As is the case pretty much every season, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team begins the summer as the consensus favorite to win the National Championship yet again. With legendary Coach Nick Saban at the helm, it is really expected at this point that Alabama is the favorite every year.
In fact, since Nick Saban’s first year at Alabama when they lost six games, they have never lost more than three games in a season; even that has only happened once in 15 years. Although last year’s team sent at least 11 players to the NFL this spring, there is still a plethora of talent coming back from last season as well as one of the best recruiting classes in the entire nation.
The upcoming season is highly anticipated, especially due to the return of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. It is never easy in the SEC and even more difficult in the west, but if anyone is up to the task, it’s the Crimson Tide.
Alabama Football Preview
The Offense is Loaded
Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien returns to the helm and will continue play-calling duties as well as looking to further develop his relationship with superstar quarterback Bryce Young. If Young can build on his freshman season where he set Alabama records with 4,872 passing yards and 47 touchdowns, he may find himself breaking his own records next season.
Congratulations to Bryce Young for winning the ESPY for best men’s college athlete of the year! 🥳🔥 pic.twitter.com/OO3kXJfa2M
— Sidelines – Bama (@SSN_Alabama) July 21, 2022
To go along with Young, Alabama has a stable of four and five-star recruits that are highlighted by returning running back Trey Sanders and Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs. Two more players that could be getting touches out of the backfield are running backs Roydell Williams and Jase McClellan, both of whom are coming off of injuries. Finally, there are incoming freshmen Emmanuel Henderson and Jamarion Miller who could also be vying for touches.
Given the kind of talent Alabama typically has at every position, tight end is a bit of a wildcard. Right now it appears that redshirt senior Cameron Latu is the starting tight end but Coach Saban was able to bring in junior college transfer Miles Kitselman from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
Over the last few years, Alabama has produced numerous high-level NFL picks at wide receiver, so it will be interesting to see who emerges this season to lead the room. Receivers Traeshon Holden and Ja’Corey Brooks return having seen the most playing time on last season’s team and thus have a potential advantage on the other players at the position. Another potential starter is Georgia transfer, junior Jermaine Burton. According to bamahammer.com, Burton possesses “elite top-end speed and has shown the ability to consistently get behind defenses on vertical routes.” AL.com also reported that the Crimson Tide added “four top-100 receivers in Aaron Anderson, Shazz Preston, Kendrick Law, and Isaiah Bond.”
There is a new offensive line coach this season, as Eric Wolford has taken over for the departing Doug Marrone. This offseason, the team got a big boost in the trenches when Vanderbilt transfer Tyler Steen confirmed that he would be attending Alabama as a graduate student. While it is still very early, it would make sense that Javion Cohen and Emil Ekiyor should retain starting spots. While Seth McLaughlin, Damieon George Jr., J.C. Lathom, Kendall Randolph, and Amari Kight will all be battling for starting spots along with Tyler Steen.
Defense Will Continue to be a Strength
Alabama enters this season needing to replace four starters from the 2021 team that made it all the way to the national championship. One of the strong points on the defensive side of the ball is cornerback, where returning player Kool-Aid McKinstry could be paired in the starting lineup with senior Khyree Jackson or decorated LSU transfer, Eli Ricks.
AL.com reported that the defense also returns four safeties that were on the roster last year including starters Jordan Battle and Demarcco Hellams, as well as top sub package options in Brian Branch and Malachi Moore.
At inside linebacker, the defense returns starter Henry To’o To’o but has many options to put with him including Deontae Lawson, Kendrick Blackshire, Ian Jackson, and Shawn Murphy. At outside linebacker, the defense brings back one of the best players in the entire country in Will Anderson Jr., who won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy last year as the best defensive player in college football. According to Sports Illustrated, Anderson led the country last season in sacks with 17.5 and tackles for loss with 34.5 while also being named a co-captain by his teammates. Dallas Turner is also expected to return as a starter to play in tandem with Anderson. The defensive line will feature returning starter of three years, DJ Dale, as well as Byron Young and Justin Eboigbe. AL.com also hypothesized that Tim Smith could compete for playing time along with the likes of freshmen Jaheim Oatis, Khurtiss Perry, and Isaiah Hastings.
Saban’s Achilles’ Heel Has Been Special Teams
Alabama will begin this coming season with a new special teams coordinator in Coleman Hutzler, who replaces the departing Jeff Banks. Although there may be no questions around Alabama’s Week 1 matchup against Utah State, there are questions if they can cover a (-39) point spread.
PicksforTonight’s college football computer model says they can’t, but the Crimson Tide will come out hot to try and prove them wrong. The kicker position is set with Will Reichard coming back to Tuscaloosa for his fourth season. The punter position returns last year’s starter, Australian James Burnip, though Jack Martin is also back so there could be a competition for the starting job. Finally, the kick and punt return jobs are not certain by any means though JoJo Earle and Ja’Corey Brooks have experience performing those duties and so they have an edge over the competition.
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