The quarterback may be the most important player in football, but every good offensive line needs its own signal-caller, and Alabama’s Landon Dickerson is among the best in the 2021 NFL Draft class.
Sure to be one of this year’s most sought after offensive line prospects, Dickerson recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his experiences at Alabama, winning a National Championship, where he’s at in his rehab process, and what kind of skill set he brings to the next level.
JM: You transferred to Alabama at the end of 2018. I can’t imagine that you have any regrets over that. Now that you’ve had some time to reflect on the decision, how do you look back on it?
LD: I honestly believe that coming to Alabama was one of the best decisions I ever made. It really helped me develop as a player. The system and the coaching staff here suited me as an individual player more than it did at Florida State at the time.
It was really more about what I could have done personally to become a better football player. That’s exactly what happened for me at Alabama.
JM: Do you have a favorite moment in an Alabama jersey?
LD: The National Championship game. It’s not even about playing that single snap at the end. It was the entire experience of the game that was so special to me. Watching everybody go through that, it was really something. To be a part of that, it was really just phenomenal.
I know a couple of guys on the team that played in multiple National Championships, but that was my first and only one. It was extremely exciting for me. It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
JM: Speaking of the final snap in the National Championship, there were actually some rumors that you were going to play in the game. That would have been crazy. How close did you come to actually playing?
LD: No sane doctor or athletic training staff was going to let me play two weeks removed from ACL surgery (laughs). Physically, I probably would have struggled a little bit, but I would have been able to play.
It’s one of those things that wouldn’t have been smart on anybody’s part. Nobody was going to put me in that position.
JM: That makes sense. How have you been preparing for this pre-draft process?
LD: I’ve just been focusing on working out and rehabbing my leg. I’m doing everything I can to get back in playing shape. That’s my deal right now.
Mentally, I’m familiarizing myself with the NFL language. It really isn’t all that different from what I learned at Alabama. It hasn’t been much of a struggle for me.
JM: How’s the rehab process going for you?
LD: I’m taking things day by day right now. I’m now two months removed from surgery [writer’s note: interview was completed on 2/23]. It’s a long process but I’m right on schedule. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I can’t ask for it to be going any better than it is. That in itself is a blessing.
JM: Despite being in the middle of rehab, you decided to go down to this year’s Senior Bowl and take part in the event. I thought that decision said a lot about your character. You wanted to be there despite the injury. What was your experience like in Mobile?
LD: It was a phenomenal experience. I enjoyed the opportunity to get in front of every NFL team. That’s the only chance that we’re gonna get to meet face to face with them throughout this process. Everything else is going to happen virtually.
I really enjoyed being around the players. That was probably my favorite part. Bouncing ideas off one another and talking football with them, that was a lot of fun.
You don’t really realize how different things can be from school to school until you start talking with other players. Scheme wise, fundamentals, techniques, all of these things are different depending on the program. How they’ve been taught to do things isn’t exactly how I’ve been taught to do things.
We picked and pulled each other’s brains when it came to technique. We discussed what works for them and what works for me. There were so many things that I hadn’t seen before. It was a great learning experience for everybody involved. The socializing aspect and chance to talk football with some of the best players in the nation was the part that I really enjoyed.
JM: That sounds like a terrific experience. You also got to meet with every team. What do you think is the overall impression you left on the teams in attendance?
LD: Hopefully a good one (laughs). I wanted to be there to be around the guys, to be around my teammates in attendance. I was around two excellent NFL coaching staffs. I was coached by them. I have a great understanding of their philosophies as coaches and organizations.
I was on the Carolina Panthers' side and I spoke with several members of their staff throughout the week. I feel like I left a good impression on the Panthers. Hopefully they feel the same way.
JM: I’m sure they do. What’s your favorite part of playing the center position?
LD: I really just enjoy offensive line play in general. It’s one of the only positions in football where your job is to protect somebody else. We get to have fun and be creative with how we do that.
The way I play physically, that’s something I really enjoy.
JM: It’s evident on tape. What can you tell me about the scheme Alabama ran on offense? What were some of your responsibilities?
LD: We ran a pro-style offense. I had full control of MIKE points, and assignments in the run game and pass game. I would set double teams. I would set the MIKE. I could flip plays if I didn’t like them, I could run them to a certain surface whether that was inside zone, outside zone, power, or whatever it may have been.
We pass protected the same way. I gave the running back his assignment if he was a part of that. I would put us in a slide or change the slide if I saw anything that I didn’t like. Mac [Jones] always had the ability to override things if he felt necessary.
Mac and I would sit down during the week and discuss what we wanted to do. I always knew what he would want to do in certain situations. He didn’t have to rely on looking at the box or trying to look at the entire field. He could focus on his main responsibilities and I could fix up things in the box for him to make his life easier.
JM: I love how in-depth you went there. Talk to me about some of the basic differences in how you approach the run game versus the passing game.
