In the midst of deafening noise and chaos, one voice rang out calm and steady for the Alabama offense.
Crimson Tide center Bradley Bozeman admitted Monday there were times when he couldn’t hear his guards next to him during Alabama’s 10-0 win against LSU in Baton Rouge, La. That didn’t stop the junior from making sure his fellow lineman knew who to block on every play.
“It was very difficult last week, a lot of line calls and stuff we couldn't hear,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “...It was not a lack of communication, it was an inability to communicate because of the noise. Bradley's probably been the key reason that that has not been an issue for us because he's been doing a really good job, not only of doing his job, but helping everybody else do their job better.”
Due to the noise inside Tiger Stadium last week, Bozeman was not always able to voice his calls at the line. Keeping his head, the lineman instead turned to hand gestures and mouthing words to his teammates to dole out assignments.
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Bozeman’s even-keeled persona also paid off on the sidelines. When Alabama struggled to move the ball early in the game, it was Bozeman who approached his fellow linemen, reminding them to stay calm and focus only on the task at hand.
“You have to go to them — they have to know what to do – and let them know that they know what to do,” Bozeman said. “Just because I don’t give the call, that doesn’t mean they don’t know what we have to do and how we have to execute the play. They just have to keep rolling, and roll with whatever happens.”
Quiet and painstakingly humble off the field, it’s easy to forget about Bozeman among the rest of the talent on Alabama’s offense. However, his consistency as an anchor in the Tide’s offensive line hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Taking over for Rimington Trophy Award winner Ryan Kelly at center, Bozeman is the Tide’s highest-graded offensive player this season, receiving an 84 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. The grade, determined on an evaluation of each play in the game, ranks fifth in the nation among centers.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bozeman has given up just one hurry and no sacks in 301 pass-blocking snaps this season. However, what really sets him apart is his ability to maul defensive tackles in the running game. Alabama is averaging 7.9 yards per carry on runs between center and left guard and 5.2 yards per carry between center and right guard.
“He’s really good at the point of attack, but he’s also good at getting to the second level and getting a block on linebackers,” said Gordon McGuinness, SEC writer for Pro Football Focus.
Through nine games, Bozeman, 6-foot-5, 319 pounds, has a higher grade than Kelly (80.9) did during his senior season. Kelly was the Tide’s highest selection in this year’s NFL Draft, going to the Indianapolis Colts with the 18th pick.
“I think (Bozeman) definitely has the chance to go in the top two or three rounds of the draft based on how he’s played,” McGuinness said. “I think the Alabama offense is always going to be view by teams in the NFL quite favorably because one of the line calls they are asked to make at Alabama.”
Those calls should be a bit easier this week, as Alabama hosts Mississippi State on Saturday at noon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Tony Tsoukalas writes for the Anniston Star. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mississippi State at Alabama
- When: Noon, Saturday
- TV: ESPN, noon
- Radio: WIOL-FM 95.7, 9 a.m.