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Monday, July 15, 2013
Crimson Countdown: Ryan Kelly

By Alex Scarborough

During the summer, TideNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Alabama roster -- excluding the Tide's 2013 recruiting class -- in our Crimson Countdown series. Starting with No. 1 Dee Hart, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Brandon Ivory

No. 70 Ryan Kelly
Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman

Ryan Kelly
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Kelly is expected to start at center and anchor an inexperienced Tide line.
Expectations for 2013: The time is now for Kelly, who spent all of last season as the No. 2 center behind Barrett Jones and enters fall camp as the clear frontrunner to start there this season. Despite appearing in just nine games and making no career starts, Kelly did enough to earn a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team in 2012 and the Rimington Award watch list in 2013. In other words, there are lofty expectations for him not just to start but to perform well on a line that will feature two other first-time starters.

Best-case scenario: Kelly wasn't named to the watch list for the award honoring the country's top center for nothing. The former four-star recruit has made a positive impression on teammates and coaches since he showed up on campus in 2011. In fact, Jones, who won both the Outland Trophy in 2011 and the Rimington Trophy in 2012, said Kelly was more a more talented center than he was. And though Kelly hasn't had much in-game experience, he does have a leg up on most rookies when you consider the fact that he spent all of bowl preparation last season with the first-team line while Jones recovered from a foot injury.

Worst-case scenario: Playing center is no easy task. Out of all the positions on the offensive line, it's the most difficult because of the many responsibilities it carries. You can't just snap the football and pick up your man. Rather, you need to know how every play works and understand the job of everyone else on the line, as well. And while Jones made the transition from left tackle to center look easy last season, it most often isn't. Cyrus Kouandjio called Kelly "the most professional person I know," which bodes well, but Kelly will need his fellow starters to be the same type of pros for the group to form the kind of chemistry that makes a good offensive line great.

Future impact: If Kelly develops into the type of player most expect, he'll be a solid cornerstone on the line for at least the next two seasons. His leadership will be important when Anthony Steen graduates and Kouandjio is faced with the decision to stay in school or enter the NFL draft after this season. While there isn't another pure center on the roster now, that will change when Alabama commitment J.C. Hassenauer enrolls next year.