Bryce Young, the former top-ranked quarterback prospect and No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2020, will likely be Alabama’s starting quarterback heading into 2021. That is, of course, barring something incredibly shocking taking place in Tuscaloosa. The 6-foot, 194-pounder from Pasadena, California, threw for 156 yards and one touchdown in nine games last season — seeing most of his action in mop-up duty behind Heisman Trophy finalist Mac Jones.
Now, however, it’s Young’s time to shine.
But what should be expected of him, though? Alabama lost Broyles Award-winning offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith, Outland Trophy-winning offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, Rimington Trophy-winning center Landon Dickerson, first-team All-American running back Najee Harris and Jaylen Waddle — the best “Swiss Army Knife” in the game. Whew, that’s a lot of star power to witness move on.
It’s not going to be easy for Young, but et’s break down some specific goals for the rising sophomore as he looks to lead the Tide to another national championship.
Throw for 3,500 yards
Alabama starting quarterbacks have broken this mark in each of the last three seasons (when you count Jones and Tua Tagovailoa both starting in 2019). This is what Alabama is now — an offensively-driven force in a sport that has shifted mightily toward offense winning championships.
This is a lofty goal, but it’s what Alabama is — and should be — moving forward. New offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who had been the head coach of the Houston Texans from 2014-20, has produced a 3,000-yard passer in every season that he has been a head coach except one, when Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg threw for 2,955 in 2013. Did any of those teams have the built-in advantage of consistent top-tier recruiting/draft classes? Absolutely not. Because of that, Young should put up video game numbers in 2021.
Actually, he might have to. Alabama still has star wide receiver John Metchie III, ultra-talented tight end Jahleel Billingsley and spring game freak Agiye Hall — all of whom should be big factors in the passing game not missing a beat. Sure, the running game still has plenty of talent. But Alabama’s modus operandi has included running backs doing work in the passing game, which should be even more of the plan considering the offensive line isn’t exactly a known commodity.
Rush for 200 yards
Quarterback rushing yards are tricky in college football since sack yards are factored into the equation. With that said, Young should, at the very least, be a willing runner who is able to make a few plays per game to keep the chains moving and keep opposing defenses honest.
Young rushed for 357 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Mater Dei High School, and 1,084 during his four-year prep career. He was listed as a dual-threat quarterback by 247Sports, but it’s not like he is expected to be Johnny Manziel out there. It’s doubtful that there will be a ton of designed runs in O’Brien’s scheme, but just a few per game plus yards on scrambles should be the expectation for Young.
First or second-team All-SEC
If you look around for star SEC quarterbacks right now, you might look like John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction.” Translation: Other than Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and Georgia’s JT Daniels, there aren’t many from which to choose.
Corral will likely shine in Year 2 of Lane Kiffin’s offense and, if Georgia makes the College Football Playoff or has a chance in the SEC Championship Game, it’ll likely be due to Daniels’ arm and a revitalized Bulldogs’ passing game. Even if those two things happen, a 3,500-yard passing season that includes 200 rushing yards and, presumably, an SEC Championship Game berth, should put Young right in the mix — and potentially as the top option — in the race for All-SEC honors.
Lead the Crimson Tide to CFP National Championship
It’s really hard to win a national championship, and even more difficult to do it twice in a row. With that said, Alabama’s is in a perennial championship-or-bust mode. That’s unfair to Young, Crimson Tide fans and head coach Nick Saban. But the other college football powers — Ohio State and Clemson — each have their own set of roster holes and questions to deal with. You can even argue that they have even more pressing issues than Alabama. Because of that, Young is in a perfect position to take advantage and, at the very least, put his team within 60 minutes of another national title.
Winning it all is hard. Teams not only have to be ultra-talented and well-coached, but they need a little luck along the way. Alabama is no exception. Young’s goal should be to put his team in position to avoid unlucky bounces from having a big impact on its title chances.