TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With A-Day and spring practices in the rear-view mirror, the page has turned to the summer and gearing up for the regular season for Alabama football.
During the Crimson Tide’s annual spring game, there was a plethora of players, who will be on the two-deep depth chart this fall, not suited up due to medical reasons.
So keep that in mind when judging anything off the White Team’s 13-10 victory over Crimson on Saturday afternoon.
In 2021, the Crimson Tide’s offense will have the biggest shoes to fill, replacing a unit that had three Heisman Trophy finalists so here is a position-by-position look at where the group stands post-spring:
Jalen Milroe (did not play in A-Day Game)
Sophomore Bryce Young capped off his first ever spring camp by earning MVP honors of A-Day, as he threw for 333 yards and one touchdown on 25-of-44 passing. So, the Pasadena, Calif. native put to rest any idea of a quarterback battle, as if there was ever one.
“I think he did a good job today,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after A-Day. “I think that probably in a game like today, there’s a lot more drop-back passes just by the way you sort of plan the game. You have a minimal number of plays that you’re gonna run in the game, so probably some of the issues that we have in the offensive line with guys missing, the pocket collapses on him and he was in some tough situations relative to that.
“But I think he’s done a really good job all spring. We continue to work on him kind of having the presence out there that affects other people in a positive way, and I think he’s starting to get more and more respect from the other players by the way he plays. But every scrimmage we had, he performed very, very well, and I thought he performed well today. Quarterback’s a hard position to play when the people around you don’t play well. He had some opportunities that he couldn’t take advantage of because of pressure he got in the pocket.”
With no Jalen Milroe in attendance, all his absence did was push the talk of a battle for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart to fall camp. Redshirt-sophomore Paul Tyson went 18-of-34 for 174 yards.
Developing depth at the position will be key for Saban moving into the regular season, as all Alabama fans are aware of in recent years, a backup quarterback might be just as important as the starter in some cases.
Replacing the 2020 Joe Moore Award winners will be a difficult task for Saban and company and, even after 15 spring practices, the group is still a work in progress. Both the Crimson and White teams combined for six sacks on A-Day.
It’s also difficult to judge the group as a whole because of injuries and other absences this spring like Emil Ekiyor Jr. and Pierce Quick. Junior Darrian Dalcourt, who will likely be a part of the two-deep rotation, did not suit up on A-Day either.
During the Crimson Tide’s annual spring game, the first-team group on the White Team, from left to right, was junior Evan Neal, sophomore Javion Cohen, redshirt-senior Chris Owens, redshirt-junior Tommy Brown and redshirt-senior Kendall Randolph.
The second-team line on the Crimson Team that blocked for quarterbacks Paul Tyson and Braxton Barker was freshmen Tommy Brockermeyer and Terrance Ferguson II, sophomore Seth McLaughlin, redshirt-sophomore Amari Kight and freshman JC Latham.
Later into the game, sophomore Dameion George Jr. saw time at right tackle for White and freshman James Brockermeyer saw time in the interior for Crimson.
While all quarterbacks during A-Day combined to throw for 578 yards, the running game wasn’t a threat for either side for the majority of the afternoon, only compiling 83 combined yards.
However, throughout the spring, this relatively young position group saw gained meaningful experience having to match up with Alabama’s pass rush that includes the likes of Will Anderson, Christoper Allen, LaBryan Ray and Chris Braswell, who burst onto the scene on A-Day for three sacks.
“Look, Will Anderson can rush,” Saban said earlier this month. “Chris Allen can rush. We’ve probably got more guys that can rush that have more maturity. We’ve got a couple of the young guys that can rush. So they’re getting challenged, which I think is good. We always say, ‘When you get to practice against really good guys, that really helps your development, helps you self-assess, helps you know what you need to improve on.’ And I think if we got everybody back in the offensive line and we got everybody healthy, I think we would have a pretty good group.
