06 March 2011
Cyrus Kouandjio was the final addition to Alabama's 2011 recruiting class, with his letter of intent not coming in until the weekend following National Signing Day. After an ill-advised signing day press conference announcement to Auburn, Cyrus immediately began having second thoughts. After spending time with his family, the big man opted to join his brother Arie in Tuscaloosa.
While this type of drama would have made for an interesting story with any prospect, the fact that Cyrus was the consensus top offensive lineman in the country made this the big story of signing day. Cyrus wasn't just the top offensive lineman in the country, he was ranked as one of the top four overall players in the country by the three top recruiting services - #2 on Scout.com, #3 on ESPNU.com, and #4 by Rivals.com. His addition would have been a major one to any school's haul. The fact that his original commitment was to Auburn, despite his brother's presence on Alabama's team, made things a bit more drama-filled than his family would have liked.
With all of the drama behind him, the bottom line is that Cyrus is headed to Tuscaloosa, and that should mean big things for both him and the Tide.
At 6'7 and 322 lbs. he is the prototype size for an offensive tackle. The scouts for the recruiting services all have pretty similar things to say about him:
Massive, athletic body with wide shoulders and barrel chest. Kouandjio also has very long, muscular limbs and resembles a cross between a giant tight end and WWE wrestler.
Kouandjio has an incredible wing-span and frame. Not many kids can walk around at 280-plus pounds and look skinny, once he fills out his frame the sky is the limit.
Kouandjio is a dominant run blocker with excellent athleticism that is very rare at his size coming out of high school. This guy runs very well for a big man. His over all size is what we like to see for the tackle position at the major level of competition.
The athleticism that three services talk about makes him a prime candidate for the left tackle position. And that would be the reason for the lofty recruiting rankings.
While left tackle is the offensive line position that many would consider to be the most important, when you add in that it's the only position on the offensive line that Bama does not return its 2010 starter (James Carpenter), it takes on a new level of importance.
Having said that about returning starters, the Tide has a new offensive line coach - Jeff Stoutland - which means that everyone will pretty much be starting from scratch. That means that we will likely see an open competition at all offensive line positions during the upcoming spring practice period. With returning starters at the other four positions, you would think that those guys would likely be able to lock down their spot again quickly.
At this point it looks like the most likely candidates to compete for the open left tackle spot are Alfred McCullough, Arie Kouandjio, and incoming junior college transfer Aaron Douglas. If none of these guys is successful at locking down the position during the spring, look for Cyrus to immediately begin a strong push for playing time.
I'm not a huge fan of offensive linemen playing as true freshmen. Most coaches aren't, either. The last time that Bama signed an elite offensive tackle out of high school it was D.J. Fluker, who spent the 2009 season redshirting. Before that it was Andre Smith, who started at left tackle from day one on his way to winning the Outland Trophy and going in the top five of the NFL Draft after three seasons.
So there are no guarantees as to what role we'll see Cyrus play in 2011. What we know from the past few seasons under Nick Saban is that if he is the Tide's best option at left tackle, he'll be the starter there.
My guess is that we'll see him take a redshirt year while Douglas earns the nod. When you consider the glowing things that the staff had to say about Arie duing the 2010 season, and he still redshirted, it makes my guess seem a little more likely. With the position open, though, don't be surprised to see him make a real push in August.