Alabama football quarterback Bryce Young has not quite received the respect he deserves nationally this offseason. Of course, no one is saying Bryce Young is terrible. Considering he is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, however, he has largely been overlooked.
He struggled in the College Football Playoff last season, and that is the lasting memory that most of the nation has of him. It seems the CFP has skewed the perceptions of fans and media alike, allowing people to forget just how good Bryce was for the majority of last season.
Alabama Football: Media high on Stroud
Despite Bryce Young’s return after winning the Heisman last season, most pundits consider Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud the early favorite to win the 2022 award. Stroud is an excellent quarterback that put up absurd numbers that rivaled those of Young. However, I would argue that Young’s production came against tougher defenses and with less weapons at his disposal. Alabama football, of course, played an SEC West schedule before playing Georgia twice in the postseason.
While it’s true that Bryce Young was fortunate to have two of the best receivers in college football, Ohio State almost certainly had a deeper and more talented receiving corps. Although it could be argued that Ohio State didn’t effectively capitalize on his talents, Jameson Williams, Alabama’s most dangerous weapon in the passing game, transferred in after being unable to crack the rotation in Columbus.
Regardless of whether or not Williams was used properly at Ohio State, Alabama football had two difference-making receivers at most. To add further limitations to the offense, at least one of them was missing in three of Bryce Young’s worst performances (at Auburn, Cincinnati, and Georgia in the national championship game).
To give credit where it’s due, Stroud did have an incredibly impressive showing in the Rose Bowl without two of his top receivers, but this was also where the difference in the depth of the receiving corps became obvious. The playmakers behind Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson proved to be just as good, if not better. Meanwhile, Alabama’s reserve receivers did not even appear to be mentally ready to play.
Alabama Football: No running game
Young also operated a one-dimensional offense for a good portion of the season. Injuries hit the Alabama running back room hard, and the result was the worst rushing offense in the Nick Saban era (77th nationally in YPG, 79th nationally in YPC). Young was able to overcome the predictability of the offense to put up Heisman numbers, while Stroud was accompanied by one of the best running backs in the nation, along with two more-than-capable rotational pieces.
Alabama’s offensive line struggled throughout last season, and the pass protection was abysmal at times. In games where he was under extreme duress throughout the entirety of the contest, Bryce Young still posted respectable numbers.
Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn, and Georgia (national championship) all opted to send the house after Bryce Young, taking advantage of the permeable Alabama offensive line and banking on Bama’s receivers not having enough time to get open. They were largely successful, and the undersized quarterback took a beating in all four games.
He was still able to complete 112 of 193 passes (58 percent) for 1,357 yards (339.3 YPG) with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Obviously, these aren’t Heisman-caliber numbers, but they are fairly impressive considering the circumstances. In these four games, Young had poor pass protection and little to no running game to lean on. In two of the games, he was missing one or both of his star receivers.
Alabama Football: Peak performances
Perhaps Bryce Young’s two most spectacular performances came against two of the best defenses in the country. His school record 559-yard showing against Arkansas, followed by his shredding of the vaunted UGA defense two weeks later in the SEC Championship game cemented Young as the Heisman winner.
In these two games, he connected on 57 of 84 passes (68 percent) for 980 yards (490 YPG) and eight touchdowns with no interceptions. For good measure, he added a rushing touchdown against Georgia. These masterpieces showed that at his best, Young is capable of putting up video game numbers against defenses stacked with NFL talent.
Still, Bryce Young has been an afterthought for much of this offseason. Perhaps it’s just because he has already won college football’s most coveted individual accolade. Maybe it’s because of his relatively poor CFP performance. It’s my belief that Young played pretty well in those games in the face of tremendous adversity. Most of the college football world has forgotten that he was nearly flawless prior to the CFP, throwing for 43 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
I fully expect Bryce Young to have a much improved supporting cast in 2022, and remind the nation that he won the Heisman Trophy for a reason.