects in 2014. Hassenauer was listed at No. 190 on the ESPN 300 recruiting database and has played a lot of football at reserve center/guard since his arrival.
“J.C. did a nice job in the game,” Saban said.
“We have always rotated guys along the offensive line. J.C. also has to be the backup center so, he has to do sort of dual duty regardless of what his circumstance is relative to playing guard.”
Controlling the amount of depth at each position is a concern for Saban, whether it’s because of injuries or wanting to play more guys, but having Hassenauer bodes well against Mercer.