LD: If we’re just talking about basics, front identification comes first. That’s No. 1, not only for me and our offensive linemen, but it also tells the quarterback and running back what I’m identifying the front as and how we’re going to block it.
Calling out the MIKE to my guys comes next, whether I was doing that for myself or for the playside double team, the puller, or maybe I’m gap-scheming the double team going back.
I approach the run game and passing game the same way because I don’t like to give away any tendencies. I’m always identifying the front first, then the MIKE and giving out calls for what we’re gonna do, if we’re sliding in a protection, if we have a double team on, if I’m pulling or the guard is pulling.
However that may be, that’s how I go about it.
JM: That’s a terrific breakdown. What’s your favorite way to demoralize your opponent?
LD: Moving a man from point A to point B against his will is the best way to do it. Whenever they know they’re not in control anymore, that’s when they start to kind of give up.
JM: I love that. Playing at Alabama afforded you the opportunity to play against the best competition college football had to offer. Who were some of the best defensive linemen you ever went up against?
LD: Not just in practice, but I actually played against Alabama (laughs). The best players I ever played against all came from Alabama. When I played against them, they still had Da’Ron Payne, Da’Shawn Hand, Raekwon Davis, Anfernee Jennings, and several others. All of those guys are special players. Christian Barmore. I can go on and on.
There have been a ton of guys. I can sit here and list every single defensive player, really (laughs). Every guy that comes to Alabama develops into an extremely good player. We had great competition every day in practice.
JM: There’s no doubt about that. From the second I asked you about transferring to Alabama, you talked about the coaching staff. What was it like to play for coach Nick Saban and his staff?
LD: The staff at Alabama obviously changes quite often. We have a lot of turnover at every position other than head coach. A lot of those coaches have been in the NFL and have been successful in other places.
We’ve had head coaches come in as coaching analysts. The amount of knowledge on that staff is just incredible. You can walk up to any member of that staff and ask them a question about certain concepts, techniques, fundamentals, or any situation really. You’re always going to get a well-thought-out answer.
I adjusted my game for the better because of how many resources I had at my disposal. I can figure out my strengths and weaknesses, techniques or ways to play that suited me more than most other people. That’s because of the coaching staff that I was lucky enough to play for.
JM: There’s no denying the strength of that staff on a yearly basis. What can you tell me about Mac Jones the player, the person, and the leader?
LD: Mac Jones is one of my best friends both on and off the field. He’s an extremely intelligent guy. He’s a student of the game. He’s naturally gifted, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t go out there and rely on that. That’s what makes him such a special player.
We would always sit down during the week and go over film. We studied game tape. We always knew what we were gonna get. That allowed us to enter every game with a terrific amount of anticipation. We did that every single game. There wasn’t a blitz, pressure, or front that we didn’t recognize.
That’s what sets Mac Jones apart from other people. What he puts into the game, he spends hours and hours each week making sure that he’s ready for whatever situation may arise.
JM: It shows on tape. Before I let you go, I want to talk about something terrific that you’re doing off the field with this Bama Bumper Fundraiser. Tell us a little about that and what cause it’s serving.
LD: I’m auctioning off my bumper. It’s kind of like a makeshift railroad bumper. It got a lot of traction when Najee Harris put it out on social media. People loved it.
Fast forward to the National Championship. We were down in Miami. Brian Wolnewitz, who’s a fire chief down there, is a huge Alabama fan. Through one of the coaches, we were able to get in contact with him. A bunch of guys at his fire station pulled together some money and got him tickets to the game since he’s such a big fan.
I called him right before we left for the stadium. I wanted to talk to him a little bit. I know that fans enjoy interaction with players so I wanted to do that for him.
Brian was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. He’s been battling that. His family has obviously been through a lot.
That’s when I came up with the idea to auction off the bumper. I ordered a replacement bumper at the same time. I thought it was a great idea to raffle off the existing bumper I have. It’s signed by Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood, DeVonta Smith, Mac Jones, myself, Deonte Brown, and Thomas Fletcher.
I just thought it would be a great piece of memorabilia for somebody to have. It’s a one-off thing. It’s not a football or a pair of gloves that may be floating around somewhere. It’s truly a one-off, a single, rare piece of memorabilia.
I thought that not only was this a great way to give a fan an opportunity to own a piece of memorabilia from our National Championship-winning year, but more so a great way for me to help out Brian, his family, and Fire Fighters to the Rescue—which is the charity he’s working with.
I wanted to help them out and do something good for the family.
JM: That’s a terrific cause and we urge everybody to head over to the auction page and enter for a chance to win and do something nice for somebody that is going through something very difficult.
I’ve really appreciated your time tonight, Landon. This has been terrific. I appreciate the opportunity to break down some football with you. You’re clearly going to make a pro team very happy. In closing, what kind of impact is Landon Dickerson going to make at the next level?
LD: I’m hoping to go in and become one of those guys that’s consistent in everything I do. I just want to be somebody that my team can rely on every single day.