Alabama Offensive Line vs. Florida State Defensive Line
There is no bigger season opener in college football than Alabama vs. Florida State which will take place on September 2, 2017, at the brand new Mercedes-Benz-Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the next 7 days, BamaInsider.com and Warchant.com will preview the #ATLShowdown with a seven-part series. Today we look at the Alabama Offensive Line vs. the Florida State Defensive Line. (Scroll Down)
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Alabama Offensive Line Overview
The Cam Robinson era is over for Alabama. After anchoring the left tackle spot for three straight seasons, Robinson, the Outland Trophy winner, is now in the NFL. Taking his spot will be 6-foot-5, 301-pound Jonah Williams, who will make the transition from right tackle entering his sophomore season.
While Williams seems to be capable of filling the void left behind by Robinson, the right side of Alabama’s line still has plenty of question marks. During spring camp, the Crimson Tide experimented with several combinations, shifting 6-foot-4, 324-pound Lester Cotton, 6-foot-7, 326-pound Matt Womack and 6-foot-4, 350-pound Deonte Brown at the right guard and right tackle positions. Alabama did not deliver the push it needed in the ground game at times and will need to improve on that heading into the season.
Florida State Defensive Line Overview
Florida State lost the leader of its defensive line with the departure of DeMarcus Walker, who was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft. But the Seminoles have recruited exceptionally well at that position, and this again should be one of the team strengths. FSU’s coaches will lean on junior Josh Sweat to become the leader of the defensive end group, especially if he can finally get through a season with no injury concerns. He will be joined by super sophomore Brian Burns, who led all freshmen nationally last season with 9.5 sacks, and a bunch of talented young pass-rushers. Senior Jacob Pugh also will see time there, as well as at outside linebacker in various packages.
The Seminoles are loaded at defensive tackle, with starters Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas back for another season, as well as a number of very experienced backups. Barring any major injury issues, FSU’s defensive line group could be among the deepest and strongest in the nation.
Alabama Key Players
Williams figures to be the Tide’s top offensive lineman after coming off a Freshman All-American season last year. Moving back to the left tackle position he played in high school, he dedicated himself to relearning the position by exclusively using his left hand during everyday tasks. He will have the vital role of protecting quarterback Jalen Hurts’ blindside, so mastering the position early on will be key.
Center Bradley Bozeman is another irreplaceable lineman. Referred to by head coach Nick Saban as the Tide’s “unsung hero” the 6-foot-5, 319-pound lineman figures to be the unit’s leader heading into his senior season. Not only is Bozeman one of Alabama’s strongest players, his veteran presence and poise under pressure will be invaluable for the Tide early on.
Florida State Key Players
While pass-rushers usually gain the most attention because fans and media love sack numbers – and FSU led the nation in sacks per game last season -- senior Derrick Nnadi might be the most important player up front for the ‘Noles. After battling through an ankle injury early in the 2016 season, Nnadi was a dominant force down the stretch. He finished the year ranked fifth on the team with 49 tackles, and his worth was noted when the ACC’s head coaches named him First-Team All-ACC in their postseason voting. (The media listed him on their third team.)
Along with Sweat and Burns, who should be a very nice pass-rushing tandem, the Seminoles are looking for a big lift from senior Jacob Pugh. After having somewhat of a breakthrough season as a junior, when he posted 43 tackles, Pugh took his game to another level in spring drills. He won FSU’s prestigious Hinesman Award, given annually to the most dominant player, and he has shown the ability to rush the passer, stop the run and drop into pass coverage.
BamaInsider On Who Wins This Matchup
Both teams lost key players from last season and still have work to do before the season. In terms of experience, Florida State holds a slight advantage. However, when you look at the talent Alabama has coming in, it’s hard to bet against the Tide. Right now the matchup looks pretty even and should be determined by how well both teams progress in fall camp.
Warchant.com On Who Wins This Matchup
Ever since Nick Saban got things rolling in Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s offensive line has been a dominant unit and paved the way for a long line of powerful running backs. History says the Tide will be able to do that again, despite having to rotate in some new players this fall – that’s a tribute to Saban’s incredible run of recruiting success.
But if any defensive front can stand toe-to-toe with the Tide, it could be Florida State. The Seminoles are big and powerful up the middle, and they’re athletic on the edges. With this game being a season opener – and FSU having a sizable advantage in terms of experience – the ‘Noles get a slight nod.
Tomorrow we preview the FSU Pass Game vs. the Alabama Pass Defense
Alabama vs. Florida State
Saturday, September 2, 7 PM
The Line: -5 1/2 Alabama