Alabama Football: Juggling offensive line not an option

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Alabama football offensive line will face no bigger challenge in the regular season than Saturday afternoon in College Station. It is not a stretch to suggest the Texas A&M game will be won or lost by the performance of the Crimson Tide o-line.

Too much can be made of stats, particularly in a season’s first half when schedule strength is hard to determine. Even so, one stat comparison that concerns Alabama football fans is sacks.

Texas A&M is tied at No. 3 among FBS teams, with an average of four sacks per game. Alabama Football is No. 126 in Sacks Allowed.

Before any of us Crimson Tide fans allow that comparison to plunge us into gloom and doom, all the Tide’s sacks are not on the offensive line. Quarterbacks holding the ball too long have been a too frequent problem. Also, at least two of the 20 sacks allowed have resulted from missed blocks by running backs.

Another troubling stat comparison is the Aggies are tied for No. 2 among FBS teams in tackles for a loss (TFLs), while Alabama is No. 119 in TFLs allowed.

Alabama Football vs. Texas A&M at Kyle Field

The Alabama Crimson Tide offensive line has improved and it performed well against Mississippi State. But the Bulldogs defense is No. 25 in sacks and No. 54 in tackles for a loss.

The most obvious solution for Saturday is a game plan that features quick reads and plays that speed quarterbacking decisions. Not unrelated is the recurring problem from Seth McLaughln’s snaps. They are hard to understand and impossible to excuse.

Benching McLaughlin and moving right guard Darrian Dalcourt to center is not expected. One reason is Alabama opted for McLaughlin near the end of last season because of Dalcourt’s inconsistent performance. Dalcourt has been better at guard and if he was moved to center, an inexperienced player would have to be added to the starting lineup.

A healthy Terrence Ferguson, at guard or possibly center, could well be a good solution, but he is not expected to be available on Saturday. The Crimson Tide rumor mill buzz is that Ferguson underwent a tightrope procedure and will miss multiple games.

A general presumption among Crimson Tide fans is that Jaeden Roberts and James Brockermeyer, along with all the freshmen except Kadyn Proctor, are not ready for any game against a tough opponent.

Alabama has used a limited rotation of Proctor and Elijah Pritchett at left tackle. Either Pritchett or a healthy Ferguson is the Tide’s sixth-best offensive lineman. That does not mean juggling the Tide line to (left to right) Proctor, Booker, Dalcourt, Pritchett, and Latham makes sense. Playing continuity means much on the o-line, and even if Pritchett is adaptable enough to play guard, communication issues at Kyle Field could create major problems.

Note: Stats in the post provided by cfbstats.com

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The Tide’s answers for Saturday must be found by Tommy Rees and Eric Wolford. The game’s outcome will hinge on the execution of their plans.