Alabama football: Handing out superlatives for the Tide's 2021 regular season
Alabama didn’t field its most dominant team in recent memory this season. However, there was no lack of compelling storylines when the Crimson Tide took the field.
Determining the most interesting aspect of Bama’s regular season is no easy feat. Was it the handful of new offensive replacements who were expected to be immediate stars? Was it the highly-touted transfer from an SEC rival who could fill a need on defense? Or, was it another transfer who went from anonymity to one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the nation?
I’ll let you decide on that. In the meantime, here are the superlatives that made Alabama’s 2021 regular season so intriguing:
Quarterback Bryce Young has to be considered the most valuable player considering how he responded to the pressure and expectations. Young had to replace first-round NFL Draft pick Mac Jones while playing with a group of unproven receivers and a rebuilt offensive line. Young didn’t flinch. He managed to become arguably the best quarterback in the nation and one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. If he doesn’t win the award this season, the sophomore will be a heavy favorite to win the Heisman heading into next season. Winning 2 Heisman Trophies isn’t out of the question.
With kudos already handed out to Young, let’s do what he does and spread the wealth.
No better recipient than his favorite, most explosive option: Jameson Williams.
(Let’s not dismiss Brian Robinson’s effort, though. He finished 3rd in the SEC regular-season standings with 1,071 yards and gutted out a good-enough performance against Georgia in the SEC title game. He did all of that while dealing with the pressure of replacing Najee Harris. So, accomplishments noted.)
Simply put: Where is Alabama without Williams?
Well, we saw in the Iron Bowl — after his early ejection — how stuck in the mud this Tide offense can become.
Williams was tasked with replacing the Heisman Trophy winner — and somehow made you wonder if he might actually be more explosive.
Williams continues to lead the SEC with 1,445 receiving yards and 15 TD catches. He won’t catch Smith’s record-setting 23 TD receptions from a year ago, but with at least 1 and hopefully 2 games to go, he’s within striking distance of Smith’s 1,856 yards.
Edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. isn’t just the defensive MVP for Alabama; he’s the defensive MVP for all of college football. Anderson began receiving consideration for the Heisman Trophy in October. For reasons that make no sense, the sophomore wasn’t even one of the Heisman finalists. However, his underclassman status is something for Alabama fans to revel in. While others debate whether to chase their NFL dreams or study for another year of finals, Anderson is just a sophomore, so there will be another season to watch him continue to bloom and dominate.
True Freshman of the Year
Linebacker Dallas Turner provided a very suitable backup to Christopher Allen, who suffered a fractured foot in September. Turner has been in and out of the starting lineup, which has relied largely on his strengths and what offenses offer up. However, Turner has played in every game. His future looks extremely bright. At 6-4 and 245 pounds, he has the frame to hold up against elite competition. Turner has played strongside linebacker this season. It will be interesting to see how versatile Turner can be while under the guidance of Alabama’s defensive coaches.
Transfer of the Year
This one should scare opposing fans. No one doubted that Henry To’o To’o was talented when he signed with Tennessee before the 2020 season. However, his future was certainly in doubt when he transferred to Alabama. Did To’o To’o lack patience to become great? Would he languish on the bench behind other talented Alabama linebackers? None of that was true. To’o To’o became an instant starter and playmaker. He has also become a team leader by multiple accounts. If Saban handles the transfer portal like he did with Offensive MVP Williams and To’o To’o, then the rest of the SEC has further reason to fear Alabama for a brand new reason.
John Metchie III began the 2020 season as a backup. An injury to Jaylen Waddle created more playing time for Metchie last season. Then, DeVonta Smith won the Heisman Trophy and left for the NFL. All eyes were on Metchie. He responded. He wasn’t the deep threat that Williams was, but Metchie got open and kept drives alive.
He tore his ACL in the SEC title game. Alabama will miss him moving forward.
Williams’ decision to transfer from Ohio State was a bit curious. Why would a Missouri native who wasn’t happy with his playing time as a Buckeye decide to leave a high-profile program with a solid foundation? Why would he choose a school that is all about competing amongst the nation’s best in the nation’s toughest conference? Why would Alabama even accept him? Now, we know. Williams is a star and will continue to be a star. Ohio State fans should be the ones who are curious now.
Play of the Year
Many will point to Bryce Young’s 28-yard TD toss to Ja’Corey Brooks that forced OT in the Iron Bowl. Fair enough. That was spectacular and Playoff-saving.
But let’s backtrack a bit, shall we? The play of the year occurred in the second half of a season-opening blowout. Why? It was a statement that Alabama would be just fine on offense after replacing so many great players from the 2020 team, especially at receiver. Williams caught a deep pass from Young, outran a pair of Miami defensive backs and posted a 94-yard touchdown reception. That put the game completely out of reach at 34-3 and was a sign of things to come from Williams, who transferred from Ohio State. Williams showed off his top-flight speed on that play and has continued to do so all season.
Win of the Year
Remember, this is a regular-season award, so the dominant win over Georgia in the SEC title game isn’t eligible.
The regular-season win over the year is pretty obvious. Alabama kept its championship hopes alive in a 4-overtime, comeback win against Auburn to end the regular season.
Alabama’s offense struggled and couldn’t even score until midway through the 4th quarter. However, thanks to Young’s epic 97-yard drive (he accounted for every yard via run or pass), the Crimson Tide were able to tie the score at and force overtime. They eventually won a classic Iron Bowl 24-22.