Alabama Crimson Tide: Brandon Greene

SEC lunchtime links

April, 11, 2014
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Spring games galore this weekend! Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt will be in action on Saturday. But news isn't just on the field; there's plenty off the field, too:
Editor’s note: This is Part III in a weeklong series predicting what changes are ahead for Alabama this spring.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It’s not going to be easy, but Cam Robinson is going to do it. The five-star prospect from Louisiana is still wet behind the ears, but that won’t stop him from claiming the left tackle position at Alabama. He'll be replacing another former highly-regarded recruit who played in his first eight games as a freshman before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Cyrus Kouandjio would recover and start 27 consecutive games as a sophomore and junior and is on pace to be taken in the first round of May’s NFL draft.

Whether Robinson develops into that successful an offensive tackle remains to be seen. Rather, today is reserved for the slightly less ambitious question of whether a true freshman can enroll early, beat out some stiff competition and start from Day 1 at a position that is widely considered the most pivotal on the offensive line. Robinson, who cuts an imposing figure at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, is the best equipped of Alabama’s eight early enrollees to answer with a resounding, “Yes.” And that’s saying something, if you take Nick Saban at his word.

“I’ve been really impressed with the eight freshmen that we have here,” the 62-year-old head coach of the Tide said last week. “I think that it's a huge advantage for them to be here. But they've all sort of done a nice job in the offseason program, are all guys that look like might be guys that can compete to help the team in some kind of way which I think is a real positive for us.”

Robinson gave up his final semester of high school -- prom, graduation, etc. -- to come to Alabama early and compete. It wasn’t a tough decision, he said, because it would give him the leg up he was after.

“I had to think about the long run, how it would benefit me when I get to college,” he told reporters on signing day in early February. “So it wasn't a tough decision at all.”

Coaches have told him he’ll play left tackle, he said, which is obvious when you look at his tape. He might be big, but he’s more than athletic enough to play on the outside. As his ESPN scouting report notes, he has “good initial quicks off the ball, ankle flexibility and the strength to deliver a jarring initial pop.” There are plenty of colorful adjectives one could use to describe the way he hits the second level of the defense.

“Of course I wouldn't mind starting,” Robinson said, “but that's something you have to ask coach about.”

For now, Saban isn’t saying. He wouldn’t put the pressure on a player like that. And Mario Cristobal, who is in charge of the offensive line, isn’t allowed to speak to the media.

That said, Robinson seems like he has humbled himself to the challenge of competing at Alabama. When asked what he needs to work on, his answer was very much to the point.

“Everything,” he said. “I need to work on everything. SEC man, with these defensive linemen, it's crazy. These guys are freak athletes. I'm working on everything I can to just get better overall.”

He’ll have challengers, but none with the upside he possesses. Leon Brown should figure into the competition, along with Brandon Greene and Brandon Hill. Dominick Jackson, who was the No. 1 offensive tackle in junior college last year according to ESPN, wasn’t signed by Alabama to sit and watch. He’ll push Robinson as much as anyone.

But there are already rumblings coming out of Alabama that Robinson will play as a true freshman, and spring practice hasn’t even begun. If his work ethic matches his physical tools, then the job very well could be his.

If that sounds familiar, it should. Kouandjio was talked about much in the same vein prior to his arrival in 2011. Had he enrolled early, he might have done more than play in eight games as a true freshman -- he might have started.

It’s going to be a tall task for Robinson to win the job and start from Day 1. That challenge will begin on Saturday when Alabama opens spring practice in Tuscaloosa. How Robinson fares over those 15 practices will either propel him to a starting role or set him on a course for later development. But given the landscape of things, bet on the more ambitious goal.

Where does No. 1 TE Luatua land? 

September, 19, 2013
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Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Marida) is starting to narrow down his choices and has three official visits lined up so far.

He’s not one to brag or really go that much in depth about his recruiting, but the fact he has Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State already scheduled shows just how high the interest is in those schools.

While there are two more officials to set up, the Crimson Tide, Fighting Irish and Buckeyes are ready to roll out the red carpet for the ESPN 300 senior -- he’s ranked 68th overall and is the No. 1 tight end at the H-position.

