Predicting the Crimson Tide Offense A Day Depth Chart
Crimson Tide fans are just a few short days away from getting their first look at the revamped 2021 Alabama offense at the A Day Spring scrimmage.
The Crimson Tide replaces eight starters offensively including Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, all-time leading rusher Najee Harris, fan-favorite Landon Dickerson and quarterback Mac Jones. Additionally, Nick Saban had to find a new offensive coordinator after Steve Sarkisian moved on to Texas as the Longhorns's new head coach. Saban hired former Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien to take over the offensive headset.
O'Brien is a balanced mind, which may play to his advantage in the early stages of the 2021 season as the playmakers for the reloaded Crimson Tide become more clear.
While fans wait to learn just a bit more about the next iteration of the SEC juggernaut, there's still some time to speculate on what the depth chart look like come Saturday.
- Bryce Young
- Paul Tyson
- Jalen Milroe
- Braxton Barker
Bryce Young may have actually won the 2021 job when he secured the 2020 backup job to Mac Jones. He did so despite not having a spring or summer to practice in due to the pandemic. Still, Young was the only quarterback to take game snaps a season ago.
Saban has praised Young for having improved as a player from his first season. He performed well enough in the first two closed scrimmages to drown out much of the quarterback competition discussion.
“I think everybody’s made a lot of improvement. Bryce has made a lot of improvement. I think he’s a lot more confident," Saban said before the first scrimmage. "But I think just having all the reps that he had last year, he’s much more confident. I think he’s doing very well.”
As for Paul Tyson, the oldest scholarship quarterback on the roster has been a bright spot as well, though nothing indicates he's made the necessary leap to steal the job from Young. Tyson has only seen action in one game, 2019 against Western Carolina, but in 2021 Tyson should see some opportunity in any blowout games. Standing 6'5", 230lbs with a rocket arm and functional athleticism, there's plenty to be excited about when it comes to the great-grandson of Paul "Bear" Bryant.
Jalen Milroe steps in having impressed in his first few weeks of collegiate practices. He may have fought off a true redshirt designation for the season, though his playing time may grant him one regardless. Saban said Milroe showed "a lot of improvement" following the second scrimmage.
Braxton Barker is a name familiar to Crimson Tide fans that has turned up a few times this spring. He isn't in line to take the starting gig, but he's been worthy of mention which points to him having a lead over the other walk-ons and the best chance to take the field Saturday as one of the teams' backup.
- Brian Robinson
- Jace McClellan
- Keilan Robinson
- Roydell Williams
- Kyle Edwards
- Cooper Bishop
The absence of Trey Sanders leads off the tail back section because he would certainly be high on the depth chart if he were healthy. Though he is practicing in individual drills, he is still rehabbing his hip injury and likely won't see the field for action Saturday.
Brian Robinson returns a fifth-year senior prepared to lead a stacked Crimson Tide backfield in 2021. Though he will no doubt have to share a massive portion of carries this year, he'll be the one relied on to close tight games and sustain drives. He holds the leadership trait over the room and has been praised for such by Saban to the media.
“But Brian Robinson’s had a really good spring," Saban said after the second scrimmage. "He’s done a great job, shown really good leadership in terms of his practice habits and the things that he’s done, so we’re very pleased with the way he’s done."
Jace McClellan has been reported as the man to take the next round of reps with Keilan Robinson returning from a 2020 opt-out a brand new man. Both are expected to be contributors when it's all said and done, but it will be interesting to see how their snaps are divided on A Day.
Though he sits low on the depth chart here, Saban said after the second scrimmage Roydell Williams had produced the most yards. Williams is a game breaker who can score from anywhere on the field and will no doubt be a candidate to steal the show Saturday.
"And I’m really pleased with all the other running backs," Saban said of his running back corp. “I don’t think that’s an issue on our team right now. If those guys can stay healthy, I think that’s a strength for us.”
