For the first time in what seems like ages, there is no question as to who Alabama’s next man up will be at that most important of positions: quarterback.
Bryce Young will lead the Crimson Tide offense as the team aims for Nick Saban’s record-extending eighth national championship (which would also break Bear Bryant’s record of six won at Alabama). He is the unquestioned leader in that regard, whereas his predecessors Mac Young, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts all faced some form of competition the year they took over. Hurts faced competition from Blake Barnett, Tagovailoa faced Hurts and Jones faced Young himself.
Despite that early difference, Young will reach some lofty goals if he manages to follow in the footsteps of Jones, Tagovailoa and Hurts: Each led their respective teams to the College Football Playoff — Hurts twice, with Alabama and Oklahoma — and each finished as a Heisman finalist.
Young appears mentally ready to become the next great Alabama quarterback. Just as important, he has the confidence of his team and Saban as he leads the Crimson Tide in their latest pursuit of glory.
With that, here’s everything you need to know about Robinson before the start of the 2021 campaign:
Young is Alabama’s highest-rated QB prospect ever
It is no stretch of the imagination to say Young is one of Saban’s most heralded recruits.
He is just the fourth five-star quarterback to commit to the Alabama coach, and more highly ranked than any of his previous three. The first was Phillip Sims, the No. 1 pro-style quarterback and No. 31 overall player in the class of 2010; Blake Barnett was the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and No. 6 overall player in the class of 2015; Tagovailoa was the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and No. 32 overall player in the 2017 class.
Of the previous three quarterbacks, only Tagovailoa played significant time at Alabama.
Young, a dual threat like Tagovailoa, was ranked as the No. 1 overall quarterback regardless of style and the No. 2 overall player in the 2020 class. Moreover, he is tied with three other players as 247Sports’ 20th-ranked prospect of the modern recruiting era (he boasted a .9994 rating out of a possible 1.000). He’s tied with Alabama offensive tackles Andre Smith (2006) and Cyrus Kouandjio (2011) as Saban’s highest-rated recruits of all time. Defensive end Nolan Smith, (Georgia, 2019) is the other.
He is not a run-first quarterback
Young may be labeled a dual-threat quarterback, but what that means to him is not what it means to the average fan. This is how he views his label, according to a 2019 interview with USA Today High School Sports:
“People in the (NFL), the Lamar Jacksons, Kyler Murrays, the Baker Mayfields, people like that are really pushing the envelope of what dual-threat means,” Young told USA Today. “People think a dual-threat is someone who can, a running back that can throw a little bit … but really dual-threat should mean, and it does mean in my mind, someone who has the ability that can really do both as far as extending plays and run the ball but is still a passer.”
Young has experience against high-level competition
Young never faced a situation in 2020 where he had to win a game for Alabama; many of his appearances on the field came during garbage time, though he did show flashes of what could be. He finished the season completing 13 of 22 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown to DeVonta Smith.
That’s not to suggest Young doesn’t have experience in high-pressure games against elite competition. He played against some of the nation’s top teams at Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.), including Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.) and St. Frances Academy (Baltimore). He also won the 2020 MVP at the Army All-American Bowl.
Young’s most well-known adversary at Mater Dei was Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, himself taking over full time for the Tigers in 2021 after Trevor Lawrence went No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. Young and Uiagalelei faced off in the 2019 California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 1 championship game, with the latter leading St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) back from a 28-5 deficit to win 39-34 win over Mater Dei.
Young threw for 405 yards and five touchdowns, but also threw a season-high three interceptions and lost a fumble in that game.
2021 expectations at Alabama
For all the hype surrounding Young at Alabama, he seems to have handled them quite well.
The sophomore, making his Alabama press debut on Aug. 19, fielded questions for 12 minutes on his new role in the Crimson Tide offense. During that time, he also spoke of the expectations he knew he would face before he even committed to Saban:
“There obviously are expectations, but regardless of what happened in high school or any past experiences I’ve had, coming to Bama is where you come for pressure and come for expectations,” Young said (via AL.com). “Everyone here when they signed on the dotted line and decided to come here, we knew it was going to come with expectations.”
Young added that Saban discussed those expectations with him during the recruiting process, “So it’s not something I was blindsided by, and, honestly, I don’t think it’s something that is unique to me.”
What that looks like on the field remains to be seen. The Tide lost several talented veterans across the board on offense, including the line (Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson, Deonte Brown), wide receivers (Smith, Jaylen Waddle) and running backs (Najee Harris). Moreover, Alabama is breaking in a new offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien after Steve Sarkisian left the program to become head coach at Texas.
That said, the transition to O’Brien has reportedly been smooth; moreover, the Tide have arguably the deepest running back position group in the SEC (if not the country) in Brian Robinson, Jase McClellan, Trey Sanders and Roydell Williams. Alabama also has a deep receiving corps, headlined by Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams, John Metchie III, Slade Bolden and the best receiving group in the 2021 recruiting class. Evan Neal, a likely top-10 pick, will lead an O-line group that includes two more starters from last year and a handful of players from the top-ranked offensive line group of the 2021 class.
Young has plenty of talent to work with at Alabama — that was never in doubt. The only thing that remains to be seen is how well he uses it.