Here’s the dominant play the Alabama football offense needs to build on

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

From the beginning of preseason practices in early August, Nick Saban made clear he wants to see more physicality from his offensive line in 2022.

Weeks have passed since his original comments on Aug. 4 seeking that quality from the big men up front. That remains the case as Alabama football (2-0) prepares to face Louisiana Monroe (1-1) on Saturday (3 p.m., SEC Network).   

“I think the offensive line as a whole has to play a little bit more physical,” Saban said Monday.

That certainly will play a role in helping the offense avoid situations where it goes five straight drives without a first down. The physicality up front is one of a multitude of factors lacking when the offense sputters like it did in the middle of the game vs. the Longhorns. The desired physicality wasn’t necessarily there at all times in Austin, but it did make a clear appearance on one play.

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You remember the run. Anyone who was watching would.

Jase McClellan took the handoff and scampered 81 yards to the house in his home state of Texas.

That’s an easy highlight to spot. No one could miss McClellan bursting through the hole like he was shot out of a cannon as he ran past the defense, less than a year removed from a season-ending knee injury.

Take your eyes off the running back for a second, though. What you see around him provides reason for encouragement.

JC Latham, the sophomore right tackle, managed to get to the edge, flip his hips and start driving the defender out of the play.

Emil Ekiyor Jr., the right guard, found a way also to make the defender outside of him fall to the ground. Ekiyor wasn’t finished, either. He kept going. Ekiyor used his momentum to go right at the linebacker trying to track McClellan and make the tackle in the hole. Ekiyor puts that defender on his back, forced to watch as McClellan runs by. That's right. Two defenders blocked on one play.

Tight end Cameron Latu blocked another defender long enough for McClellan. Receiver Jermaine Burton also wasn’t afraid to put his hand in the pile. He sought out the defensive back and kept him from getting anywhere near the running lane until McClellan sped past.

Put all of that together, and Alabama had a well-executed play that quieted a raucous Texas crowd late in the first quarter.

Outside of McClellan’s efforts, what Ekiyor did might have been most impressive.

He just kept driving. He didn’t care if he had a tough block, and he didn’t care who was in front of him. Ekiyor just had the look of a guy who wanted to pummel anyone in burnt orange who stood in his way.

Because of it, McClellan scored.

That’s the epitome of the physicality this offensive line needs to impose its will on a consistent basis, closer to what Saban wants. That’s the perfect image of the mentality Saban has been looking for since August.

It wasn’t just Ekiyor, though. The effort from the entire group making this play happen is why it’s noteworthy.

At times, the passing game might not be working. Too often against Texas, that was the case. In those moments, the Alabama offense needs players to step up and be will-imposers.

This dominant play featured several of them.