Another year, another #1 overall recruiting class. And so things go for Alabama. As someone who gets to write about the recruits each year, it sure makes my job easy when they’re ALL top recruits and I don’t have to stretch to try and sound positive about them.
To start things off, let’s lump together the two quarterbacks and the running backs into one group. No matter how much we all talk about the importance of other positions, these two will be doing something with the football on every single offensive play, and so their contributions are magnified compared to every other position on the team.
As always, I’ll be giving a short summary on each player, any info on his athletic profile (SPARQ is dead, sadly), my thoughts on his traits, and how I think he’ll fit in Alabama’s depth chart and scheme. All rankings and heights/weights will be from the 247Sports Composite, as I think they do the best job at rating and ranking players. Though I will mention if any of the other services have a particularly different opinion on certain player.
I know I mentioned SPARQ being dead, but it technically still exists. Players just never report their scores anymore. Holstein, at least, let his overall score leak out from his Elite 11 camp last summer and tested at 133, which is absolutely phenomenal for any position, let alone a QB.
At 6’4” 220+, he’s a big guy with explosive athleticism that will, in a couple of years, have NFL scouts drooling.
As a junior, he exploded with 3000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards and shot up the recruiting rankings as he went undefeated, won a state championship, and brought home Louisiana Player of the Year. A shoulder injury early in his senior season cut out some of his counting stats (and his yards per attempt dropped), though, and he fell a bit in the rankings. ESPN still views him as a top 30 prospect, but the other services have him more in the #100 overall range.
As an illustration, Alabama fans can pretty quickly compare Holstein, stylistically, to a more polished Jake Coker. He’s big, faster than he should be, can have a slow-ish, high release, and can throw an absolute rocket.
As far as pure arm talent, Holstein can make any throw in the book, and does it well. In particular, he can nail the 15-yard out route that shows off pure ball velocity, he hits RPO slants in stride regularly, showing off his timing, and even with all of that arm strength, he knows how to throw deep balls and sideline fades with a lot of arcing rainbow to them. And he’ll make some really impressive throws on the run as well, just showing off the pure arm power.
He doesn’t scramble too much, but when he does, he can be very tough for high school defenders to tackle. He can alternate between juking a guy and running through him, and will sometimes sprint outside the pocket to get around an edge blitzer. At a collegiate level, it may get him into trouble sometimes, but in High School, the defenders just don’t have a chance.
He does seem to lock on to his primary target and will double clutch if he’s not open before taking off. This will be the main area he’ll need to focus on at Alabama.
Most of his rushing stats came on designed runs off of read options. He blends a lot of RPOs with 2012-style read option plays and will gobble up 11 yards at a time if defenders commit to the running back.
Assuming Alabama goes back to a more RPO and rushing centered attack under Tommy Rees, Holstein is pretty much a perfect fit. He’s excellent at the timing slants that Saban loves so much, can go deep, and his running ability will mesh him well with how Rees used his QBs at Notre Dame. That was basically the entire premise of Alabama’s offense in the Kiffin/Locksley/Sark years, so I expect Alabama is going back to more of that scheme.
Though he’ll be coming from behind, don’t be surprised if we get a lot of look at Holstein in the spring game. I don’t think he’ll be ready to be an SEC-level starter at QB from day 1, but if he shows the pocket management improvements quickly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re talking about him in the race with Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson come summer time.
As a multiyear starter for a playoff-caliber team in the 7A Georgia football circuits, Lonergan comes from pretty much the highest level of high school football. He doubles as a baseball recruit who was already throwing 90+mph pitches as a junior. He also committed to Alabama well after the Tide already had a pledge from Holstein, so take that as you will when judging his character/attitude.
Lonergan also suffered a turf toe that ended his senior season prematurely, so he may still be rehabbing that as we get into spring practice.
While in a lot of ways, Alabama definitely recruited a type with Holstein and Lonergan this year (big, good runner, strong arm), Lonergan represents higher highs and lower lows than Holstein.
His baseball arm is clear, as he has a whiplike release and the ball just fires out of his hand from any angle. In terms of pure accuracy, he’s absolutely phenomenal, especially at seam throws and many other vertical and angled routes in the 15-25 yard range. He can and will happily slip the ball in between defenders or to a receiver who’s covered, but the defender has his back turned. It’s a very confident, playmaking style and mentality that will produce a lot of jaw-dropping highlights, though obviously carries a good bit of risk if left unchecked.
With the ball in his hands, Lonergan is, again, a playmaker. He’s got a quick, choppy stride that allows him to accelerate way faster than it looks like he should be able, and he’ll spin off of tackles or just batter his way through them like his life depends on getting a first down.
