Nick Saban would hate it if he knew anyone on his team was looking past any opponent. But we outside of the program are not on the team and we are definitely not taking Austin Peay seriously as a potential upset perpetrator.
With that said and Alabama basically eliminated from the possibility of a playoff birth, this game is a perfect opportunity for reserves to shine and “audition”, if you will, for next season. If history is any indication, Saban will play many of his starters into the third quarter. The theory goes that he probably likes the routine of starters going into and out of the locker room at halftime with the mindset of being the starter. You don’t want to mess that up with Iron Bowl up next.
Ty Simpson has a little zip on it pic.twitter.com/uFE3oXjK2z— Blake Byler (@blakebyler45) November 12, 2022
It will be interesting to see how long Bryce Young goes and how often he passes the ball. If he hands off a lot and throws passes under 20 or so yards, it could indicate that he is still nursing a sore shoulder. Jalen Milroe will undoubtedly be the second quarterback, but it is Ty Simpson that everyone is chomping at the bit to see. And hopefully if he gets in, he will get pretty deep into the playbook.
It has mostly been the Jahmyr Gibbs show in the Tide backfield in 2022. However, he sprained an ankle early in the Ole Miss game and did not return. He was seen on the sidelines with a helmet on which could indicate that he was prepared to reenter the game if needed. However, Jase McClellan filled in admirably. Roydell Williams has been the third guy all season and has been turned to in short-yardage situations with mixed results.
It would be shocking if Gibbs did not turn pro after this season. For now, McClellan looks like the heir apparent, but there will be challengers. Jamarion Miller had 20 carries this season, but looked really good when he did carry the ball. Many Bama fans would like to see more from the freshman.
The last guy on the bench is the enigma that is Trey Sanders. He has had such a rocky path coming back from a bad foot injury in 2020 fall camp followed by a devastating car wreck later that same year. When McClellan and Williams went down with injuries last season, it was Brian Robinson backed by Sanders. He played well, but this season he has vanished back into the witness protection program. Will he be back with the Tide next year?
Alabama always seems to be thin at this position for some reason. From an offensive threat standpoint, this season has been all Cameron Latu. The former defensive end is a redshirt senior and could come back as a bonus year super senior but it feels like he goes pro. The top pass catching threat behind him could be freshman Amari Niblack who has one career reception (see above). Robbie Ouzts, who is more of an H-back/fullback, also has one catch. He will not be making anyone forget OJ Howard.
Kendall Randolph is strictly a blocker and out of eligibility. Newcomers Elijah Brown, Danny Lewis, and Miles Kitselman have played very little and may be ones to watch on Saturday.
Tyler Booker on the Bryce Young deep ball to Isaiah Bond, my goodness. Elite pic.twitter.com/zby442faCl— Bama Drew (@DrewGlobal) October 4, 2022
Watch the left guard.^^^
The only certainty in this group is that rising junior JC Latham will return at tackle next year. The other starting tackle Tyler Steen and starting guard Emil Ekiyor are both RS-seniors and likely put their names in for the NFL Draft. Nobody else on the team has a prayer of being drafted in 2023.
Freshman Tyler Booker has willed his way onto first team snaps, subbing in for both Ekiyor and Javion Cohen throughout the season. It is probably safe to say he will be a full-time starter somewhere on the line in the next campaign. Seth McLaughlin and Darrian Dalcourt have had a season-long do-si-do at center, but it appears the former has won out and should be the favorite at the spot next year. Dalcourt is a true senior. It is doubtful Alabama would offer him a super senior season.
After that, it is anyone guess as to any semblance of a depth chart. Here on Saturday, we have an opportunity for several reserves to showcase their talents.
(Classes are current year.)
Tanner Bowles R-Jr. - guard or center
Tommy Brockermeyer R-Fr. - tackle
Amari Kight R-Jr. - tackle
James Brockermeyer R-Fr. - center or guard
Terrence Ferguson R-Fr. - guard
Damieon George Jr. - tackle
Jaeden Roberts R-Fr. - one appearance in two seasons
Elijah Pritchett Fr. - hasn’t played
The pass-catchers might be the most intriguing unit on the team. Only one Tide receiver has spent more than three years as a college student-athlete. And all of them still have much to prove. Bama fans are still waiting for that Julio/Amari/Ridley/Jeudy/Ruggs/Waddle/DeVonta/Jameson/Metchie to emerge.
True sophomore Ja’Corey Brooks has the potential to be the alpha of this group. It would be surprising if true juniors Jermaine Burton and Traeshon Holden decided to turn pro after the season, especially since they tend to disappear in the big games. JoJo Earle missed all of September recovering from an injury and may not even be 100%.
True freshmen Kobe Prentice and Isaiah Bond have stepped up this season but still have a ways to go. Kendrick Law had a fine showing against Ole Miss with three receptions for 26 yards. Fellow frosh Emmanuel Henderson and Shazz Preston have made a few appearances at wideout. Henderson has earned most of his playing time on special teams. He was a 5-star running back out of high school.
Another freshman is Aaron Anderson who has been dealing with a knee injury since the preseason and has yet to see the field. Saban mentioned this week that Anderson is “finally healthy, and you can see what his potential might be.” Don’t be surprised if he makes his college football debut this weekend.
The upperclassman hinted to above is redshirt-senior Tyler Harrell who has only recently returned to the field from a season-long injury and made his first catch of the year against Mississippi State. Would Saban bring him back as a super senior?
Christian Leary is still a sophomore and has not seen significant playing time.
Getting lost in the shuffle is junior Thaiu Jones-Bell. Three years have gone by and we don’t even know how to pronounce his first name. This game might be his last chance to make a splash. Otherwise, it is likely he tries his luck on another team in 2023.