When it comes to Alabama football, areas of concern are nearly always relative. With the release of the official depth chart earlier this week, gaps on this roster are difficult to find. In my opinion, the aspects of the Alabama football team that could most easily turn into deficiencies are the same areas that the Tide struggled in last season: the offensive line and the cornerbacks.
Alabama Football: Offensive Line
Alabama fans will be watching the offensive line with a close and critical eye early this season. Most of the fan base, as well as the coaching staff, believes the line will be much improved. Vanderbilt transfer Tyler Steen and former 5-star recruit JC Latham have laid claim to the starting tackle spots as expected. They could be two of the most important players on the team.
Alabama’s struggles at right tackle in 2021 were so significant that they often overshadowed the fact that top-ten pick Evan Neal was on the other side. I think the combination of Steen’s experience and Latham’s talent will benefit Alabama greatly, and the tackle position as a whole should be much improved. My biggest concern here is depth.
Amari Kight and Damieon George are listed as the backup tackles, and both have been in the program for a long time. However, Kight has not played much for a fourth-year junior. George saw playing time at the revolving door that was the right tackle position, but was a liability at times.
Alabama fans have clamored for former 5-star Tommy Brockermeyer to enter the rotation, but obviously he has not outplayed the older guys to this point. Of course, it is possible that Kight and George have improved this offseason. For now, I have to base my opinion of them on what I’ve seen. Until they show otherwise, my assumption will be that Alabama football is one injury away from tackle being a major weakness once again.
The interior of Alabama’s offensive line should have a lot more stability and depth. The entirety of the starting line from last season returns, led by redshirt senior Emil Ekiyor who enters his third year as a starter. Somewhat surprisingly, true freshman Tyler Booker is listed as his backup.
The center position should go two-deep with confidence, as senior Darrian Dalcourt has reclaimed his starting spot. Dalcourt started most of last season, but was underwhelming at times before succumbing to injuries late in the season. Seth McLaughlin took over at the position in the postseason, played pretty well, and was widely thought to be the starter throughout most of the offseason. He will be a serviceable backup, and will be ready to step up once again should Dalcourt falter.
At left guard, incumbent starter Javion Cohen returns but has dealt with off-field issues and was not listed as a starter on the depth chart. Sixth-year senior and utility lineman Kendall Randolph will start against Utah State. The general perception of Randolph is that Alabama is giving up size and talent for experience and savvy. Many believe Cohen to eventually reclaim his position, but don’t expect the veteran will relinquish the spot easily.
Alabama Football: Cornerback
On paper, Alabama football is loaded with talent at cornerback this season, but questions remain abound. LSU transfer Eli Ricks and former JUCO transfer Khyree Jackson have both been hobbled by injuries, missing time throughout the offseason and fall camp.
This has allowed redshirt freshman Terrion Arnold to insert himself into the lineup. Arnold is very athletic but has yet to play a down for the Crimson Tide. He is expected to start alongside Kool-Aid McKinstry in week one. Alabama will be very young, albeit talented, at cornerback when the defense takes the field against Utah State.
Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that McKinstry, Bama’s steadiest performer at the position, hasn’t locked down a position outright. This could just be a bit of diplomacy on the part of Nick Saban instead of an indication that Kool-Aid hasn’t played well. Still, it is alarming to see that the cornerback spots have not yet been solidified. Jackson and Ricks are both listed as co-starters despite being unable to fully participate in practice and, in Ricks’ case, having difficulty learning the defense.
Cornerback may be the most volatile position on the Alabama football roster. While it is currently loaded with question marks, it could be one of the best groups on the team when healthy and playing to its potential.