Kouandjio improving steadily as as season progresses
Cyrus Kouandjio arrived in Tuscaloosa last season with a lot of expectations. Widely touted as one of the nation’s best offensive linemen, Kouandjio initially committed to Auburn before switching his commitment a few days later to play for head coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
During Kouandjio’s first season, he saw spot action in several games before going down with a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee. His experience during his first season taught him a lot about college football, how to dominate the line of scrimmage and how to play left tackle properly.
When the spring rolled around and Kouandjio was finally ready to begin practicing again, although not 100 percent healthy, he got a chance to jell with the rest of the offensive line and settle into a starting role. Now, with three games under his belt as a starter, he is beginning to show signs of dominance and improvement.
“This is my first actual season of starting and playing in college football, and it’s been memorable,” said Kouandjio. “I just learned that you gotta keep working. … I’ve had my good moments, I’ve had great moments, but I’ve had bad moments. I’m just glad these bad moments happened early so they won’t happen again.”
Those bad moments were evident early in the season when Kouandjio and the rest of the Alabama offensive line allowed six sacks to a weaker Western Kentucky side. Some players have attributed the struggles to a lack of focus, others have given credit to the Hilltoppers for making the right plays. Regardless, it’s a building block Kouandjio used heading into last Saturday’s conference opener against Arkansas — a game that saw the offensive line turn in a dominant, powerful performance.
“I had a lot more focus and I played a lot better,” Kouandjio said. “It’s always about getting better because if you don’t get better you get worse. It’s all about day-by-day and it’s about game-by-game. So you focus on getting better day-by-day.”
The 6-foot-6, 311-pound sophomore has played a significant part on the Alabama offensive line. He’s had some mistakes and faults, but he has realized just how hard it is to be successful at left tackle.
“You practice how you play,”said Kouandjio on Wednesday. “If you have a bad practice, it’s going to go into the game, you’re going to have a bad game. If you relax in practice, if you (play) down in practice, its going to show up in the game.”
Arie Kouandjio getting stronger, impressing athletic trainers
Cyrus Kouandjio’s older brother, Arie, has had his share of knee problems as well. Arie struggled from injuries to both knees and spent the majority of the 2011 season and spring practice recovering from surgeries and rehabbing with hopes of earning a spot on the two-deep. As fall camp and practice pressed on, the older Kouandjio did just that. Arie has been working in different areas on the offensive line, mostly with the second unit.
“You know he’s out there, he’s playing and he’s doing good,” Cyrus said of his brother. “He’s getting pancakes and big blocks. I love his attitude because he can’t be stopped with such a good attitude.”
Arie had both of his knees cut open during surgery and had to fight his way back into the rotation on the offensive line. His ability to push through the pain and fight harder each day has earned him a unique nickname from the Crimson Tide’s athletic trainers.
“I’m proud of [Arie]. A lot of the athletic trainers talk about him a lot,” Cyrus said. “They call him Jason off of Freddy vs. Jason because he just keeps on coming. They cut up both his knees, they chopped them up real good and he just keeps on coming.”
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