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April 1, 2013

Cast of candidates aim for left guard spot

TUSCALOOSA | In terms of numbers, there is no shortage of options the University of Alabama coaching staff has to replace former All-America left guard Chance Warmack.

In terms of game experience, nearly all of those candidates face exactly that: a shortage. There isn't a career start among Arie Kouandjio, Kellen Williams, Chad Lindsay, Alphonse Taylor or Isaac Luatua.

But for at least one of them, there likely will be come fall.

"Arie's done a good job at left guard," said UA coach Nick Saban. "Kellen Williams is playing left tackle, left guard and center. He's doing a good job. Those guys are competing there."

This Saturday, when UA's first spring scrimmage commences at Bryant-Denny Stadium (closed to public), they'll get a strong opportunity to show coaches the improvements they've made. Saban said some of those players may get a chance at a different position in practice next week.

Right guard Anthony Steen, who will be a senior this fall and is UA's most experienced lineman, said Williams and Kouandjio benefit from a wealth of practice experience.

"Kellen and Arie aren't really, in my mind, rookies in any way," Steen said. "It's just more of trying to show them the right way and making sure they're doing it the right way. Coach Mario is doing a great job right now, and we're listening to him. Right now, we all just need work."

Kouandjio has recovered from knee problems that threatened his college career at one point, but he was healthy last fall as a second-string guard. His younger brother and UA's starting left tackle, Cyrus, relishes the possibility of Arie and he combining to make the left side of the UA line this fall.

"It's fun to be able to play w your brother. It's a blessing, really," the younger Kouandjio said. "Not a lot of people can say they played in the NCAA, a college team with your blood brother, you know? It's a blessing."

Saban said left guard is one of two positions on the offensive line that has been more competitive this spring.

"I think right tacke and left guard are two areas we're not concerned about but where there's the most competition and the most guys that have an opportunity to contribute to the team," Saban said. "We want to make sure that we give everybody that has a chance to contribute up front an opportunity at one of those positions."

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

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