Grading the Tide: Offensive Position Group Grades Heading into the Bye Week:
It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for the Crimson Tide and now we are headed into the worst weekend of the season for Alabama fans, the bye week. Nick Saban’s squad is 7-1 and will face two tough road tests at LSU and at Ole Miss before returning back home for a tune up game against Austin Peay before the Iron Bowl. There have certainly been some things to like and some things not to like over the first eight games of the campaign for a 19th national championship. Let’s take a look at and grade all of the offensive position groups (we’ll take a look at the defense next week), starting with the quarterbacks:
Bryce Young is having a brilliant year for Alabama, whether it is showing up as much on the stat sheet as last season’s Heisman year or not. I probably would have given the group an A or an A+, but since I have to grade the group as a whole, Jalen Milroe’s performances against Arkansas and Texas A&M have to be factored in as well. While he wasn’t horrible, his lack of effectiveness as a passer was a massive factor in making both of these games significantly closer than they should have been.
In my opinion, the loss to Tennessee was the best game of Bryce Young’s career, and he did it while not at 100% in his throwing shoulder. If not for Young, Alabama would have lost the Texas game and the Tennessee game would have been an embarrassing blowout for the Tide. I continue to contend that Young is the best quarterback Nick Saban has ever had and it isn’t close, and Young continues to show it every week.
Running Backs: A
This grade is pretty much solely about Jahmyr Gibbs. Sorry Will Anderson, but Gibbs is easily the best player on this team not named Bryce Young. Not only has Gibbs become Alabama’s bell cow back, he is also the team leader in receptions with 31 and has added over 300 receiving yards and three touchdowns to go along with his almost 700 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. Alabama is so incredibly lucky to have landed Gibbs out of the transfer portal this offseason, because the offense would be struggling tremendously without him. Jase McClellan has done a nice job spelling Gibbs as well, averaging 5.8 yards a carry to Gibbs’ 6.9.
Wide Receivers: C
Outside of the Tennessee game, which I think spoke more about the Vols’ leaky secondary than Alabama’s receivers, this group has really struggled with consistency and separation throughout the season. There have been promising flashes, but they just haven’t put it all together.
Jermaine Burton has been a pretty big disappointment, as has Traeshon Holden. In my opinion, Ja’Corey Brooks is the best of the group and should be featured more. The young speedsters in Isaiah Bond, Kobe Prentice, and JoJo Earle have had some nice moments, but again just haven’t put it all together.
The group just lacks that dominant, go-to guy that Alabama has always had in the past and it’s really hurt. There’s still time for someone to step up and separate themselves as the guy, but I think this pretty much is what it is in terms of the rest of the year. We’ll see if the group as a whole can elevate their play.
Tight ends: B
Cameron Latu has had a pretty nice season. He has 18 catches, 217 yards, and 2 touchdowns. While he is not always the most sure handed tight end, he has become one of Bryce Young’s favorite targets over the past two seasons and has made some big plays. Latu is another guy that must continue to step up his game if Alabama wants to accomplish their goals this year.
Offensive line: B-
This one is a tough grade. The offensive line play throughout the season has been at times very good, but inconsistent is probably the best way to describe it. I also think that Bryce Young’s escapability has masked some issues that the line has had protecting him, this was especially prevalent in the Tennessee game. While the run game has at times been brilliant, I think this is also in large part due to Jahmyr Gibbs elusiveness rather than the line creating a consistent push.
Since the Texas game, which was an absolutely brutal showing for the unit, it has without a doubt improved, but it’s hard to get a great idea as to exactly how much. Finishing off the Arkansas game with the running game against a very talented front seven was encouraging, but was this the line creating holes, or was it more Jalen Milroe and Gibbs being electrifying? Likely a mixture of both. In short, I think this offensive line is not great, but good enough, especially with a quarterback like Bryce Young. The days of 2020 where Mac Jones had all day to throw are long gone, but things don’t have to be perfect for Young to be successful. They just have to be solid.
Overall Grade: B
This offense has not reached its full potential, but if it weren’t for Bryce Young, I don’t think it would be a top 25 unit in the nation. They can keep improving every week, but at this point it probably looks like if this team is to win a championship, it will be Young elevating everyone around him and not the other way around. This is certainly possible, but Alabama is asking a lot out of their quarterback, more than any other Crimson Tide signal caller has ever been asked. My suggestion to Alabama fans is to enjoy the ride and be grateful for Bryce Young while he’s still here.