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Alabama Football Impact Players

Alabama star offensive lineman could be changing positions this spring

Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

The time in between a National Championship Game and a small offseason before spring practice returns is perfect for speculation.

In watching the University of Alabama earn a 26-23 thrilling overtime win over Georgia in Atlanta, true freshman offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood emerged in a critical moment in the second half.

He entered the game in the absence of an injured Jonah Williams at left tackle and helped quarterback Tua Tagovailoa put together one of the most impressive performances in the midst of a championship atmosphere. 

With the potential upsides of Leatherwood and rising sophomore Jedrick Wills in high regard, the likelihood of seeing both former ESPN 300 guys starting up front next season is strong. 

Reflecting back to the 2016 College Football Playoff semifinal matchup between the Crimson Tide and University of Washington, returning offensive guard Ross Pierschbacher talked to the media on Williams’ intense film study. While most players watch games or film for the enjoyment, Williams sees things like an offensive line coach. 

“He comes over and watches football with me,” Pierschbacher said of Williams.  

“He sits there in my ear talking ‘oh they ran this blitz or this stunt when they should have done this’ and I’m just like ‘Jonah, I’m trying to watch film.’ With him, it’s like watching film next to Coach Key. That’s how he’s built and it’s what has made him so successful as a football mind.” 

During his freshman season, Williams assisted Damien Harris to being a 1,000-yard running back and Jalen Hurts to winning the Southeastern Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year – totaling 2,780 passing yards, 954 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns responsible for. 

Although he dealt with penalties last season, Williams size (6-5/301) and intelligence would bode well for Alabama if he transitions to center. Former standouts Antonie Caldwell, Williams Vlachos, Barrett Jones, Ryan Kelly and Bradley Bozeman all had success controlling the line. 

Judging by his strength and analytical mindset, having the California native call out blocking schemes, point out defenders and direct traffic in both run blocking and pass protection could provide head coach Nick Saban with his best offensive line since the 2012 group.

Jones and Bozeman both worked at either guard or tackle before going to center, and this spring sets up to be interesting for Williams – especially with Leatherwood and Williams starting to blossom. 

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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