Offensive Line Key to Alabama Returning to the BCS Championship

By Curt Popejoy
Marvin Gentry – USA TODAY Sports

The greatest strength of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team last season was their offensive line. It allowed the Crimson Tide to have two 1,000 yard rushers in Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon and allowed quarterback AJ McCarron to have plenty of time in the pocket in the passing game. There were times when it seemed the Alabama offensive line so overmatched the opposing defensive front that the offense could simply do whatever they wanted.

And with that, losing three starters among that elite group means Alabama head coach Nick Saban has his work cut out for him in rebuilding this group. But if we’ve come to understand anything, it’s that when it comes to Alabama, there are always players waiting in the wings to step up.

The names to remember this year are Chad Lindsay, Ryan Kelly and Austin Shepherd.  Shepherd is the likely candidate to fill in at right tackle in place of DJ Fluker. Shepherd is a junior and while not the massive player Fluker is, he will add a more athletic presence to the right side. The tasks for Kelly and Lindsay are more daunting as they must replace center Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack respectively. These two formed a tandem that blew holes open for the run game and were perhaps the best guard/center duo on college football.

How well these three young men get up to speed and playing at a high level will determine who far this Crimson Tide offense can go.  The skill players for Alabama are going to be very good this year, better than in many years as a whole, and so you hate to think that they could be held back by the play of the offensive line. Spring football should go a long way toward showing the Alabama coaching staff if the offensive line is in good hands, or if more adjustments will need to be made.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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