Alabama Football News

Texas A&M provides the next big challenge for Alabama’s offensive line

Javion Cohen lines up next to Evan Neal against Florida
Photo by Crimson Tide Photo

This past week, Alabama has made an emphasis on strengthening the communication and cohesion along its offensive line. Many lessons were learned from its road victory over the Flordia Gators last month, where the Crimson Tide escaped Gainesville with a 31-29 win.

During that game, communication was a massive issue for the bunch who had numerous self-inflicted presnap penalties which stunted its offensive drives. It also had some trouble moving the Florida front in the run game as it rushed for only 97 yards on the day.

It’s clear the staff and players want to avoid a repeat performance of that day on Saturday when Alabama suits up against Texas A&M.

The Aggies boast an imposing front led by defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal who is the team’s leader in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (6.5) on a unit that is also fifth in the nation in points allowed.

“They’ve got a great defensive team,” head coach Nick Saban said earlier in the week. “They’re one of the top defensive teams in the country, one of the tips in the SEC in points allowed — 12.5 points a game is really, pretty phenomenal. They’ve got some really good players upfront. They’re really good in the secondary.”

The Aggies return nine defensive starters from a season ago where the team finished ranked just outside of the College Football Playoff at the fifth spot. The unit is clearly not just built on the backs of Leal as the Crimson Tide’s offensive line has multiple different players to think about.

“They’ve got a really good front,” right tackle Chris Owens said on Tuesday. “No. 3 (Tyree Johnson), No. 2 (Michael Clemons), they’re both long, rangy ends, they play the run and pass really well, got great get-off. I think No. 92 (Jayden Peevy) is like 6-6 310, so he’s a big disrupter. Of course, DeMarvin is a first-round, top-10 talent. He’s disruptive in the run and pass game. No. 1 (Aaron Hansford), he’s been there a long time at the linebacker spot. And those guys up front really help everybody else on the field to be able to play fast.

“So as long as we can handle our business upfront, it’ll make it a little more difficult on them, but we understand that they’re a really good team, they’ve got really good personnel, they’re really well-coached. And playing in that tough environment that we’re gonna be in this weekend, we’ve gotta make sure we can do everything we can in practice this week to help us be as successful as we can.”

Throughout the first five games, the Crimson Tide’s offensive line has seen its up and downs from the struggles against Florida in the run game to most recently against the Rebels in the passing game. Quarterback Bryce Young was sacked on three separate occasions accompanied by a few off-center snaps which disrupted the timing of a few run plays.

For a unit that’s had to replace three key components with three first-time starters at the college level, it’s been a solid outing so far. But this weekend’s game against Texas A&M will be the new measuring point of where the offensive line currently stands for Alabama.

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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77

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