Alabama is the new O-line U


Penn State is known as Linebacker U. USC and Notre Dame fans argue about which school really is Quarterback U. And Wisconsin and USC have great OL traditions, but under Nick Saban, Alabama is now truly Offensive Line U. The Crimson Tide have produced six All-Americans and seven drafted offensive linemen, including four first-round selections, over the past seven years. That total should increase after this May's draft as tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is expected to be selected in the first round.

Impressive indeed, but what's scary is Alabama's future looks brighter than ever, thanks to the six offensive line recruits heading to Tuscaloosa as part of the Class of 2014. With a little more than three weeks to signing day, the Crimson Tide have commitments from three linemen ranked No. 1 at their positions and two more ranked in the top three at their positions.

It's a remarkable group that Alabama fans are calling the best offensive line class assembled -- ever. But Tide fans aren't the only ones recognizing this group as elite. Recruiting analysts across the country have gushed about the group and even rival coaches recognize this is a special group.

"A case of the rich getting richer," one SEC coach said. "We recruited a lot of those guys, so we know how good they are. In the past, Alabama would always recruit one or two elite linemen and the others would be pretty good. This class, they're all the cream of the crop. It's complete. I don't know if you can say it's the best ever until they get on the field and play, but on paper this is the best line class I have ever seen."

The Tide have been great at offensive tackle since Saban arrived. The run started with Andre Smith, an All-American and first-round draft pick, and continued with first-round pick James Carpenter and first-team All-American and first-round pick D.J. Fluker. Kouandjio was an All-American this season, and Cameron Robinson, the nation's No. 3 player and top-ranked offensive tackle in the 2014 class from West Monroe (La.) High School, is next in line. Robinson, who is joined in the class by top-ranked juco offensive tackle Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo), knows there's pressure on him to carry on the tackle tradition under Saban. The pressure was actually something that drew him to Alabama in the first place.

"There's an expectation that few other places have," Robinson said. "I didn't want to go someplace and have zero expectations. I always thought I thrived on stress, and being an offensive tackle at Alabama, there is plenty of it."

The interior prospects aren't too shabby, either. Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls) is the No. 3 offensive guard, Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul's Episcopal) is the top-ranked center, J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge) is the second-best center and Montel McBride (Plant City, Fla./Plant City) ranks in the top 30 at guard.

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