Tide must replace Anthony Steen, Cyrus Kouandjio

Competiton likely to fill all 5 spots on offensive line

Anniston StarMarch 9, 2014 

Alabama Football

VASHA HUNT/Alabama Media GroupAlabama will have to find offensive linemen to fill in for departed players like Kellen Williams (63) and Cyrus Kouandjio (71) during the offseason.


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Now that the quarterback and skill positions are out of the way, its time to breakdown where most games are won and loss, the trenches.

Today we look at the offensive line, another major question mark for the Crimson Tide heading into next season.

Departed: Cyrus Kouandjio, Anthony Steen and Kellen Williams

Ready for spring: Ryan Kelly, rising junior; Austin Shepherd, senior; Arie Kouandjio, senior; Leon Brown, senior; Chad Lindsay, senior; Isaac Luatua, senior; Alphonse Taylor, redshirt sophomore; Grant Hill, sophomore; Brandon Hill, redshirt freshman; Bradley Bozeman, redshirt freshman; Cam Robinson, freshman.

Coming in the fall: Ross Pierschbacher, Dominick Jackson, Joshua Casher, Montel McBride, JC Hassenauer.

Outlook: While the quarterback race will certainly garner more headlines, the competition for all five offensive line spots may be even more important.

No matter how good the Tide's skill players are, if a quarterback doesn't have time to get them the ball, the offense will struggle.

The Tide will be replacing two key members from last season as Steen and Cyrus Kouandjio have moved on, leaving definite openings at right guard and left tackle.

Williams was a veteran who played multiple positions and was able to fill in whenever someone went down. He'll be missed.

Kelly (center), Shepherd (right tackle) and Arie Kouandjio (left guard) are the returning starters, but all three need to improve if they hope to hang onto their jobs.

After the line's inconsistent play in 2013, no position is safe.

Along with Steen, Shepherd was the most consistent lineman down the stretch. After a brief battle with Grant Hill, Shepherd raised his level of play and locked up his position for the rest of the season.

When Kelly was healthy, he played well, but the Tide's communication struggles often fall back on the center.

With a year of experience under his belt, Kelly should be ready to lock down the center position for the next couple of years if he can remain healthy.

Arie Kouandjio had the pleasure of following in the footsteps of former Tide great Chance Warmack and was never able to live up to the expectations. Kouandjio will certainly be pushed in the spring as young linemen jockey for playing time.

Brown was recruited as a tackle, but finished the season starting at right guard when Steen missed the Sugar Bowl because of shoulder surgery.

Other linemen with experience include Lindsay, Grant Hill and Taylor, all of which will factor into the competitions.

Alabama's 2014 recruiting class featured six offensive linemen, headlined by the nation's top prep offensive tackle in Cam Robinson.

Robinson, an early enrollee, was the Tide's highest rated prospect and comes in with enormous expectations.

Many feel Robinson has the potential to start at left tackle from day one.

Enrolling earlier helps his case, but Robinson has a long way to go before he's able to take over at one of the most important positions on the offensive side of the ball.

The good thing about this group of linemen is that the Tide has a nice mix of experience and talent.

The veteran guys will be able to provide leadership while the younger players should be able to push the veterans to raise their level of play.

It will take a few games for the Tide's new offensive line to gain chemistry, but it better happen sooner rather than later as a big part of the team's success in 2014 will depend on it.

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