Here is a look at all three schools and why each makes sense for the 6-foot-3, 243-pound Luatua:

Alabama's O-line answers its critics

September, 18, 2013
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There were no defensive statements or explanations necessary when Alabama coach Nick Saban and his players met with the media on Monday. This time, unlike the two weeks prior, everyone could avoid the touchy subject of the offensive line.

You'll recall AJ McCarron being ticked off by all of the talk of his line performing poorly Week 1 against Virginia Tech. It was a sore spot for the senior quarterback, and understandably so. These were the guys charged with protecting him that were being thrown under the bus. So McCarron stepped up, told everyone that would listen that the offensive line wasn't as bad as it was being made out to be and that it would play better against Texas A&M when the time came.

[+] EnlargeArie Kouandjio
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsCyrus Kouandjio and his linemates controlled matters up front against Texas A&M.
Well, the time came Saturday and the offensive line stepped up in a big way. In fact, the result on the football field was night and day. Cyrus Kouandjio, who looked like a turnstile at left tackle against the Hokies, was the ultimate protector of McCarron's blind side, and the rest of the line followed suit, allowing just five rushes for zero or negative yards, compared to the 16 such plays Week 1 in Atlanta. McCarron wasn't sacked once, telling ESPN's Tom Rinaldi after the game, "I don't think I touched the grass all day."

"They did a great job of communicating," McCarron told reporters on Monday. "That's what we needed. Kept me clean most of the game, I was proud of those big guys. Did a really good job. I felt like communication was going to be the biggest thing for us in this last game, especially with that crowd they have there, so I felt like everybody did a great job of communicating and helped our offense a ton."

Saban, for his part, applauded the line's improvement at the point of attack. Their ability to control the tempo opened up the offense as a whole. The Tide, two weeks after going three-and-out seven times and failing to score on a drive that began inside its own territory, had seven drives of 60 or more yards and went three-and-out just three times. Alabama racked up 49 points and 568 total yards -- 334 yards passing, 234 yards on the ground.

"Obviously [we] played a lot better offensively, communicated better, controlled the line of scrimmage, didn't have a lot of negative plays," Saban said. "Had a lot of balance running the ball as well as being able to throw it effectively and not have a lot of pressure in the pocket and really control the time of possession in the game, which is really, really important. Especially when you're playing against an offense like they have."

Kouandjio said the communication that failed them in the season opener was 10 times better, and he noted that their ability to run the ball helped wear down Texas A&M's defense. Mostly, though, he was pleased to hear how much the tone had changed after the game.

"Yeah, it felt really good," he said of quieting the critics. "People misunderstood the first game. We came out there and did what we were supposed to do."

Alabama's line didn't miss a beat, even when starting right guard Anthony Steen had to leave the field with an injury. Kellen Williams came in and the offense went right down the field yet again.

"K-dub deserves a lot of credit," McCarron said. "I mean for a guy to sit there the whole game and have to stay into the game mentally and then be called on for the last drive to help lead us down the field, unbelievable job. It really says a lot about him as a player, as a teammate, but as a person too. Excellent job by him, and he really did make some good blocks on that drive to help him put points on the board."

Said Saban: "We think Kellen is kind of a jack-of-all trades for us. He can play left tackle, left guard, right guard, can probably play right tackle. He was the most experienced guy to put in the game at that time. Did a really good job and we didn't really miss a beat with him in there. He's a fifth-year senior and he's played a lot, has a lot of experience. We really look at him as a starter on our team."

Brian Vogler, Alabama's starting tight end, said Williams gives "a lot of peoples' morale in the huddle" with his energy.

But Vogler had to credit himself and his fellow tight ends for some of the Alabama's success both in the running and the passing game. Brandon Greene essentially served as a third offensive tackle and true freshman O.J. Howard made plenty of plays in the passing game.

For the first time in a while, the tight end position felt relevant for the Crimson Tide.

