Alabama’s status as a preseason favorite to make the college football playoffs isn’t exactly a new concept. It’s where Nick Saban’s teams have lived since the CFP’s inception in 2014. Only once during that time have the Crimson Tide failed to make the playoffs. It should surprise no one that this is exactly where they are preferred to land again this season.
Alabama returns arguably the two best players in college football with quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson Jr. Young won the Heisman Trophy in his first season as a starter, and Anderson won an armful of defensive awards and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting. They are the rock stars and the leaders of the best team in the country.
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Alabama Offense Preview for 2022
With Young back at center, much will be expected of this unit. However, this year’s edition can lean a little more on the running game thanks to a stable full of excellent running backs and a relatively inexperienced receiver corps.
Transfer running back Jahmyr Gibbs is set to take the SEC by storm after playing in relative obscurity at Georgia Tech. He’s got talent aplenty and his speed is a perfect match for offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s offense. Gibbs averaged 5.2 yards per carry during his two-year career for the Yellow Jackets and was a threat in the passing game, catching 60 passes with five touchdowns. Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams both return from knee injuries and add depth to the position.
Wideout Jermaine Burton beat Alabama for the national championship in his final game for Georgia and then traded to UA. Without a doubt, the opportunity to play with Young was a key reason. Burton hasn’t been introduced to Georgia, but his skills are on par with John Metchie III, who caught 96 passes for the Tide in 2021.
Much hinges on a rebuilt offensive line that loses first-round left tackle Evan Neal. The group is full of big, athletic road levelers, so getting thrust shouldn’t be as problematic as it was a season ago when short-distance situations were anything but a given. Three starters return, all inside the line. These are the tackle spots that will be watched more closely.
What’s left to say about Young that hasn’t already been written or said? He was a point guard and the reason Alabama won its 29th SEC championship last season. Even without Tide’s top two receivers, he helped UA take a lead in the fourth quarter of the national championship game. He’s expected to produce at a similar level this year, even without the tried-and-true goals at wide receiver.
Alabama Defense Preview for 2022
On defense, it all starts with Anderson, who had a historic great season in 2021. His 17.5 sacks as the main center of attention on opposing offenses stood out, but his 34.5 tackles for a loss made his truly remarkable season. He might be hard to beat, but one thing is for sure: blocking him one-on-one is nearly impossible.
Her bookend is back this season. Dallas Turner had 8.5 sacks himself, and the pair proved too much for Alabama’s offensive line to handle in the spring.
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Saban says the coaching staff is working on ways to get Chris Braswell onto the pitch with them at the same time. That would bring together the three best passing throwers on the field and could become a nightmare for offenses trying to protect their quarterbacks.
The defensive line doesn’t have the kind of marquee players that top rushers boast, but the rotation should be deep, which should help keep the unit fresh in games and throughout the season.
Henry To’oTo’o is back for his fourth year as a starter – two with Tennessee and now two with Alabama. He’s a tough, instinctive defender who played through the pain last season. He will have a new running mate by his side this year after Christian Harris opted for the NFL. Jaylen Moody, the most experienced contender, has had a solid spring and is in a good position to earn the go-ahead to start. Deontae Lawson is the other candidate.
Jordan Battle is the most experienced player in high school and a great athlete. He had 85 tackles and three safety interceptions last season. He is the leader of the rearguard of the defence.
There is a three-way competition for the two cornerback spots. Kool-Aid McKinstry seems stuck at one of the spots, leaving Khyree Jackson and LSU transfer Eli Ricks to fight for second place. Ricks was injured last season and subsequently lost weight. He fought to add weight and learn defense.
Brian Branch really took off at the end of last season, and it continued into a great spring. The Star defensive back is ready for a great junior season.
Related: SEC football predictions for 2022
Alabama Specialists Preview for 2022
Placekicker Will Reichard had two solid seasons in an area known to cause trouble for Alabama. He made 79% of his attempts last season. Punter James Burnip has averaged 39.1 yards on 48 punts and dropped 15 inside of 20. The Tide will have to replace Jameson Williams on returns, but Saban likes the quick options he has on hand.
Bad sign for college football: Saban really likes this team, calling it “a fun bunch to coach.” This group seems to have the intangibles that other big Saban teams have boasted about.
“This team has been really good,” he said. “This team has no complaints; the guys are just doing what they’re trained to do. They work hard. We don’t have a lot of negative guys on this team, and we have real positive leadership, which I think is still important. And hopefully we can build on that, and it will be something that will be an asset for this team.”
National Ranking: 1
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