When in the pocket, he usually prefers to throw the ball in the face of pressure, but will definitely take off scrambling if the opportunity presents and, again, is quite impressive in open space. He’ll occasionally scramble to reset and make a nice throw, but usually his scrambles are decisively in the forward direction.
Like Holstein, Lonergan likely fits what Alabama is wanting to do quite well. He’s a threat in the run game, but more importantly, can hit those fast timing routes over the middle as well as accurately go deep down the sidelines.
The combination of the late-season turf toe and Lonergan’s more... Risky... Style I think will wind up with him 4th place in Alabama’s pecking order going into the summer. While I do see a path/possibility where the other QBs underwhelm and his confidence and playmaking wind up winning him the starting job as a true freshman, I think it’s unlikely and he’ll probably redshirt.
One of Alabama’s most vocal recruiters during this cycle, Young has been a highly coveted prospect out of Florida that’s been producing in their 7A circuit ever since he was named a Freshman All-American way back in 2019. He racked up nearly 5000 rushing yards at 8.2 yards per carry and 42 touchdowns over his career.
On top of that, he was an accomplished track athlete with a 10.81 100-meter dash time.
Young is a no-nonsense, one-cut and GO kind of runner that is extremely comfortable working within a blocking scheme and between the tackles. He’s not the biggest guy or even the most athletically impressive, but he’s got great breakaway speed, terrifying suddenness, and a decent bit of power in his smaller size.
First and foremost, he’s decisive at the line of scrimmage and is very adept at hitting just the right lane at the right timing to blast off down the field for 7 yards before defenders are ever really able to touch him. And often when they do, he’s already got such an accelerated advantage on their position that they wind up unable to really get a clean tackle on him and he’ll squirt through two defenders, dragging them along for 4-5 more yards.
In the open field, he’s got a nasty 45-degree cut where he never actually slows his forward progress and can get defenders twisted up as they try to get angles on him.
While he may not be the best at making people miss, improvising, or breaking tackles, his decisiveness, suddenness, and consistency are going to make him a constant contributor in the Alabama backfield for years.
We don’t know a whole lot about how Tommy Rees is going to change the running scheme yet, but it does seem to be more timing-based and uses power/counter concepts more than the zone blocking concepts we saw under Bill O’Brien. If that holds, I think Young’s willingness to follow the intended path is going to be a big boon for his playing time in the coming years.
There are going to be quite a few backs ahead of Young going into this season, and he also won’t be enrolling until the summer. As such, I don’t think we see a lot of him in year 1.
For some unknown reason, someone decided Haynes was not the #1 running back in this recruiting class. I’d argue they should be fired. In any case, at #24 overall, he’s Alabama’s 4th highest rated recruit.
Haynes has a staggering 8000 yards in 4 seasons as a starter, including an impressive senior season at the 7A Buford High School powerhouse program. He’s the son of a former UGA and NFL running back, Verron Haynes, and was someone that many fretted would wind up going back to his home team of the Georgia Bulldogs. He’s also an accomplished baseball player as both a pitcher and a batter.
Haynes has an incredibly rare blend of smooth power and balance that make him one of the most natural looking running backs I’ve watched at a high school level. He’s listed at 200 pounds, but looks and plays much bigger than that, as he’ll blast through hapless defenders, shrug out of arm tackles, and then somehow jump cut around a 3rd defender coming in to help.
He comes from an old-school under center offense that used plenty of fullbacks on power run plays up the gut, and is more than happy to slip his way forward on the back of a blocker before exploding past them for a huge gain (sometimes through a defender if need be).
But lest you think he’s just an up-the-middle power back, Haynes can also throw out a jump cut (like Damien Harris used to do) behind the line of scrimmage when there’s a free rusher, counter around and race everyone to the sideline, then suddenly turn shoulder and shoot forward for a nice 6 yard gain between 4 defenders.
Once he is in the open field, he can immediately get up to top speed and has a long stride that can eat up a ton of yards. He isn’t some 4.3 speed demon that’ll vaporize pursuit angles, but he does have a big and powerful stride that will usually keep him from ever getting caught from behind.
He’s also a fairly polished and powerful blocker in both the passing game and run game, and is an absolute menace as a kick returner as he’s so adept at smoothly following blocking lanes.
I don’t care what scheme you run. Give him the ball.
With two experience seniors in Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams returning, Haynes will initially be down a little ways on the depth chart. I’d expect to see a lot of work from him during A-Day though, and I bet he’ll be a name we hear about all summer long. He’ll rotate in as the 3rd back in game 1 next season, and just get more and more playing time from there.
Alabama will likely rotate 3 backs all season. I would not be at all surprised if he is the Tide’s #2 or even #1 rusher at the end of 2023 when all is said and done.