"Any way we can contribute is great," Vogler said. "Sometimes you get disappointed when they call Big Play, but they call it to the other tight end. But I know O.J.’s abilities. There were a couple of times where if they called my number anc it was a deep ball, I just wanted to be like, ‘Put O.J. in now,’ because I know like I’m kind of tired right now and I want to see what he can do out there. Having him gain more confidence really helps. A game like this can really help with his confidence and hopefully he can improve in some areas."

Vogler said Greene, who began his career on the offensive line, has made "unbelievable progress" at tight end. He might be known as a blocker in short-yardage and goal-line situations now, but Vogler thinks it's only a matter of time before he expands his role on offense.

"He’s working on his route technique every single day," Vogler said. "As an offensive lineman, he knows how to block. He’s making improvement every day. We’re trying to throw him in there on more routes in practice so he’ll feel a little more comfortable out there. For a guy his size [6-5, 307], he moves well. I can’t wait for the opportunity for him running a route out there and you guys being shocked at how he can move."

Alabama Intel: Wrapping up camp 

August, 23, 2013
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Camp formally ended for the Crimson Tide on Monday when the fall semester began on the University of Alabama campus. And while studies have gotten in the way of the early morning practices and two-a-days players had become accustomed to, the mood of preseason camp lingered for much of the week, as players fought to climb the depth chart and position changes remained in effect.

Preparation for Virginia Tech didn't begin until Thursday afternoon, when the second half of the brief media viewing portion of practice came with the condition that cameras not film the proceedings. For the first time, there was something coaches weren't willing to show the outside world.

[+] EnlargeBlake Sims
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsComing out of preseason practice, Blake Sims is the clear cut No. 2 quarterback for the Crimson Tide.
But even so, there was plenty to report, and in the final edition of Alabama Intel we'll try to do just that.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Two-a-days are over and camp is nearly at a close for the University of Alabama.

Well, technically speaking. Nick Saban isn't ready to stop teaching.

"Now, even though the players are moving out of the dorm, camp doesn’t really end, to me, until camp ends," the Tide's demanding head coach told reporters on Thursday. "And camp really doesn’t end to me until school starts. And school doesn’t really start to where they’ve got school stuff until next week. So we’ll continue with our meetings and all the things that we do and kind of go from there."


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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. 58 Brandon Greene
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman


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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Louisiana, Minnesota, California. The University of Alabama has been willing to go wherever it needs to find its offensive linemen of the future.

On Tuesday, Nick Saban and the UA coaching staff got a bit of good news from the West Coast where junior college offensive tackle Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo) flipped his verbal commitment from the UCLA Bruins to the Crimson Tide. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound prospect has the potential to be an instant-impact player for the Tide, which will likely have to replace two starting offensive linemen in 2014.

The potential for turnover no doubt aided in Jackson's decision. The Northern California native doesn't have to be an NFL general manager to look at Cyrus Kouandjio and see a top-10 pick in next year's draft, regardless of his underclassmen status. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. already has the Tide's athletic starting left tackle for UA as his fourth-best prospect overall. Barring a surprise decision, the anchor position on the line will be wide open for Jackson to come in and compete at either in the spring or fall of next year when he enrolls.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Not every tree sprouts overnight. Some roots take time to grab hold.

Alabama signed a total 26 prospects in 2012, and not everyone made an impact right away. Some didn't make it at all, as Eddie Williams, Tyler Hayes and Travell Dixon flamed out. Still, UA saw plenty of return on its investment, as two signees made the SEC All-Freshman team. Here's how we see the rest of the class shaping up.

Top of the class


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Cyrus KouandjioKevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsCyrus Kouandjio might have a secure spot on the O-line, but not many others do.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- At a certain point, there's too much work to be done on the football field. So much so that the idea of competition goes out the window. With three vacant starting positions on the Alabama offensive line this spring, the idea of actually battling for playing time is unthinkable, at least to left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.

The depth chart, he noted, is still open.

"Everybody is just working," Kouandjio said following Wednesday's practice. He and guard Anthony Steen are the only two returning starters on the line. "At this time, we're not even thinking about competition."

They might be the only ones, though.

