- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
The University of Alabama plans to lean heavily on its offensive line in 2012 and for good reason. It’s a group that returns four starters from a year ago and has the talent and cohesiveness to be one of the best units in the country.
With two seniors and two juniors starting, the line won’t be intact forever, though.
Knowing that, the Crimson Tide coaching staff has made the position a priority for the 2013 recruiting class, and it’s off to a sensational start with three early commitments.
The latest of the three came Monday when offensive lineman Andy Dodd (Lindale, Ga./Pepperell) committed to Alabama over offers from Georgia Tech and LSU. He joins in-state lineman Bradley Bozeman and Grant Hill in a group that could one day play alongside each other for the Tide.
“An offensive lineman is only as good as his other offensive linemen because a blocking scheme is more than one person,” Dodd said. “If you have five great offensive linemen, it’s going to be a great offense.”
The three early commits haven’t all met yet, but they would like to begin building that relationship as early as possible, knowing they could be on the same line together one day. Dodd understands how important communication along the line is.
“It’s huge,” he said. “If one person makes the wrong call, the play is done. The play won’t be near as successful as it should be.”
Bozeman, the first player to commit to Alabama in the class, won a state championship at Handley High School in December. He also realizes how pivotal the relationship is up front in order for the line to be successful.
“I just want somebody that you can communicate with, and it’s like you’re on the same page,” Bozeman said. “You don’t have to tell him when things have to change on the line. You just know, and you don’t have to worry about if he’s going to mess up.”
Already, the group has a lot in common. They all measure close to 6-foot-5, 320 pounds. All three players are versatile to play any position on the offensive line and unselfish enough to play wherever the coach needs them to play.
Although the Crimson Tide loses two seniors up front and could lose more to the draft, that doesn’t mean that every commitment can come in and play right away. Bozeman, Dodd and Hill all know that they are going to have to compete against each other and anybody else who signs to earn playing time.
“Competition will always bring out the best,” Dodd said. “If you don’t have to compete to have a spot, you’ll never practice hard, you’ll never push yourself in the weight room to add that extra step that you need in order to win the spot.”
Bozeman may be the most heralded of the group right now, but even he understands that he may have to redshirt his first year before he can ever see the field.
“Coach (Jeff) Stoutland has told me that we’re going to see what I can do when I get up there and talk about a redshirt or not,” he said. “If I don’t get redshirted, that’d be great, but if I do, that’s fine. I’ll just get my Masters.”
That’s the type of blue collar attitude that has turned Alabama’s current offensive line into an anchor for the offense, a unit that holds the rest of the team together. The offensive line class in 2013 wants to be that group one day for the Tide.
“We could be amazing,” Bozeman said. “It’s just as good as we want to make it. If everybody lives up to their expectation, we could be unstoppable.”