TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nine practices into his time at center, Alabama offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher has already identified the toughest thing about his new position: shotgun snaps.
Getting the ball back to quarterback is the “hardest part” of his new job, but there’s also a 6-foot-2, 319-pound defensive tackle making the task even more difficult.
“It’s been frustrating,” Pierschbacher said Wednesday when asked about shotgun snaps. “But it’s different because I got Daron Payne in my face right here. I’m trying to get the ball back, and he’s got his hands on me. I’m trying to work on it, and keep it going.”
Payne, who started in three games and played in all 15 last year as a freshman, is one of the strongest players on the team. But Pierschbacher is used to facing physically imposing defensive linemen during practices at Alabama.
“He’s a freak. I think he ran like a 4.9 (40-yard dash). He weighs more than me, and he’s a stud in the weight room,” Pierschbacher said of Payne. “He makes me better, and I try to make him better too. It’s a challenge every play. We’ve seen guys like that come through here. A’Shawn (Robinson), I went up against him every play last year so I haven’t had it very easy the last couple of years. But it’s made me better.”
To improve on shotgun snaps, Pierschbacher said the centers work with the quarterbacks before practice on different techniques. It’s not one of those things a player can repeatedly practice on at home because as Pierschbacher puts it, the more you think about it, the more likely a player is to mess things up.
Pierschbacher said he’s spoken with former Alabama center and current Tide assistant coach William Vlachos as well as Ryan Kelly, whom he hopes to replace this fall.
“Shoot my off hand to get my hand on him right away,” Pierschbacher said of Kelly’s advice. “He gave me some tips about my stance and stuff like that.”
Overall, Pierschbacher said he’s getting “more comfortable” each day at center while also trying to take on more of a leadership role.
In last Saturday’s scrimmage, Pierschbacher got his first live action at the position he could start at this coming season.
“It’s different. I’m still trying to learn — just get out of the guard habits that I’ve developed,” Pierschbacher said. “I think it went well. Lot of good stuff to take away from it, and a lot of stuff to improve on. We’ve tried to shore that up this week, and really clean stuff up going into the scrimmage Saturday.”