Saban announces shakeup to offensive line ahead of game with USC

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Jacob Arthur

Coach Saban threw to several players during practice just after announcing an offensive line change.

CW / Jake Arthur

Tyler Waldrep

Since spring camp began, offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher appeared destined to replace the first Alabama player picked in the 2016 NFL Draft, former center Ryan Kelly.

That all changed Monday, when coach Nick Saban announced Pierschbacher would move over to right guard and Bradley Bozeman would take his place at center.

“It really wasn’t a competition at center, it really was more of what’s the best combination of guys for us to play,” Saban said.

The move took Pierschbacher by surprise, but he’s taking everything in stride.

“I think it was Thursday or Friday of last week and I was walking into meetings and coach told me, ‘You’re going to guard,’” Pierschbacher said. “I thought it was for the day, I thought it was just for practice — I guess not.”

Now, most of the offensive line will have to adjust to playing next to different individuals, and Bozeman finds himself thrust into a leadership role less than a week before Alabama travels out west to take on No. 20 Southern Cal.

But, Pierschbacher doesn’t see the switch forcing the offensive line to take a step back in terms of production.

“[Bozeman’s] done a great job, picked up the slack,” he said. “He’s played center before in the past, filling in for Kelly, I think, two years ago. So he’s done a great job and there’s been no drop-off, so it’s been great to see.”

Pierschbacher said his time spent at center wouldn’t go to waste. He learned how to better recognize defensive fronts and he said his time giving the offensive line calls helped him understand his own role to a greater extent.

That knowledge will be put to the test as Pierschbacher will still likely find himself passing calls along to freshman right tackle Jonah Williams, who, despite his inexperience, has managed to earn a spot in the starting lineup by impressing both his teammates and coaching staff.

“You wouldn’t look at his film and think he was a freshman,” defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. “He’s very experienced. His technique is phenomenal. He knows the playbook as well as any other offensive lineman. He’s definitely one of those freshmen who progresses very, very fast.”