Tide center Kelly: 'We could have played a lot better'
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Sep 04, 2013 | 2472 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) works to escape Virginia Tech defensive tackle Nigel Williams. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) works to escape Virginia Tech defensive tackle Nigel Williams. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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TUSCALOOSA -- Four sacks and 12 tackles for loss for a total of minus-70 yards is the stat line Alabama’s offensive line put up in Saturday's win against Virginia Tech.

The unit paved the way for only 96 rushing yards and left quarterback AJ McCarron dodging blitzers.

Sure, it was the first time playing together for this group -- center Ryan Kelly, right guard Anthony Steen, right tackle Austin Shepherd, left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and left guard Arie Kouandjio. But that doesn’t mean fans, coaches and players don’t expect more.

“We’re 1-0, and that feels good, but we knew as a team afterward that we didn’t make them quit,” center Ryan Kelly said. “We felt like they walked away with a sense that (Virginia Tech) didn’t let Alabama take control of them. I think that’s what everybody was disappointed about.

“We could have played a lot better than that and we know we’re a better team.”

The Crimson Tide’s biggest question mark heading into the season remains the same heading into the biggest college game so far of the 2013 season.

Is it a communication or chemistry issue?

“Probably a combination of all of the above,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “Number one, the most important thing in the offensive line is communication. Those guys really have to play together in terms of everything they do and how they go about doing it. … Number two is, because they haven’t played together for a long time, maybe sometimes even when there is communication they don’t trust in it.”

Saban noted it would take time before the line comes together the way offensive lines have in the past for Alabama.

“We need to have faith, trust and confidence in what we’re doing, but we need to communicate it and have trust in that, too – and each other, so that we can all play with confidence,” Saban said. “I think that’s going to take some time to develop, but I also think that we’re capable of doing it much better than we did.”

Kelly stressed that the communication issues are fixable. He said the responsibility of properly communicating as a team falls on everyone’s shoulders, including his.

“There were some points where I didn’t put the offensive line in the best situation to make plays,” he said. “I think everybody on the offensive line and offensive team took a little responsibility. As an offense, that’s who we are. Everybody’s got each other’s back. We just have to keep moving forward.”

Kelly never imagined he’d be fielding questions about the team’s poor performance after a 25-point victory, but he and his fellow linemen aren’t shying away from the criticism.

“I didn’t really know what type of beast I was walking into, I guess,” Kelly said. “That’s just how it is at Alabama. The standard has been set high by the guys before us. We’re always going to carry it out that way.”
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