Today’s spring game was an ugly affair in most every way imaginable, from poor weather to a sparse crowd to the play of the offense. Depending on your point of view, the 2022 defense is going to be one of the best of the Saban era or the offense is putrid enough to make one long for Darby Up the Middle.
The truth, of course, is likely somewhere in between. It isn’t surprising that a banged up offense missing a couple of offensive linemen and receivers struggled in the rain, particularly against what is expected to be an otherworldly pass rush. Still, Bryce Young and company could get absolutely nothing going outside of one 75-yard burst up the middle from Jahmyr Gibbs.
Will Anderson and Dallas Turner thoroughly dominated any poor sap that Alabama rotated in at tackle, and they weren’t alone. Chris Braswell looked quite dominant in his own right as he rotated in prominently, freshman Jeremiah Alexander was as explosive as advertised, and classmate Jihaad Campbell made some plays as well. For all of the great defenses we have seen in the Saban era, none have had nearly this collection of pass rushers. Saban reiterated during the broadcast that they had ways to get more than two of them on the field at the same time, the thought of which will keep QBs up at night.
Jermaine Burton opened the scrimmage with a nice 22 yard catch from Bryce Young in one of a very few highlights for the starting offense, and he was seen talking with his QB all afternoon. Today’s results notwithstanding, you can see a chemistry forming between the pair. JoJo Earle had a couple of bad drops today, which won’t endear him to Saban, but we should probably show a little grace there since the ball was wet.
Khyree Jackson looked the part starting at cornerback and is going to make Eli Ricks earn that job. The secondary looked strong in general, other than Christian Leary taking advantage of Malachi Moore on a regular basis. Henry To’o To’o was the vocal leader on defense, as he should be, and both Jaylen Moody and Deontae Lawson logged great reps next to him. No one on the defensive line really stood out in particular, but other than the one gashing from Gibbs they did a reasonably good job stuffing the run.
The second team offense did offer some encouragement, particularly the connection between QB Jalen Milroe and Leary. In the first half, Milroe looked good enough to perhaps push even Young for first team reps, but the second half wasn’t nearly as kind to him. Still, he is miles ahead of where he was last year. Ty Simpson throws a pretty ball and showed off his wheels as well, but it’s clear that Milroe is the backup at this point. Freshman RB Jamarion Miller runs like a man possessed and is going to be tough for to keep off the field despite the crowded RB room.
Will Reichard and Jack Martin combined to go 6-for-6 on field goal attempts, which was a welcome sight, and James Burnip struck his punts well.
With the game being so condensed thanks to storms bearing down on Tuscaloosa, it’s really hard to glean much else. The takeaway has to be that the offensive line was completely overmatched and will require some retooling. Part of that equation will likely be recent transfer Tyler Steen, but don’t be surprised if Saban dips into the portal there again.