Mac Jones immediately knew something was wrong. Following a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s SEC Championship Game victory over Florida, the Alabama quarterback looked over to see starting center Landon Dickerson still on the ground in pain.
“Landon is one of my best friends, and if Landon is going to stay on the ground then you know something’s wrong,” Jones said during a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday. “He tried to get up, but I think our trainers were like ‘Stay down, stay down.’ So it just goes to show, that guy will put his whole life on the line for Alabama football.”
Dickerson suffered a knee injury on the play and had to be carted off the field. As he was being loaded into the cart, Alabama’s entire bench spilled out on the field, as players came up to the injured lineman to show their support. Sunday, Nick Saban told ESPN that Dickerson suffered ligament damage in his knee and will need surgery, causing him to miss the Tide’s run in this year’s College Football Playoff.
“That hurt really bad, honestly,” Jones said.
Dickerson, who was voted by his teammates as a permanent team captain Sunday night, is the heart of this year’s Alabama team. The lineman’s blue-collar approach and quirky antics have made him not only a fan-favorite but also one of the most popular players in the Tide’s locker room.
“Landon is a hard guy to replace because of his leadership, his personality,” said Saban during a Zoom call for the Rose Bowl later Sunday. “He’s very inspirational in a lot of ways to all of his teammates.”
On top of his leadership abilities, Dickerson was also a key cog in the Tide’s offensive attack. Tuesday, the 6-foot-6, 325-pound lineman shared honors with teammate Alex Leatherwood as the two were awarded the Jacobs Blocking Trophy given to the SEC’s top offensive lineman. Dickerson was also named as one of three finalists for the Rimington Trophy given to the nation’s best center.
In addition, Dickerson earned first-team All-SEC from conference coaches. According to Pro Football Focus, he leads Alabama with a 92.8 run-blocking grade and ranks second on the team with a 76.2 pass-blocking mark.
“It’s a big loss,” receiver DeVonta Smith said. “Just with one of the leaders on our team, leader on our offense. The one who gets the front moving, gets everything going.”
Dickerson was replaced by redshirt senior Chris Owens. The Arlington, Texas native will likely start in his spot when No. 1 Alabama takes on No. 4 Notre Dame during the Rose Bowl.
Owens has played in nine games this season and started in place of Evan Neal at right tackle against Arkansas. The 6-foot-3, 315-pound lineman spent time at center during preseason camp and started four games at the position last year.
While Saban and Alabama players have expressed confidence in Owens moving forward, the loss of Dickerson is still seen as a major blow to a Tide attack that ranks in the top-five nationally in scoring (49.7 points per game) and total offense (543.9 yards per game).
“It’s definitely devastating to lose him, but at the same time he brought a whole other energy to our offense, and we just got to carry that on,” Jones said of Dickerson. “And I’m sure right when Landon comes back, he’s going to be leading just the same way as he was. Obviously, it’s a big but we just have to pick up for Landon and try to bring back a national championship for him.”
Alabama (11-0) and Notre Dame (10-1) will face off in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 at 3 p.m. CT. This year’s Rose Bowl was moved from Pasadena, Calif. to Arlington, Texas due to COVID-19 concerns.
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