If Alabama is going to have anywhere near the success it had last season, the offensive line must come together, and in a hurry. Kouandjio might have the luxury of feeling good about his position on the depth chart, but he's the exception to the rule, as Alabama must replace three NFL-caliber offensive linemen in Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker. That's not to mention the other seven former starters now plying their trade elsewhere.

At least Kouandjio would admit that practice felt different without his former teammates around.

"It feels weird," he said. "I've been with those guys for a long time."

But he's been with his brother, Arie, longer. And with Warmack gone, Arie has a chance to start alongside his twin at left guard. He'll have to fend off Kellen Williams for the spot, but so far he's the favorite to win the starting nod.

Chemistry, the glue of any good offensive line, is already set on the left side. After playing together in high school, the Koundajios don't have to say a word to communicate to one another.

"It's my brother" Cyrus said, "of course we already have camaraderie. We already understand each other.

"I love playing with my brother. He's always pushing me, and I'm always pushing him."

The camaraderie of the line as a whole won't come from either Kouandjio, though. Ryan Kelly, the man charged with replacing Jones at center, is looking to make his stamp as the leader of the unit now. And as Cyrus put it, he brings a lot to the table, rivaling Jones in at least one respect.

"He's the most professional person I know," Cyrus said of Kelly. "He's really serious, and that's the perfect center right there. Most centers have to be really tough, and I trust him 100 percent. I trust him as much as I trusted Barrett Jones last year.

"I think things are looking good for him."

Cyrus also singled out rising sophomore Brandon Greene for his improvement this offseason. He, Williams, Isaac Luatua, Alphonse Taylor and newcomers Leon Brown and Brandon Hill have added depth to the offensive line.

"He's doing so much better from last year," Cyrus said of Greene. "He got so much better over the break. His hands are where they're supposed to be, his footwork is good, he is where he's supposed to be right now."

Head coach Nick Saban, for his part, downplayed the transition taking place on the offensive line. He said new position coach Mario Cristobal is doing a "really good job" at coaching and connecting with the players.

"He’s done a good job teaching them," he said. "He’s got good energy and enthusiasm. He brings some new ideas. That’s always welcome when you have new coaches join the staff. So everything about this so far from a transition standpoint has been positive."

And like everything with the offensive line, Saban's remarks came with a caveat.

"But that's a work in progress, too," he said.

Forecasting the Tide: Offensive line 

January, 24, 2013
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Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday between now and national signing day, TideNation will review each position and look at who figures to start, who could rise up the depth chart and who might be on the way. Today we’ll look at the offensive line.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It was never a secret that D.J. Fluker would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. Alabama's hulking right tackle put his four years in and decided it was time to go. Coach Nick Saban even said way back in November on his weekly radio show that Fluker was a "a guy who is probably going to go out for the draft."

But Fluker is just one loss on an offensive line many considered the best in all of college football. Center Barrett Jones is leaving the Capstone as one the most decorated football players in the school's history. His three national championships playing three different positions on the offensive line is unprecedented. Winning the Outland Trophy as a junior and then switching to center and winning the Rimington Trophy is mind boggling.

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Recruiting battles: Alabama vs. Georgia 

November, 27, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When Alabama takes the field on Saturday in the Georgia Dome, it will be a homecoming for nearly 20 Crimson Tide players who hail from the Peach State. Many of those players the UA coaching staff stole away from the team who will stand on the opposite sideline, the Georgia Bulldogs.

The most notable Georgia natives for Alabama this season include offensive lineman Chance Warmack and linebackers Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard.

Warmack, a native of Atlanta, never had a scholarship offer from UGA. At Alabama, he has developed into one of the top offensive linemen in the country and is projected to be a first-round pick in next April’s NFL draft.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's true freshmen have wasted no time getting on the field and contributing in 2012. All told, a dozen first-year players have seen action through five games.

Given the news of starting wide receiver DeAndrew White's season-ending knee injury, coupled with the loss of backup running back Dee Hart to the same fate, prepare to hear more from the teenagers on campus.

Amari Cooper had already begun to take on more of a role at receiver, as have T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake at running back. The losses of White and Hart make their rise on the depth chart official.

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