Alabama Football: Three breakout Sophomores to watch

Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /
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Alabama Football
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Ja’Corey Brooks is probably the most well-known returnee in a gutted wide receiver room. Rising junior Traeshon Holden actually has more experience and career catches (21 to Brooks’ 15), but Brooks came on late in the 2021 season and rose to the occasion when Alabama needed receiving help. He showed a higher ceiling than his peers, first bursting onto the scene in the 4th quarter of the Iron Bowl.

Star receiver Jameson Williams had missed much of the game due to a targeting ejection, and the Alabama offense had struggled as a result. Backed up on their own 3-yard line, Alabama trailed 10-3 with only one minute and 27 seconds on the clock. With their backs against the wall, the offense had one more chance to do something it hadn’t done all game; reach the end zone.

Brooks, a former five-star recruit who began the drive with only two career catches, made a pair of clutch grabs that ultimately kept the Tide’s playoff hopes alive. He first made a tough 21-yard snag along the sideline, pushing the Tide into Auburn territory and stopping the clock with a minute to go. A few plays later, he made an equally difficult catch for a 28-yard touchdown that silenced the capacity crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It was one of the most important plays of the season for Alabama football, and made Brooks an instant college football celebrity.

Brooks was fairly quiet a week later, making only one catch in Alabama football’s lopsided SEC championship victory over Georgia. Unfortunately, John Metchie suffered a torn ACL in the contest, and once again Brooks was asked to step up. In the Cotton Bowl against Cincinnati, he recorded four catches for 66 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown on the most explosive play of the day for the Alabama offense.

After Jameson Williams went down with a torn ACL in the national title game, Alabama was without its top two receivers for the remainder of the game. While the green Alabama receiving corps failed to make the big plays and tough catches necessary to bring home the championship, Brooks was one of the most reliable targets for Bryce Young. He finished with a career-high six catches for 47 yards against Georgia.

Next season, Brooks will compete with Holden and classmate Agiye Hall for a starting spot on the perimeter. The recent addition of Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton further muddies the waters of the Alabama football receiving room. Nonetheless, Alabama returns the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, and Bryce Young will almost undoubtedly put up big numbers again in 2022. Someone will be on the receiving end of those numbers, and I believe Ja’Corey Brooks is primed for a breakout sophomore season.