SEC Country is breaking down each Alabama position group from Feb. 29 to March 7 as the Crimson Tide prepare for spring football.
Thursday’s breakdown features Alabama’s 2016 offensive line.
Notable departures: Ryan Kelly (center), Dominick Jackson (tackle)
You should already know: Cam Robinson (tackle), Brandon Greene (tackle), Ross Pierschbacher (guard), Alphonse Taylor (guard), J.C. Hassenauer (center)
Get to know: Charles Baldwin (tackle), Dallas Warmack (guard), Bradley Bozeman (guard), Richie Petitbon (guard), Brandon Kennedy (center)
Analysis: Losing a pair of NFL-bound players — especially one as valuable as Kelly — is not ideal, but the Alabama offensive line will still be stocked with talent this season.
Robinson will presumably be back to full health after an inconsistent 2015. He’ll need to hold his own on the left edge while protecting the Crimson Tide’s young quarterbacks. Greene — an on-again, off-again tight end — and Baldwin — a junior college transfer — are expected to duke it out for the other tackle spot.
Guard is not an issue at all. Pierschbacher is perhaps the Tide’s second-best lineman behind Robinson. He went from no-name status to full-time starter during 2015, and his flexibility is a plus for new offensive line coach Brent Key. He has competition for that silver medal, though; Taylor opened up big holes for Derrick Henry while starting every game last season.
At center, the battle appears to be between J.C. Hassenauer, who filled in briefly for Kelly last season, and early-enrollee freshman Brandon Kennedy.
Of course, there are plenty of bodies in Tuscaloosa, and an embarrassment of riches could lead to major shuffling by the time A-Day arrives on April 16.
Key question: Who will win the starting center job, and can that player anchor another strong season on the ground?
Bottom line: It remains to be seen whether the Crimson Tide O-line will be a force this year, but it shouldn’t hold Alabama’s offense back this autumn.