Alabama football is losing three starters from its offensive line to the NFL Draft.
The trio of Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson, and Deonte Brown guided the Crimson Tide to a Southeastern Conference title, a College Football Playoff National Championship, and the Joe Moore Award in 2020. While it can flip Evan Neal to left tackle and start Chris Owens at center, who takes over left guard for Brown next season? This is a question for Nick Saban and Doug Marrone (new offensive line coach) as the Tide prepares for spring football. Saban normally plays his most experienced linemen on the left side of the formation and before he enters his 15th season as head coach, he has to make a big decision upfront.
In having three right-handed quarterbacks, the leadership must protect the blindside.
If it chooses to move Neal to left tackle, then Emil Ekiyor Jr. has to replace Brown. Ekiyor returns as a redshirt junior and has played in 24 career games. A native of Indianapolis, Ind., he started all 13 games at right guard and helped Alabama achieve the nation’s top-ranked scoring offense (48.5 ppg), top-ranked passing efficiency offense (198.9), No.2 passing offense (358.2 ypg), and No.2 total offense (541.6 ypg). With Ekiyor, the Tide posted 37 rushing touchdowns — which led all of college football.
The 6-foot-3, 324-pounder missed only one assignment in 835 snaps.
Despite allowing eight quarterback hurries, Ekiyor surrendered just 2.5 sacks and committed one penalty. Since arriving at Alabama as a four-star in 2018, Ekiyor has gotten better each season. He assisted the Tide in it producing a 4,000-yard quarterback (Mac Jones), a 1,400-yard running back (Najee Harris), and a 1,800-yard receiver (DeVonta Smith).
All three players were awarded individual honors and became All-Americans from Ekiyor’s performance on the line.
It can select from a group of players — including true freshmen — to start at right guard and right tackle.
When it comes to keeping the experience on the left side, Ekiyor should be the guard on that end.
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