Alabama offense prepares for Clemson's dominant defensive lineBy Matthew Speakman | 12/30/2017 2:14pm
NEW ORLEANS- Alabama’s offensive line knows the challenge it is facing in Clemson. The Tigers’ front four, which has 44 sacks this season, has a rotation with multiple pro-level players. That unit has dominated opposing teams every week.
Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant weigh an average 291 pounds. Few teams are lucky to have one defensive lineman with that kind of size. Clemson has four.
Alabama’s offensive line is not backing down from the challenge, however. They are excited to battle in the trenches.
“They’re a really talented bunch,” offensive tackle Jonah Williams said “Well coached. They’re long, they’re rangy, quick, slippery—all the things you see in a good D-line. They generate a lot of negative plays so it poses a challenge for us, and it’s something we’ve been preparing for.”
Alabama’s offensive line has struggled down the stretch. Against Mississippi State and Auburn, the Crimson Tide gave up 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Those plays lost the offense 50 yards.
Still, Clemson’s defensive line is nothing the unit hasn’t seen before. Alabama faces tough defensive lines every week in the SEC. Those games are helping them prepare for one of the best units they have seen to this point.
“Every game helps you be better,” center Brandley Bozeman said. “Every game you move forward and try to be better than the last. We play in a tough division and everyone has great defensive lines.”
The Crimson Tide also benefits from facing a strong defensive line every day in practice. Alabama has some freakishly large lineman of its own. Sophomore Raekwon Davis is 307 pounds. Junior Da’Ron Payne is 308 pounds.
Alabama’s defensive line doesn’t hold back in practice either. They attack their counterparts to make sure they are ready to face teams like Clemson.
“That’s something that helps us out, getting to play against some of the best defenders in the country every day in practice,” tight end Hale Hentges said. “It really helps us get ready for teams that also have great defenders.”
When it comes down to it, Alabama is going to have to win the battle in the trenches if it wants to move the ball. Clemson’s defensive line can disrupt an entire team’s game plan. Slowing down the talented unit could be a deciding factor in the Sugar Bowl.
“Overall, it’s just going to be about executing and blocking the line of scrimmage,” Hentges said. “That’s the two biggest things. If we can do that, hopefully we’ll be ok.”