The Alabama Crimson Tide was a runaway train in 2020: can the 2021 Alabama football team replicate its success? The conveyor belt of elite college football talent entering the NFL kept on rolling in the 2021 NFL Draft. Ten disciples of Nick Saban were selected by NFL franchises in April. That put Alabama tied first with The Ohio State Buckeyes for most players selected. Three of those players (Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and Patrick Surtain II) were top ten overall picks.
The team has now enjoyed five years of nine or more draftees into the NFL. When Christian Barmore was selected at #38 overall, Alabama became the quickest recruitment class to see eight prospects selected. It is testament to the relentless recruiting process and elite training regime that Saban has fostered in Tuscaloosa. The Alabama Crimson Tide are the mega rich of college football. The Kings of the SEC just keep getting richer.
Year after year, many speculate whether the following year’s charges can emulate the success of their predecessors. And every year, Nick Saban finds a way to keep the good times coming to The Crimson Tide. Can the greatest college football coach of our time do it again for the 2021 Alabama football team?
The Alabama defence didn’t quite live up to the quality on the other side of the ball in 2020. That isn’t a criticism of the defence, but another reminder of the incredible offensive unit of last year. The good news for Pete Golding is that seven starters return to the team for 2021. This consistency should see the unit take a notable step forward next season. Golding is entering his third year as DC aged just 37. He was linked to a role on Steve Sarkisian’s staff in Texas, but to date remains in Tuscaloosa. Other coaches have departed. Linebackers coach Kevin Steele has left to become DC at LSU, and Lance Thompson has jumped ship to Auburn.
The 2021 Alabama defence has lost leading outside cornerback Patrick Surtain II and DT Christian Barmore up front. Linebacker Dylan Moses was a surprise name that was not called in the 2021 NFL Draft. He had to settle for a spot on The Jacksonville Jaguars roster as an UDFA.
There is a plethora of exciting talent on the defensive side of this 2021 Alabama football team. Will Anderson Jr had seven sacks as a rookie in his Freshman season. Christopher Allen and Christian Harris had 9.5 sacks between them – both return in 2021. Malachi Moore had an outstanding Freshman year at cornerback, leading the team with 3 interceptions. An incoming Freshman, Ga’Quincy McKinstry, is also expected to contribute in the defensive backfield.
2020 was all about the talent on offence. There’s a good chance that the highlight of the 2021 Alabama football team will be its defence.
Once more, it is all change on offence for The Crimson Tide. It starts at the top, with OC Steve Sarkisian leaving to become Head Coach at the Texas Longhorns. He has been replaced by former Houston Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien. O’Brien’s career is at a low ebb, yet there seems no better place to rebuild a struggling reputation than on Nick Saban’s staff.
One year starter at quarterback Mac Jones did enough to convince The New England Patriots that he was deserving of a First Round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Sophomore Bryce Young threw the ball just 22 times in his Freshman season. Young was a highly recruited 5 star prospect that committed to ‘Bama ahead of USC, Auburn, Baylor and Arizona State. In recent years, it appears as if Alabama has reinvented itself as a quarterback school. Young will have two years to establish himself as the starter in Tuscaloosa. He and Bill O’Brien will be crucial in each other’s career development.
Big Guys Up Front
Young’s protection will be without some key pieces in Alex Leatherwood, Deonte Brown and Landon Dickerson. All three heard their names called in the 2021 NFL Draft. Evan Neal transitioned to Right Tackle in his Sophomore year, and is expected to be one of the leading tackle prospects entering next year’s NFL Draft. Offensive Guard Emil Ekiyor Jr is also entering his Junior year. Two names to look out for are the Freshmen Brockermeyer twins, Tommy and James. Both were two highly rated and widely recruited high school prospects out of Texas who will be vying for regular game time in Tuscaloosa.
Najee Harris accounted for 61% of the team’s total rushing yards on his way to an outstanding 2020 college football season. Bryce Young’s dual threat ability will make up for some of those lost yards in the absence of a clear replacement at the position. Brian Robinson Jr is the veteran presence in the ‘Bama backfield, and he will be supported by Freshmen Jase McClellan and Trey Sanders.
The 2021 Alabama football receiver group will be a much-changed unit from the one we knew in previous years. No position has the talent conveyor belt been more apparent than at wideout. In the past two draft classes, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith have all commanded First Round draft picks. Smith had a record-breaking year on his way to The Heisman Trophy, accounting for 40% of the team’s entire receiving yards and more than half of the team’s receiving touchdowns (23). John Metchie III stepped up to the plate in the absence of the injured Jaylen Waddle. Metchie enjoyed 916 yards and 6 touchdowns in his Sophomore year. He will be expected to support his young quarterback for the 2021 Alabama football team.
Assistant coach Karl Scott admitted that “11-2 is a disappointing season here. This is not the standard” after winning The Citrus Bowl in 2020, a. In that message is an insight into the mindset of Nick Saban’s program. Good just won’t do when great is possible.
There are some testing fixtures on the 2021 Alabama football schedule. They open by hosting The Miami Hurricanes. They visit The Swamp on September 18th for their first road game of the season. Later trips to Texas A&M (October 9th) and Auburn (November 27th) should be close, but ultimately favour The Crimson Tide. If Ed Orgeron can inspire a comeback in Baton Rouge, the game against the LSU Tigers on November 6th might be another tense affair.
In reality, it is hard to foresee Alabama dropping a game in 2021. If they can get past The Gators in Week 3, then 12-0 is a very real possibility. Expect Nick Saban and the 2021 Alabama football team to make another run for the National Championship.