27 July 2010
After a brief time off, it's back to the player profiles for the 2010 Alabama football team. And your reward for waiting? A backup offensive lineman. Exciting, huh? In all honesty, this part of the game that I admittedly know the least about is probably one of the most important parts of the game. You always hear about coaches wanting to build depth, but nowhere is that more important than on the line of scrimmage. It only takes one injury to a front line player to expose your entire offense, so having a quality group of guys ready to step in along the line is vital to having a championship team. This next senior actually took the vast majority of the starting reps at center this spring due to an injury to the starter William Vlachos. And in reality, he could be the backup at more than one position along the line.
David Ross - #74 - 6-3 - 299 lbs - Homewood, AL - Homewood
David did quite well at center during the spring subbing for Vlachos. There were a lot of folks that thought he would get pushed by Brian Motley and a bevy of young players (especially Anthony Steen and Chad Lindsay), but David never relinquished his hold on the top spot during the entirety of spring camp.
That should have come as shock to anyone who has paid attention to the last three years of offensive line play at Alabama. David has pretty much been a mainstay in the middle of Bama's line in his career, logging snaps at center and both guard positions.
In all he has played in 35 games during his career. Having that type of veteran presence on your team is crucial in the locker room. But having it available in backup roles, especially at a position as important as center, is a luxury that very few teams have.
The center is the quarterback of the offensive line. He's the guy that has to make the pre-snap reads and adjustments to blocking schemes, and most teams only have one guy who is game-ready to handle that adjustment. If you doubt that, think back to how big of a hit Bama's offense took when Justin Britt replaced J.B. Clausner in 2005, or when Evan Cardwell replaced Antoine Caldwell in 2008. Ross has considerably more game experience than Britt or Cardwell had when they were called on, and the experience he got with the first unit this spring is something neither of those guys ever had until they were called on to play.
The only negative for David during the spring is that his extended time at center kept him from being a part of the battle to earn the starting spot at left guard. I'm not sure he would have won that fight, but I would imagine he would have liked to have had a chance. But the coaches asked him to step up and fill a different role.
And David did what any senior-to-be should do... he filled his role.
He'll continue to fight Motley, Steen, and Lindsay for the backup spot at center, but he'll almost certainly hold on to it. He has a massive edge in experience over the oft-injured Motley, the redshirt freshman Steen, and the true freshman Lindsay. Joe Pendry values experience, especially in backup roles, and David will be that guy.
The only real question mark is whether or not he'll serve as the backup at all three interior line spots. The staff used one player in that role in 2008 and 2009, while also using one guy as a backup at both tackle spots. Coach Saban has indicated that he'd like to get away from that, though, and have guys ready to step in at each position.
Solid recruiting across the front line might have made that a possibility, though Bama has very little experience behind the starters except for Ross and John Michael Boswell. At some point the talent Bama has amassed will win out, though, and 2010 might just be that year.
With the schedule lining up the way that it does with all of the Tide's opponent's having off weeks prior to playing Bama, look for the coaching staff to sub in backups earlier in games that Bama is winning going away. Saving a few quarters of wear and tear on the linemen early in the season could pay huge dividends late in the year, and I look for the staff to seek opportunities to do just that.
With that in mind, expect David to get a decent amount of playing time - especially in games like San Jose State. He won't get a start unless there are injuries along the front line, but he'll provide solid leadership, and he'll be ready if called on.
Up next is a linebacker who has waited his entire career to live up to the promise of his freshman season... Chavis Williams.
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