Ever since Nick Saban took over command of the football team at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has always had those two or three wide receivers who were without a doubt, the go-to guys. However after four games of the 2022 season, those kinds of offensive threats have not exactly been identified. With a huge trip to Fayetteville on the horizon, audition time is over.
Thus far in the season, the Tide is 33rd in the nation in yards per game at 282.5 and tied for eighth in passing touchdowns with 14. Some nice stats for sure, but where are the big plays that can turn a game on its ear? The games only get tougher from here on and that kind of quality will be a necessity.
Interestingly enough, the Tide’s number two receiver is a running back.
Coming into the season, it was clear that multi-tooled Jahmyr Gibbs would be a big part of the passing game. Jase McClellan already displayed his acumen for catching passes in previous seasons. Running backs have become a intricate part of Saban passing attack in recent years. Even so, Brian Robinson was fourth in receiving last season behind John Metchie, Jameson Williams, and Slade Bolden. In 2020, Najee Harris was third behind DeVonta Smith and Metchie and he was fifth in receiving the year before that.
Aggregate stats can provide a decent snapshot. Breaking things down into game logs paints a broader picture. Below are the logs for the top six wide receivers through four games.
Below is a list of all of touchdown passes thrown by Bryce Young this season.
USU Jermaine Burton 5 yards
USU Traeshon Holden 9 yards
USU Jermaine Burton 2 yards
USU Traeshon Holden 14 yards
USU Jase McClellan 8 yards - RB
Texas Jahmyr Gibbs 7 yards - RB
ULM Traeshon Holden 33 yards
ULM Amari Niblack 15 yards - TE
ULM Jahmyr Gibbs 37 yards - RB
Vandy Ja’Corey Brooks 21 yards
Vandy Traeshon Holden 8 yards
Vandy Ja’Corey Brooks 34 yards
Vandy Jahmyr Gibbs 7 yards - RB
[Jalen Milroe has one touchdown pass to Jase McClellan, 17 yards.]
What jumps out at the list above is the one touchdown against Texas and the fact that it was a running back who converted the score. On the season, touchdown receptions by position break down to eight by wide receivers, four by running backs, and one for a tight end.
The longest reception to date is 48-yarder by Jermaine Burton against Vanderbilt that was not a touchdown. The honor of the longest touchdown reception goes to running back Gibbs who went for 37 against ULM. The longest score by a receiver was Ja’Corey Brooks’s 34-yarder against Vanderbilt.
Of note, no Alabama receiver has a rush attempt this season.
Traeshon Holden (Jr.) is a solid dependable receiver. He’ll get yards and move the sticks, but he hasn’t shown that big play ability.
Jermaine Burton (Jr.) Perhaps Bama fans were spoiled by Jameson Williams last year. Expectations for Burton were sky-high after his transfer from Georgia. So far, he has been solid but not the head-turner many thought he would be. Both he and Holden look like “second receivers” with no number one.
Kobe Prentice (Fr.) impressed the coaching staff so much in fall camp that the freshman was named a starter. However, he hasn’t exactly shown he deserves that honor from his performance so far. He is good enough to get snaps, but he has had a few passes that probably could have been hauled in. Not calling them drops, more like “coulda-shouldas.” His route running and instincts could use some fine-tuning and that will come with experience.
Ja’Corey Brooks (Soph.) introduced himself to the world in last season’s Iron Bowl with a pair of crucial catches but disappeared in the SEC Championship Game. Then he had pretty good showings in the two playoff games. This year, he didn’t do too much in the first three games, but looked like an All-SEC receiver against Vanderbilt. Brooks could be one of “those guys” but he still lacks the consistency to do it on every Saturday.
Freshmen Isaiah Bond and Kendrick Law have been getting plenty of playing time but have yet to make significant contributions. Fellow freshmen Emmanuel Henderson and Shazz Preston still need some seasoning.
Some answers could come down the road when any or all of Tyler Harrell (foot sprain), JoJo Earle (fractured foot), and Aaron Anderson (knee) are cleared to play.