- Slade Bolden
- Xavier Williams
- Javon Baker
- Traeshon Holden
- Jacorey Brooks
- Agiye Hall
- Chrisitian Leary
- Thaiu Jones-Bell
Although an exciting group, the Crimson Tide receivers lack experience. Without the services of John Metchie (ankle) this Spring, Saban has been public with how the receiving corp is being baptized by fire this offseason.
“I think we’ve got a long way to go,” Saban said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys. I think they’ve got a lot of ability. I think their heads are swimming, probably, a little bit right now with all the different things that they have to learn on offense, but you’re also seeing probably a lot more things than you’re used to seeing out of the defense, so that creates a lot of multiples for a young guy. So we just want to get those guys to where they have confidence in what they need to do to be able to go out there and execute and do their job on a consistent basis. We’re not there yet and we’re making progress, and I think that every one of those guys will see what they need to improve on and we’ll go to work on it on Monday.”
Saban has steadily shown more appreciation for the gradual improvement of the group, but he mention how its hard to evaluate the offense with the youth out wide.
"I saw good things from everybody, and I saw things that we definitely need to improve on," Saban said after the second scrimmage. "But for me to single out somebody that I thought was outstanding today, I’m not really ready to do that.”
If it's hard for Saban to evaluate his players, imagine trying to predict a depth chart full of nearly equal talent.
What we do know is the reliability of Slade Bolden will be displayed often Saturday. Hopefully we'll learn a bit more about who steps up among the second-year receivers, Xavier "Ziggy" Williams, Javon Baker and Traeshon Holden. Williams and Baker saw the most time last year, but it was Williams who saw the bulk and produced game stats.
As for the freshmen, Agiye Hall, Jacorey Brooks and Christian Leary, it's a matter of who can make the most of playmaking opportunities Saturday for his quarterback in order to stand out, especially with the shallow and uncertain depth at the position.
- Jahleel Billingsley
- Major Tennison
- Cameron Latu
Tight end is probably the most straight-forward p[osition group for the 2021 offense.
Jahleel Billingsley closed the 2020 season in impressive fashion and is expected to pick up right where he left off. Expect whichever quarterback he's paired with Saturday to lean heavily on his services.
Major Tennison returns as a fifth-year senior. Tennison has seen a lot of action over his career, though he has just six career receptions. Regardless, his experience and blocking abilities are valuable traits the offense will gladly take.
- Evan Neal | Tommy Brown | Chris Owens | Emil Ekiyor | Kendall Randolph
- Tommy Brockermeyer | Peirce Quick | Darrian Dalcourt | Javion Cohen | Damieon George
- N/A | Amari Kight | James Brockermeyer | Seth McClaughlin | JC Latham
The offensive line has been a tough evaluation for Saban and new line coach Doug Marrone for a similar reason to the wide receivers, injuries. Emil Ekiyor and Peirce Quick are unavailable this Spring and Evan Neal left the second scrimmage with an injury of his own. However, the situation opens up opportunity for guys like Tommy Brown and Javion Cohen to help the offense find the best five.
Evan Neal and Chris Owens are the big experience players up front and their positions are set in stone, as is Ekiyor's hold on the right guard spot.
Tommy Brown and Kendall Randolph have been reported at left guard and right tackle. Randolph has served as the sixth man for the line for the past two seasons and has even seen time as a blocking tight end.
The biggest names to watch in the backup battles are Tommy Brockermeyer, Javion Cohen and JC Latham, each of which were highly touted recruits from the past two classes.
“All of our young guys have been doing good," Chris Ownes said after the first scrimmage. "We’ve been moving people around every day. That’s part of what spring is -- just trying to figure out who can play, who can take the meetings and bring them to the field."
There's our prediction. With practices being closed, information is hard to come by. A Day will certainly give us a clearer picture of the offense's pecking order at each position. With the opportunities A Day presents and a more active Summer on the way, the 2021 Crimson Tide is beginning to take shape.