On Bama’s offensive line and Chris Kapilovic’s scheme

Michigan State's assistant head coach Chris Kapilovic on the sideline during the football game against Washington on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
Michigan State's assistant head coach Chris Kapilovic on the sideline during the football game against Washington on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. / Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA

Alabama Football is undergoing a philosophical shift offensively under new coach Kalen DeBoer and his offensive staff, which includes co-offensive coordinators Nick Sheridan and JaMarcus Shephard as well as offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic

Both Kapilovic and DeBoer prefer to deploy smaller, more athletic offensive linemen that can really get out in space.

Under DeBoer, Washington’s Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line in 2023 wasn’t physically dominant but was very mobile and excelled within the scheme. The group included first-round draft pick Troy Fautanu, a fairly average-sized tackle at 6’4” and 317 pounds. Second-round pick Roger Rosengarten started at the other tackle spot at 6’6” and 300 pounds. Bama fans are already very familiar with center Parker Brailsford, who has since transferred to play for the Crimson Tide. While he was one of the best and most athletic centers in the country, Brailsford was also one of the smallest at 6’2” and 275 pounds. 

Consider some of Kapilovic’s units from his previous stop at Michigan State. In 2021, his offensive line was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award, blocking for All-American running back Kenneth Walker III and leading the Spartans to a rare top-10 finish. Two of the best players Kapilovic produced in his time in East Lansing were interior offensive linemen JD Duplain and Nick Samac, both of whom hovered around 300 pounds. Even in the rugged, run-heavy Big Ten, Coach Kap wasn’t seeking supersized offensive linemen. 

What went wrong with Bama's 2023 offensive line?

Alabama’s previous offensive line coach, Eric Wolford, generated excitement when he came to Tuscaloosa. While he developed several pros, his lines were not as cohesive and effective as they should’ve been. Additionally, heading into the 2023 season, Wolford seemed intent on assembling the biggest offensive line possible. With Kadyn Proctor, Tyler Booker, and JC Latham carrying 350+ pounds apiece, I would say he did just that.

In theory, the Tide was going to overwhelm opponents with sheer size and mass. In practice, however, it just didn’t work out that way. Proctor, a true freshman, really struggled with the speed of SEC pass rushers. The right guard spot was a revolving door until Jaeden Roberts locked it down midway through the season. Add in Seth McLaughlin’s chronic snap issues, and the offensive line just didn’t live up to preseason expectations. In the end, Wolford’s monster offensive line proved to be a failed experiment. 

Moving forward under Coach Kapilovic

Now, under the new regime, Alabama is going back the other direction with its offensive line philosophy. Brailsford joins the fold at center still well under 300 pounds, while Kadyn Proctor and Tyler Booker have both already lost significant amounts of weight.

Booker self-reports that he is down 25 pounds from his playing weight last fall. Proctor, who spent the spring training independently, says he’s lost 10 pounds and intends to shed a few more. Both are naturally massive individuals and will still be big even by offensive line standards, but they should move around much better in 2024.

So how will Alabama’s 2024 offensive line function under Coach Kapilovic? I believe it will ultimately display the best features of both philosophies. That is to say, this unit should be mobile enough to operate within the new scheme, but will still have imposing SEC size at every position except center. It will be a versatile group that can beat opponents in many different ways. 

I expect Alabama to have one of the best offenses in the country this fall. It should be a high-powered, balanced attack that puts up impressive numbers on the ground as well as through the air. This offensive line under Coach Kap is the key to that potential becoming reality.