News broke this week that Alabama Football would have a new offensive line coach for the 2022 season. Current coach Doug Marrone is expected to return to the NFL as new hire, Eric Wolford, joins the Crimson Tide staff.
Eric Wolford brings a hard-nosed mentality to Alabama Football’s offensive line
Many are referring to Wolford as a home run hire by Saban in a group that was a major weakness during the 2021 season. Despite being plagued by injuries and inexperience, the lack of intensity by the offensive line was a concern for many.
The offensive line left Heisman Trophy winner, Bryce Young, running for his life all season. He was sacked seven times in the Iron Bowl alone. Bill O’Brien’s play-calling was regularly questioned, but a weak offensive line led to more goal-line passes than rushes. The offensive line needs a new identity coming into the 2022 season, and Wolford should bring just that.
Wolford comes from Mark Stoops staff with the University of Kentucky. Kentucky was named one of four finalists for the Joe Moore Award in 2021 (for the fourth consecutive year) awarded to the nation’s best offensive line unit. Kentucky’s running back finished second in the SEC and 12th nationally in rushing yards per game. They also led the nation in percentage of runs over four yards averaging 5.5 yards per run.
Prior to his time with Kentucky, he spent several years as South Carolina’s offensive line coach. Prior to that, he spent a few seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.
Bringing in a new coach with recent college experience should be a benefit over Doug Marrone. Marrone came to join the Alabama Football staff after several years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was regularly rumored that Marrone wasn’t a fan of the recruiting aspect of college football. Wolford should be more comfortable with that process with the majority of his career having been spent in college football.
ESPN analyst and offensive line guru, Cole Cubelic, supported the hire.
After the disappointment of the 2021 offensive line, hard-nosed and tough is exactly what the group needs.
Wolford will have a lot of competition for spots on the 2022 offensive line. Evan Neal will certainly be a first-round draft pick leaving big shoes to fill at left tackle. Emil Ekiyor announced he is returning for his senior season.
Ekiyor is likely the only guaranteed starter for 2022. Seth McLaughlin, JC Latham, James and Tommy Brockermeyer, Javion Cohen, Darrian Dalcourt, and Damieon George will be competing for positions on the line. Senior Kendall Randolph should have one more year of eligibility left to return to his hybrid tight end/ offensive line position in certain schemes.
Hopefully Wolford will bring a nice intensity to the line and have them playing more cohesively as a unit for 2022. Perhaps the Joe Moore Award will return to Tuscaloosa in 2022.