Alabama Crimson Tide Preview 2022: Offense
It was a strange year for the Alabama offense. It was explosive, it was fantastic, it was loaded with talent, it quite possibly came within a Jameson Williams injury away from pulling out a national title, and it had a funky way of taking a nap for long stretches.
It’s hard to argue with the overall production – seventh in the nation overall averaging 488 yards per game, sixth in scoring averaging 40 points per outing, No. 3 in third down conversions, and the quarterback did win that Heisman thing – but it left the party a bit early in the close call against Florida, didn’t get the invite against Auburn until it was almost too late, and it had to work way too hard in the 20-14 win over LSU.
The big-time stats will be there, and there will be those forget-about-it games when it hangs 50 on the board in a light scrimmage, but the consistency has to start with …
The offensive line. It gets back three starters and welcomes in Vanderbilt’s Tyler Steen to take over at left tackle, but it was among the worst in the nation in sacks allowed, was last in the SEC in tackles for loss allowed, and it wasn’t as strong as it should’ve been for the ground attack.
Even so, Emil Ekiyor is an NFL blocker at guard, JC Lathan should be fine at right tackle, and things should be fine if Steen does what he’s supposed to.
There are two big differences, though, for this year’s line. Bryce Young should be an even faster decision maker thanks to his experience, and they have a different type of back to block for.
Brian Robinson was a terrific, tough guy runner, and Najee Harris was obviously special before his life as a Pittsburgh Steeler. Bama hasn’t had a home run hitter at RB, though, like Jahmyr Gibbs in a while.
The Georgia Tech transfer has 5-11, 200-pound size, and he can move when he gets into the open. Give him a little bit of a crease and he’ll rip off yards in chunks.
Trey Sanders is back after finishing second on the team with 314 yards and two scores, and Jase McClellan is a good option who needs more work.
The focus will be on the offensive line early on, but Alabama needs receivers to rise up and rock. It’s Bama, so the playmakers will be there, but Jameson Williams (Detroit), John Metchie (Houston), DeVonta Smith (Philadelphia), Jaylen Waddle (Miami), Jerry Jeudy (Denver), Henry Ruggs (former Raider), and Calvin Ridley (Atlanta) set the wide receiver bar ridiculously high over the last few years.
The hope is for Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton to be another Williams – a deep threat who’ll blow up in the system with more chances.
Burton caught 53 passes for 901 yards and eight touchdowns over the last two years – averaging 17 yards per catch – and now he’ll get his shot to be a volume catcher. Louisville’s Tyler Harrell only caught 18 passes last year, but he averaged 29 yards per grab and scored six times.
The tight end situation is terrific. Cameron Latu was third on the team with 410 yards and eight scores as a big deep threat who can do it all.
Oh yeah, and there’s Bryce Young to make everyone better.
The coolest guy in the room, he played with a maturity and demeanor beyond his years with 47 touchdown passes and just seven picks in his Heisman season. He kept on producing even after losing his top receivers to injury, and he came close to pulling out a national title with an undermanned attack with a legendary Georgia D knocking him around.
Star recruit Ty Simpson is the main man in waiting, but redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe is the key backup for now.
Alabama Crimson Tide Preview 2022: Defense
It’s not quite right to say the defense has slipped over the last few seasons from its unreasonably high standards, but the focus has been more on the offensive side as the program adapted to the modern era of the game.
The D was the best it’s been since 2017 with a dominant pass rush, a stifling run defense, and allowing just 304 yards and 20 points per game. Even so, it can do more. It just might with all the phenomenal talent returning. It starts with …
The pass rush. There’s no questioning Bryce Young’s Heisman win – the guy really was the most valuable player as well as the most outstanding – buuuuuuuuut, yeah, you’re not wrong if you think Will Anderson deserved it. All he did was come up with 17.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss from his hybrid Jack position.
He’s back, and the rest of the linebacking corps is outstanding, too. Pass rusher Dallas Turner returns on the strongside, and leading tackler Henry To’o To’o is back in the middle to get to everything against the run.
The front three might not be in charge of getting into the backfield with the linebackers doing the heavy lifting, but end Byron Young will come up with his share of tackles for loss. 6-3, 300-pound DJ Dale will anchor the D on the nose, and there’s a whole lot of depth to rotate around and like Bama always does.
How good is the Alabama secondary situation? It’s already terrific with veterans in place, and the – arguably – two best players aren’t quite in the mix yet.
Jordan Battle is a next-level safety who came up with 87 tackles with three interceptions, Brian Branch made 55 stops and broke up nine passes from his safety spot, the corners are solid with Kool-Aid McKinstry and Khyree Jackson ready to step up, and …
LSU transfer Eli Ricks is an All-American who’ll quickly grab one corner job once he’s healthy after undergoing shoulder surgery, and Malachi Moore is one of the team’s best pro prospects who wasn’t quite right last year with a back problem. If and when they’re healthy, they’re the stars of the show.