Alabama football’s historic ’20 season has come and gone, so let’s take an early look at how the ’21 team’s two-deep may look like on the offensive side of the ball.
It appears that everyone from the 2020 Alabama football team has made their choices to stay or go (the NCAA gave everyone free seasons of eligibility), so we have a clearer picture of where the 2021 team stands in the way of the dreaded depth chart.
Here, we’re going to look more specifically at the first and second teams and there are two qualifiers:
One, I will be evaluating players who’ve suited up for the Tide prior to 2021. This means no incoming true freshmen from ‘Bama’s vaunted 2021 recruiting class.
It’s entirely possible that the likes of Tommy Brockermeyer or JC Latham on the offensive line or JaCorey Brooks at wideout or “Kool-Aid” McKinstry at cornerback will solidify themselves among the front lines of an already-deep squad of athletes, but for these purposes, we’re going to let them participate in spring practice/fall camp before heaping upon expectations.
Two, I reserve the right to be as wrong as I want to be. Deal with it.
So, without further ado, here is my projected “two deep” for the 2021 Alabama football season on offense.
No. 9 Bryce Young – Sophomore
No. 15 Paul Tyson – Redshirt Sophomore
This is more than an educated guess as the precocious Young backed up the downright revelatory Mac Jones throughout his true freshman season in 2020. Obviously, totally counting out the literal blood of Paul “Bear” Bryant (Tyson) is a fool’s errand, but it’s not just the lofty recruiting ranking that leads me to believe Young is the guy: that arm is for real.
And once he figures out pocket presence and gains confidence, dude’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. Young isn’t near where Tua was in his development, but making those comparisons is madness. Young looks to be the real deal.
No. 4 Brian Robinson – No. 24 Trey Sanders
No. 21 Jase McClellan – No. 23 Roydell Williams
Brian Robinson announcing that he was one of several seniors to use the NCAA’s free year of eligibility due to COVID-19 to return to the Alabama football team is a major coup for an already-supremely talented running back unit. Backing up Najee Harris for two seasons couldn’t have been easy, but the Tuscaloosa native looked punishing with the ball in his hands, to the tune of 5.3 yards per carry. It’s going to be great having him back.
Robinson’s co-starter, in my estimation, will be rising redshirt sophomore, Trey Sanders. It’s his time and I firmly believe he’s going to catch a break and show us what he’s made of. The primary back-up will be some permutation of McClellan and Williams, both of who were a blast to watch in mop-up duty last season.
No. 8 John Metchie III
No. 11 Traeshon Holden
No. 3 Xavier Williams
No. 5 Javon Baker
No. 18 Slade Bolden
No. 14 Thaiu Jones-Bell
There’s a seriously talented crop of receivers in the 2021 Alabama football recruiting class that could render much of this projection moot, but Metchie and Bolden will be starters. Metchie, a Canada native, was already adored by fans throughout the regular season, but his bone-shattering hit on Florida DB Trey Dean III in the SEC Championship Game cemented his status as an Alabama football legend.
Xavier Williams garnered play at the tail end of the 2020 season and, while I believe rising sophomore Javon Baker has a higher ceiling, redshirt junior Williams obviously earned the extra snaps, thus giving himself a leg up at the other wideout spot.
No. 19 Jahleel Billingsley
No. 81 Cam Latu
As the tight end position evolved at both the collegiate and professional level, it’s hard to find a Michael Williams type among the Alabama football starters. O.J. Howard and Irv Smith, Jr. showed how athletic the big pass catchers could be when given the chance and Billingsley looks to be the next star at the position.
From an in-line/jumbo package standpoint, expect fifth-year senior Kendall Randolph (an actual offensive lineman) to be the guy, but as I just mentioned, Billingsley and Latu are the newfangled athletes at tight end and these are the guys you’ll most likely see.
No. 73 Evan Neal
No. 75 Tommy Brown
Neal was downright terrifying at the right tackle spot in 2020 and, while some believe he’s a little too stiff to take on the role of the blind side protector, the rising junior is going to be the unquestioned leader of the entire o-line squad and I expect major things from the 6’7″ behemoth.
No. 72 Pierce Quick
No. 55 Emil Ekiyor, Jr.
First off, I don’t think we appreciate the name “Quick” attached to an offensive lineman enough. Secondly, it’s his time. The former Top 100 player from Trussville waited patiently his first two seasons behind such stalwarts as Deonte Brown and Ekiyor, but with three years of eligibility left, expect big things from the talented redshirt sophomore.
Until the aforementioned talented true freshmen make names for themselves, I’d expect Ekiyor to be a back-up at a couple of different spots.
No. 79 Chris Owens
No. 71 Darrian Dalcourt
I have a feeling that I’m going to go back and forth on this until spring practice, but for right now, I’m leaning towards the Swiss Army knife, Owens, retaining the position he left at the end of the 2020 season. Owens is yet another senior taking advantage of the free season and due to how well he played in Rimington Trophy winner Landon Dickerson’s stead in the Playoff, his time in the program will be leaned upon in 2021.
That being said, Dalcourt is definitely nipping at his heels and if Owens gets a look at right tackle, I definitely expect the Maryland native to be the next man up.
No. 55 Emil Ekiyor
No. 51 Tanner Bowles
Ekiyor may be the only guy from the 2020 offensive line to play at his same spot in 2021. Ekiyor’s just one of those guys that you can trust to play at a high level at damn near every spot on the line. He proved to be a steady force on the interior during his first full season as a starter and looks to do the same for at least one more season.
Bowles, a rising redshirt sophomore, is more than likely one injury away from getting his first start in Tuscaloosa.
No. 57 Javion Cohen
No. 79 Chris Owens
I don’t have a lot of evidence that bears this out, but I just have a feeling that the highest-rated offensive lineman in the Tide’s 2020 class will be taking over Neal’s spot at right tackle. He has great size and in limited play in mop-up duty seems to play with serious aggression. Again, Owens could be the guy here and a guy like Brockermeyer or Latham might stake their claim early on, but expect Cohen here for the time being.
That’s it for this edition. Coming soon, we’ll take a look at the defense.