Alabama football: Tide haven't needed Bryce Young ... and that's a very good thing
Now that we have reached Chapter 9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide hymnal, let’s turn to the page entitled “Rip The Backup Quarterback.” Everyone please follow along …
Bryce Young is awful. Bryce Young is not the answer. Alabama needs to recruit another quarterback, because this Bryce Young cat? Totally not the guy.
Feel better now?
Picking nits of this microscopic magnitude on this Crimson Tide squad is as annual a tradition as “Fire (Insert Coordinator’s Name Here)” and “Why can’t that defense pitch shutouts every week?” You can almost set your watch to how they come up on the calendar — almost equidistant from Alabama’s place in the national ranking is how some simply cannot shut up about the freckles on the supermodel.
So listen carefully, y’all: Bryce Young isn’t awful. No one knows if Bryce Young is or isn’t the answer. And if you gave me a single shot at immortality if I chose the best college football recruiter drawing breath into his lungs, I’ll take Nick Saban and walk away with eternal life.
In a way, it is easy to see why Crimson Tide fans — generationally spoiled absolutely rotten by the twin coaching supernova known as Bryant and Saban — can entertain such prima facie discussion. After all, they have seen Bryce Young about as often as Halley’s Comet. They didn’t see the kid, who entered UA in January as an early enrollee, at all during spring practice because no program in the country had spring practice. They didn’t see the kid at all during fall workouts because, well, *no one* sees fall workouts.
All the average Alabama football fan knows about Bryce Young is that he seems to hand off decently and doesn’t seem to make great decisions when asked to throw the ball.
Problem is, that’s like judging a world-class brain surgeon based on how he parks his car in the deck on his way into the OR. “That guy can’t hit the space with his Porsche? GET A NEW ONE!”
Backup quarterbacks — heck, backup anythings in any sports — are backups for a reason. Almost exclusively young, they’re in the spot they’re in because they need to learn and mature and become familiar with their surroundings. Just as the world-class brain surgeon didn’t perform his first medical procedure the morning he mis-parked his Porsche, he instead went through a lot of training and practice and residency to get it right.
Young, ladies and gentlemen, is at that spot right now. At this time last year, Young was concerned with final exams and maybe saying goodbye to his homecoming date at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. He was packing his room up and about to head cross-country to college football’s ultimate NFL factory and take his place in line for a shot at Alabama’s big chair.
Yes, Young came with tons of hype. Throw for 13,520 yards and 152 touchdowns in a high school career — en route to earning All-American Bowl Player of the Year, Gatorade Player of the Year in California and High School Quarterback of the Year by the National Quarterback Club honors — and it is likely you’d come with tons of hype too. Yes, he plays the marquee position on the marquee team in the marquee college sport in the country.
But at the core, Young is a 19-year-old kid who no one inside the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility wanted to see anywhere near meaningful game action in 2020.
That goal, incidentally, has been a rousing success. Mac Jones — who, like Young was a backup to superstars Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa and was also widely regarded as a uniform filler are recently as last year at around this time — is a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate who has directed the powerful Crimson Tide offense littered with fellow superstars to a record-setting campaign so far. That means Young gets mop-up minutes like he did against LSU last weekend.
Just as Jones did before him. And AJ McCarron did before him. And Greg McElroy did before him. Et cetera, et cetera …
Young has thrown just 18 passes this season. He completed 10 of them for 137 yards and 1 TD. His longest completion is 35 yards.
This week could prove to be Young’s coming-out party, if all goes to plan in Fayetteville. With all due respect to the Arkansas Razorbacks, they aren’t exactly the most fearsome opponent Alabama could roll out a week before the SEC Championship Game. And it wouldn’t surprise a whole lot of people if Saban bubble-wrapped Jones — along with running back Najee Harris and wide receiver DeVonta Smith — safely on the visiting sideline once the Hogs are penned.
Doing so would get not only Young, but fellow underclassmen reserves like him, more minutes of live fire. That’s the fastest way to improve a young player, to let him run a significant portion of the scheme and make correctable mistakes on the field.
Whether Jones hangs around Tuscaloosa for 2021 or tests the NFL waters, said time against LSU last weekend and potential time against Arkansas will help Young more than a zillion practices working as the scout-team QB. That’s simply common sense.
So check yourself about Bryce Young. He’s just, ahem, young.
He’ll be just fine.