The 2022 Alabama Football Team: A Season of “What could’ve been”
After Alabama's 33-18 loss to Georgia, many fans and media members believed that Nick Saban and Alabama were going to go into the 2022 season with a vengeance, looking to earn back their spot as the champions of college football.
And these assumptions certainly didn't come out of thin air. Alabama was returning almost all of its defensive starters, including Alabama's star pass-rushing duo, Will Anderson and Dallas Turner, standout freshman Kool-Aid Mckinstrey, MIKE linebacker Henry To'o To'o and other key members of Alabama's 2021 defense.
The Tide offense wasn't lacking in its fair share of key players coming back either. Yes, Alabama lost superstar wideouts Jameson Williams and John Metchie III to the NFL, but they were also returning the reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young, Cam Latu, Iron Bowl hero Ja'Corey Brooks, and three key offensive linemen.
Alabama also received five transfers, all of which were expected to make an impact. LSU's star corner Eli Ricks was expected to be Alabama's second shutdown corner opposite of Mckinstry. Alabama also reloaded on the offense, bringing in former Georgia Bulldog Jermaine Burton, and Louisville Cardinal Tyler Harrell to help replace Williams and Metchie III. The Tide also brought in Tyler Steen from Vanderbilt to lock down the Heisman's blindside, and Jahmyr Gibbs from Georgia Tech, who was lined up to be the next great Alabama tailback.
So what went wrong? If this team was supposed to have one of the best defensive units in the nation and an explosive offense with playmakers all over the field, why did it not turn into the program's 19th national title?
Now before we move on, I'm not one to say that this was a bad season; it just fell short of expectations. Alabama finished 11-2 and Sugar Bowl Champs, ending the year ranked No. 5 in the final AP poll. Many programs around the nation would've loved to have the season Alabama's just had.
From my point of view, there's no one thing to blame for the Tide's disappointing '22 campaign. You could point to several things that caused Alabama to miss the SEC Championship Game and the CFP.
Many fans will point to an offense that lacked imaginative play calling and identity. This was evident in several games this year, most notably against Texas and Texas A&M. Including questionable play calling, the lack of a clear-cut WR1 stalled the offense in situations where they struggled to find a rhythm and needed to get something going.
Yes, Jermaine Burton and Ja'Corey Brooks were reliable down the stretch, and the freshmen Kobe Prentice, Isiah Bond, and Kendrick Law showed promise. But, the truth is, that Alabama only had two games where they had a receiver record over a hundred yards, and it was clear they didn't have a receiver that could take over a game.
Several people may take the easy way out and say that Will Reichard missing the potential game-winner against Tennessee as the reason we lost the game, causing Alabama to fall behind in the SEC.
Personally, I don't agree with this. Throughout the game, Alabama played undisciplined football, committing 17 penalties, and subsequently giving the Volunteers a free 130 yards. And on the final Alabama drive, Gibbs dropped a pass that may have led to a touchdown, if not a much easier field goal attempt.
The Alabama defense did also have an opportunity to stop the Vols' offense after Reichard's miss.
Overall, from both of Alabama's losses, one or two plays weren't the reason they lost. If you lose two games by a combined four points, both on the final plays of the game, there isn't one play that led to a losing result.
Several fans have also put part of the blame on the Tide's defense. Coming into the year, many people expected Alabama to have a classic Saban defense. A big, strong, and intense group of players who dominated opposing offenses. And while we saw glimpses of that dominating defense throughout the season, the Tide never blossomed into what we believed they could be. Whether it was questionable coaching, certain players not executing, or personnel mistakes, this defense simply fell short of its high ceiling.
This Alabama team was also uncharacteristically undisciplined. The Tide were ranked 126th in the nation in total penalties, being penalized 103 times for 893 yards. This constantly led to Alabama digging itself into a hole, killing possessions on both sides of the ball.
There also seemed to be a collection of players who coach Saban called "energy vampires". Saban stated this in a press conference during the week leading up to the Sugar Bowl matchup against Kansas State, "Well, when you have guys on your team sometimes that -- I call them energy vampires -- you use all your energy on these guys, trying to get them to do what they’re supposed to do. Those are the kind of guys that don’t end up playing in bowl games, and don’t end up doing the best things and make the best choices and decisions for the team and all that, because they’ve got other motivations, which I’m not being critical of.".
This seems to be comparable to last year's Alabama Basketball team, who had a lot of potential and beat some good teams but overall had a collection of guys on the team that were playing simply for themselves and not for the benefit of the team.
This season was, by Alabama standards, a disappointment. We may never really know the true story behind the letdown of this season, but Alabama fans for years will be asking the question "what could've been" with this collection of talent.