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Thursday, April 7, 2011
Tide looking to be dominant again up front

By Chris Low

The standard was a lofty one for Alabama’s offensive line.

When you’re as dominant and as good as the Crimson Tide were up front in both 2008 and 2009, any kind of drop-off seems like a steep one.

That’s what happened a year ago.

Alabama certainly didn’t play poorly on the offensive line, but it also wasn’t up to the standard the Crimson Tide set the previous two years.

Injuries to center William Vlachos, right guard Barrett Jones and right tackle D.J. Fluker hurt their continuity, but nobody’s making any excuses.

The bottom line: They just weren’t as dominant up front and weren’t able to dictate to teams what they were going to do offensively.

“I think last year we didn’t quite form an identity at all or the way we wanted to form it as a power running team,” said Vlachos, who was plagued by an injury to the ball of his foot. “That’s what we are and what we will be. It’s on our shoulders to take the reins as far as that goes and establish that.

Jeff Stoutland
Jeff Stoutland left Miami to become the offensive line coach at Alabama.
“We need to get our attitude back, competing relentlessly and dominating the guy in front of us. That’s the name of the game. We’re looking forward to establishing that identity and getting the edge back.”

The Crimson Tide also have a new coach this spring. Jeff Stoutland, who made the move from Miami, takes over for Joe Pendry, who retired following last season.

Pendry was as good as it gets. But in his own way, Stoutland has already had an profound impact among Alabama’s offensive linemen.

“I love Coach Pendry probably more than anybody, but coach Stoutland has brought a fresh approach,” said Jones, who missed the Auburn game last season with an ankle injury. “He’s just a lot different than Coach Pendry. That’s the best way to say it. They’re both awesome, but Coach Stoutland is so excited and all up in your face.

“I think it’s been good for some guys to have somebody in your face a little bit.”

The battle this spring has been at left tackle, where junior college newcomer Aaron Douglas has been battling with senior Alfred McCullough. Douglas was a Freshman All-American at Tennessee in 2009 before leaving the program and playing at Arizona Western College last year. But McCullough, who can also play guard, hasn’t conceded anything.

Overall, Jones likes what he sees from this group.

“One thing we’re really focusing on this year is going back to communication as an emphasis,” said Jones, who earned first-team All-SEC honors a year ago. “We did a great job with that when we won the national championship and kind of got away from it a little bit with our inexperience last year.”