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Monday, July 22, 2013
Crimson Countdown: Austin Shepherd

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. 79 Austin Shepherd
Redshirt junior offensive lineman

Expectations for 2013: It's been three years of waiting, but the opportunity is finally here for Shepherd to compete for a starting job. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Georgia native has seen action in 17 games since signing with the Crimson Tide in 2011, and this season promises more as he becomes the front-runner to take over for D.J. Fluker at right tackle. Waiting, though, wasn't a problem, Shepherd told reporters this spring. If anything it gave him time to develop, he said.

Best-case scenario: Returns have been nothing but positive since Shepherd stepped into a starting role this spring. He's said all the right things, too. So long as he picks up on new offensive line coach Mario Cristobal's terminology and beats out the competition, he'll have a clear path to become a starter alongside right guard Anthony Steen.

Worst-case scenario: Shepherd said it's not his job to motivate junior college tackle Leon Brown, but he ought to be aware of his presence. After all, the staff doesn't bring in transfers it doesn't expect to compete for a starting job. There's not a lot of logic in wasting a scholarship on a short-term prospect who won't play. The fall will be a big determining factor for both players as Brown becomes more comfortable with his surroundings and the competition ramps up with the season fast approaching. Should Shepherd slip, Brown will be right there to pick up the slack.

Future impact: The competition at tackle will become even more intense next season when Dominick Jackson arrives on campus. The junior college commitment stands at an SEC-ready 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, and he could be joined by No. 1-rated offensive tackle Cameron Robinson by the time the 2014 class is signed. The Louisiana native currently lists Alabama and LSU as his top two schools.