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Chris Owens looks to solidify Alabama’s OL at center this spring

Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

With the return of Tua Tagovailoa as its starting quarterback, the University of Alabama’s coaching staff for football have the intentions of not seeing him injured next season. 

Alabama seems to have three of its five offensive line positions in order; however, left guard and center are areas of concern. Deonte Brown, a redshirt junior, played in 12 games last season – including five starts at left guard. He was the spark that got the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack producing strong numbers and was one of the reasons behind Tagovailoa’s big year. 

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The 6-foot-4, 342-pounder was present for the first two sessions of spring practice, but he was also one of three players that did not travel to the College Football Playoff (NCAA issue).

A four-game suspension would be the penalty for him; nevertheless, the punishment may be reduced or even dropped if Brown continues to see more action with the first-team throughout practice. Should he serve the suspension, look for redshirt freshman Emil Ekiyor (one of top center recruits in 2018 class) to start at left guard in the fall.

As the Tide graduates Ross Pierschbacher to the NFL, an opening has emerged at center.  

Redshirt junior Chris Owens is taking reps at the position and also served as Pierschbacher’s backup through 13 games in 2018. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds, the former four-star from Texas was one of the nation’s best offensive guard prospects in 2016 from Lamar High School. 

He has a ton of athleticism and per sources, Owens may remind fans of Antoine Caldwell – a former All-American center at Alabama in 2008.

Behind Caldwell, the Tide had a 1,000-yard running back in Glenn Coffee (1,383) and it earned an undefeated regular season at 12-0. 

Regardless of it having strong play at center in the past, Nick Saban is concerned with getting the spot solidified this time around. 

“Chris Owens has done a good job there so far, but that’s the thing… we have to make sure we are developing depth and consistency at the position,” Saban said Wednesday on the center role. 

The trio of Caldwell, Barrett Jones and Ryan Kelly all were All-Americans at center, while Williams Vlachos and Bradley Bozeman anchored their teams to national championships. 

In the same way he’s competing against Brown, Emil Ekiyor is battling Owens for a chance to start at center.

The decision to hire Kyle Flood from the Atlanta Falcons was made to ensure that he will get the best five players on the field to power this offense. 

Owens is set to be in the five and we will be watching his progress. 

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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.

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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