Perhaps the unit that’s been taxed the most from a season ago is Alabama’s offensive line. In 2020 it was one of the most dominating forces in college football, protecting quarterback Mac Jones and opening holes for running back Najee Harris.
One year later Nick Saban and new position coach Doug Marrone are tasked with replacing three of the key starters and as of right now, it appears as if there is still evaluation to do.
“We have work to do,” Saban said to the media following the team’s second scrimmage on Saturday. “I think there’s competition at several positions. There’s some competition at right tackle, there’s some competition at center. Evan Neal and Emil (Ekiyor) are both good.”
Since spring practice, Alabama has been working multiple different players along its offensive line. Senior Chris Owens and junior Darrion Dalcourt have been battling at center. Owens replaced Landon Dickerson in the College Football Playoff when he suffered a season ending leg injury.
Kendall Randolph has been competing for the right tackle spot and has worked at nearly every position along the line. However, Randolph’s progress has been paused due to a sprained ankle which was suffered during the team’s first scrimmage and has held him out since.
When speaking at SEC Media Days, Saban had hinted that sophomore Javion Cohen could be developing into a starting caliber player who could contribute in 2021.
“Javion Cohen has developed very nicely and most likely will be a starter, as a starter on our team probably even now,” Saban said in July. “So if he continues to do his job well, he’ll be a starting probably left guard on our team. He’s done really well in school. He’s been a good person. He’s worked hard. So we’re very pleased.”
There’s still work to be done before Alabama’s first game against Miami on Sept. 4, but there has been progress from week to week which Saban will hope to get cleaned up when the season comes around.
“We made progress,” Saban said. “The big thing is, how do we look at this moving forward? Players have to understand it’s not just about what you do in the game, it’s how prepare and practice.”
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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77