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August 31, 2012

Bama's offensive line tries to temper expectations

TUSCALOOSA | In all of the sometimes-heated discussion about how the University of Alabama matches up with Michigan, one point of conflict hardly elicits more than a shrug before the verdict is conceded to the Crimson Tide.

The contest between the Alabama offensive line and a rebuilding Wolverines defensive line is, for most observers, all Alabama.

Michigan returns only one starter on its defensive front, senior end Craig Roh, and even he switched from the weak side to the strong side. At the other spots on the four-man front, Michigan has attempted to add bulk and strength, but will have minimal experience.

Alabama, on the other hand, has had three different players along its offensive front chosen for various preseason All-America teams. Some people are even saying this could be Alabama's best offensive line ever although such statements are almost impossible to quantify, even if you limit the comparison to some of the best modern-era lines like 1973, 1979, 1999 and 2002, all excellent units.

For the most part, Alabama players have sought to temper expectations of domination.

"Looking at (Michigan) on film, I was impressed," Alabama guard Chance Warmack said.

"I saw them as a very crisp defense, very fundamentally sound. They aren't going to give you anything at the beginning. They are not sloppy at all."

Will Campbell and Quinton Washington, both 300-pounds-plus, will start at the defensive tackles for Michigan, while Jibreel Black, who had been working at defensive tackle until two weeks ago, will slide to end to give the Wolverines a bigger front wall.

"What we are looking for is to get the four best guys available to play inside," Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison told the Detroit Free Press. "We will have to see, but they have done well so far."

In regards to Alabama, Warmack also downplays the "best line ever" hyperbole.

"The first thing about us is we try not to compare," he said "Last year's team was last year's team. This year is totally different. We just have to go out and improve every day and not worry about what people are saying."

Warmack, who was born in Detroit, is excited - not overconfident - about the matchup.

"I am looking forward to this game," he said. "They have a great tradition like we do. It is why you come to Alabama, today in games like this."

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.



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