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December 18, 2013

Freshmen vying to take Anthony Steen's place

Anthony Steen started 34 games over the course of his career, but in a cruel twist of events, the senior right guard will miss his final one, leaving the University of Alabama with a big void to fill.

Coach Nick Saban confirmed Tuesday night that the 6-foot-3, 309-pounder underwent a shoulder operation after playing the second half of the season in pain that got progressively worse.

"We decided to have Doc MRI it. He thought that it would not be good that Anthony continue to play, so we went ahead and got it fixed," Saban said.

Steen earned Southeastern Conference offensive lineman of the week honors for his performance against Kentucky, during which he had no missed assignments, no sacks or pressures allowed and no penalties.

Although the surgery will cause Steen to miss the Sugar Bowl, it allows him to be in better position to go through workouts for NFL teams prior to April's draft.

As for what it means for the team, the coaching staff is using bowl practices to work in different players at right guard.

Senior reserve lineman Kellen Williams started in place of Steen in Week 3 against Colorado State, but coaches have worked true freshman Grant Hill and redshirt freshman Alphonse Taylor at right guard this week. Hill backed up Austin Shepherd at right tackle for much of the season, and Taylor backed up Steen.

"I think we're going to look at several options there," Saban said. "We kind of felt like Grant Hill may be a guy that we look at at guard at some point in time, so we may look at him there for a few days. We feel like one of the centers could move over there and play guard if we needed them to. We have several options. I think we want to try to look at all those things the next, at least these first four practices, where we're really fundamentally working on things, and see what the best combinations would be for us."

It will be the second consecutive game the Crimson Tide is without a starting offensive lineman. Sophomore center Ryan Kelly missed the Auburn game with a knee injury. Junior Chad Lindsay took his place.

The line began to hit its stride toward the end of the season, going 18 quarters without allowing a sack. Except against an aggressive, physical Mississippi State defense, the unit was playing its best football of the season.

The time off helped heal some minor bumps and bruises for the guys up front. It was a welcome respite.

"It's been good for everybody," junior left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said. "Just lay down and relax. We got some good cardio in and good conditioning, but school passed away, so it gives us more time to focus on football and all that stress."

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





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