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November 13, 2013

Getting more production up front

Sometimes perception is so strong it smothers the truth.

Take the perception that this year's offensive line isn't as good as its predecessor. On the surface it seems to be an obvious truth.

It's hard to believe that the 2013 group which lost three All-Americans, including Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones, is somehow better or more efficient. The perception is that the line took a step back.

But the reality is that this year's offensive line is more productive.

Across the board, at almost any quantifiable measurable, this year's unit has performed better than 2012.

A look at the first nine games from both seasons shows rushing yards per carry, passing yards and sacks per pass attempt are all improved from a season ago.

Rushing yards per carry improved from 5.28 yards a carry to 5.76. Passing yards are up more than 200 yards from 1,941 to 2,195. Through nine games in 2012, Crimson Tide quarterbacks were sacked 18 times for a loss of 157 yards. This year the line has allowed eight sacks for negative 51 yards.

A look at the numbers also shows remarkable balance.

Last year the team had 1,881 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns through nine games. This year the team has 1,879 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. The offense had a total of 42 touchdowns through nine games in 2012. This year's offense also has a total of 42 touchdowns.

All of this is not a knock or a critique on the 2012 offensive line, which is generally considered one of the most talented in the history of college football. Rather it's a lesson to beware perceptions. They're not always grounded in fact.

University of Alabama coach Nick Saban said the difference he sees is not in the offensive line at all. It's how defenses are defending the offense.

"I think it's unfair to compare last year's line to this year's line," Saban said. "I think this year's line has a personality of its own. I think the balance that we have on offense, the efficiency in the passing game, the good job that this group does in pass protection helps us be a much better running team. Most teams don't play us any more like they used to, to just stop the run. I think that's made our running game more effective, but that it's also due to the fact that the offensive line does well in pass protection.

"We haven't had a lot of pressure, we had one sack last week which was on a bootleg, which wasn't on the offensive line, we didn't have that guy blocked. He just ran up the field, then you're hoping the guy goes with the play. Those type of guys have done a good job all the way around. We need to continue to create that kind of balance for the rest of the season if we're going to have an opportunity to have success against the quality of opponents that we have to play."

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.


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