7 way-too-early predictions for Alabama's new-look offense in 2022
Alabama’s spring practices left them with some more suitable answers to help replace the missing offensive pieces from last year’s 13-2 campaign. Based on the early returns, their offense should eventually fall into its place despite the losses of tackles Evan Neal and Chris Owens, wide receivers Jameson Williams, John Metchie III and Slade Bolden, and running back Brian Robinson.
Coming off single-season school records in passing yards (4,872) and touchdowns (47), Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young will need to raise the bar and further find a deeper comfort level in directing an offense with new pieces in key positions.
Will Alabama’s offense be the difference in the team’s pursuit of appearing in the CFP title game Jan. 9, 2023? Here are 7 early season predictions:
Young will make history and win the Heisman again
Taking over the reins from Mac Jones, Young blossomed along the way into the quarterback the Tide envisioned before the start of the season. Over his last 9 games before the championship game, Young threw for 3,133 yards with 29 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
With the losses of his weapons of wideouts from a year ago, the spotlight will be mainly on him. As the season progresses, Young will adapt and gain self-assurance as well as answer the critics on whether he is the best quarterback in the game.
Young may not reproduce the same lofty numbers — let’s say he finishes 4,300 yards with 40 touchdowns, and runs for another 300 yards — but he will show that he is worthy of a 2nd Heisman bid. If that happens, he’ll join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin as the only 2-time Heisman winners.
Young breaks Bama’s all-time passing records
Last season, Young broke single-season school records for TD passes (47) and passing yards (4,872).
This season, he’ll become the Tide’s career leader in both categories.
Young enters the season with 48 career TD passes. Tua Tagovailoa set the record, throwing 87 career TD passes.
Young needs to get to 40 TD passes to break that mark in what very likely will be his final college season.
AJ McCarron holds the program record for most career passing yards with 9,019. Young enters the season with 5,028. He needs just 3,992 to break that mark.
Would there be a better time to set that record than during the Iron Bowl?
Burton, Brooks and (surprise!) Law will be the next Big 3
Remember the number: 3,775. That was the number that Williams, Metchie III, Bolden, and Robinson combined in total receiving yardage last season. Tight end Cameron Latu is the leading returning receiver with 410 yards with 8 touchdowns. However, this isn’t anything new for the Tide, as the above-mentioned quartet replaced Heisman winner DeVonta Smith.
Enter Jermaine Burton. The Georgia transfer who led the Bulldogs in receptions the past 3 years, was described by head coach Nick Saban as “the most consistent guy” at the position during the spring. Burton has size, speed, hands, and most importantly, the play-making ability to line up anywhere on the field, and should catch north of 70 balls for over 1,500 yards.
Ja’Corey Brooks began to show his wares late in the season last year, and he figures to be a prominent contributor. JoJo Earle is a projected starter and has been billed as a potential playmaker since he arrived, but keep an eye on freshman Kendrick Law. A 4-star recruit from Louisiana, Law’s speed caught plenty of eyes in the spring. Law has the potential to emerge from a sleeper to a staple even after the late addition of Louisville transfer Tyler Harrell.
Of course, Saban might not be done adding weapons. Former Pitt star receiver Jordan Addison will start and star wherever he lands.
Gibbs will grind the ground game
Georgia Tech import running back Jahmyr Gibbs provides the Tide a new wrinkle in the offense. Gibbs has breakaway speed and accumulated 746 yards on the ground last season for the Yellow Jackets. He also will be a weapon out of the backfield, as he caught 36 balls for 470 yards last year. Saban loves his speed, and he will take some pressure off Young throwing the ball.
Jase McClellan, Trey Sanders and Roydell Williams provide depth, but Gibbs will lead the team in rushing this fall, breaking the 1,000-yard barrier.
And he might completely redefine expectations for an Alabama running back in the passing game.
New-look o-line will come together in time
This situation looms as the current major challenge for Alabama with tackles Evan Neal and Chris Owens off to the NFL. They also will deal with new line coach Eric Wolford, who replaced Doug Marrone. The unit allowed 57 sacks last season.
The new unit allowed 10 “2-hand touch” sacks during their spring game, but don’t be overly concerned. Wolford is a seasoned SEC veteran, and he does have a stable to help fill the void.
Tackle JC Latham and guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. bring back the most experience, and tackle Tyler Steen was a 3-year starter at Vanderbilt. The line may have some rough outings early in the season, but they will emerge as a steady force down the stretch.
Points per game will take a slight dip
Alabama has finished 1st or 2nd in the SEC in scoring for 6 consecutive years. Last year was the 4th time in that stretch that they led the league — and 2nd in a row.
Can they make it 3 in a row in 2022?
Alabama averaged 39.9 points per game last year — good for 6th in the country. With the offense likely taking some time to ripen with new faces in the fold, the Tide eventually will hit their stride in the second half of the season.
They won’t top 40 points per game, but they have too many weapons to not average at least 35.
Tide bring it home
With a team that should make its mark after the first few weeks, Saban and his staff will need to do their homework this season. With an offense led by Young, Burton and Gibbs, the Tide may hit a stumbling block early, but they will gain momentum and peak at the right time.
In a rematch with Georgia, the Tide win their 7th national championship under Saban, giving him his 8th overall.