“But with the guys that are out being out and moving guys around, I think that really kind of — I wish it wasn’t that way, but we have to manage the situation and the circumstance that we’re in. And the experience that these guys are getting at multiple positions will be benefit them in the long run because we’ll go into next year with more guys being able to play more spots.”
Brian Robinson Jr. (did not play in A-Day)
Trey Sanders (did not play in A-Day)
Barring any injuries, this group will be one of the Crimson Tide’s many strengths in the fall. Brian Robinson Jr. didn’t suit up for A-Day, but according to Saban, the senior tailback led the way all spring with his practice habits and work ethic and really proved why he wanted to return for a fifth year.
Sophomores Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams both showed off their versatility by combing for 89 yards on the ground and 127 yards through the air at A-Day.
“They’re both great running backs,” Alabama safety Jordan Battle said. “They have great balance in running the ball. They have speed and power. And they’re both low to the ground, so that makes them a little hard to tackle. Overall, they’re both great players. They’re going to be great players for us in the future.”
Redshirt-sophomore Trey Sanders is still recovering from a car accident from last November and was only cleared for individual workouts this spring.
Camar Wheaton will arrive this summer and add to an already loaded group, that could vie for deepest running back room in the nation.
John Metchie III (did not play in A-Day or perform this spring)
Christian Leary (did not play in A-Day)
Ja’Corey Brooks (did not play in A-Day)
Sophomore Traeshon Holden was Young’s favorite target during A-Day, recording nine receptions for 89 yards on 14 passes, however, it was early enrollee Agiye Hall who stole the show.
Hall showcased his circus-catch abilities with four receptions and 72 yards of his own. Saban mentioned afterwards that he is looking for guys to compliment junior John Metchie II, who is one of the only Alabama wide outs with meaningful playing experience.
Replacing the production of the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner in DeVonta Smith and a potential first-round pick in Jaylen Waddle won’t be easy, but Saban has helped build Alabama into “WR-U” on the recruiting trail and there is a bevy of talent in the position group to make up for what’s been lost.
Alabama added wide receiver to Keilan Robinson’s positions on the online roster so don’t be surprised to see him line up in the slot in the fall to take advantage of his elite speed. Freshman JoJo Earle is another playmaker who will be making his way to the Capstone this summer.
“I wouldn’t trade the guys that we’ve lost the last two years for anybody,” Saban said last month. “Probably all of them first-round draft picks. So I don’t know that anybody that’s here right now has earned the first-round draft pick. Maybe (John) Metchie, and he’s not really practicing this spring, so I’m not really counting him. These guys all gotta prove themselves. I think speed kills on the football field and on the highway. I love to have speed guys. We have some big guys, but we’ve gotta get some speed guys, too.”
When Bill O’Brien now calling plays as offensive coordinator, Alabama fans should expect to see more designed plays for the Crimson Tide’s two athletic tight ends in Jahleel Billinglsey and Cameron Latu.
Billingsley broke out towards the end of the 2020 campaign, while Latu, the former defensive end, flashed this spring and hauled in a 59-yard touchdown pass from Young on A-Day.
Latu also scored in Alabama’s two other scrimmages this spring.
“I think that we’ve always been, all the years we’ve been here, we’ve done what our players can do,” Saban said on using a two tight ends set more this season with Billingsley and Latu following A-Day. “When we had great wideouts, we played three wideouts more. When we had really good tight ends, we had tight ends in the game. And I think Latu certainly had an outstanding spring, had a drop or two today, but he made some really good catches and he’s made some good catches throughout the spring. Jahleel is a very talented player who can make plays.
“So to use those guys relative to what they can and how they can help us offensively I think is what we always wanna try to do — assess what players that we have and what can we do to help those players be most successful in terms of how we feature them. We’ve always tried to do that on offense. I think defense — you’ve heard me say this before — you play a system on defense because you have to adapt to so many things, and offensively, you’re always trying to adapt the system, which we have a lot of versatility in our system, to feature the players that we have. And certainly these two tight ends are guys that have shown a lot of promise this spring.”