As dominant as Alabama has been under Nick Saban for the last 14 seasons, the advent of game-changing quarterbacks has only been a recent development in his Crimson-hued dynasty.
Before Saban adapted the modern college football offense with offensive coordinators Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, his teams relied on slow tempo, a strong running game and an absolute chokehold on time of possession. It was quarterbacks John Parker Wilson, Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron who led Alabama’s offenses — seemingly ages before Blake Sims, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa changed the game forever.
How times change.
The latest in that distinguished line is the Mac Jones, who in 2020 has put together one of the greatest single seasons in Alabama quarterback history. The unheralded signal-caller leads the nation in completion percentage (77.0), passing yards per attempt (11.3) and has set the NCAA record for passer rating (203.0), one point higher than LSU’s Joe Burrow (202.0) and 3.6 points higher than Jones’ predecessor, Tagovailoa (199.4).
He did that while throwing for 4,036 yards and 36 touchdowns — both good for second nationally — and all in 12 games. For his efforts, Jones finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and won both the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Davey O’Brien awards.
Yet, as good as he is, many who follow the Crimson Tide program think his backup, Bryce Young, will be better. The true freshman hasn’t had much opportunity to contribute to Alabama’s incredible offensive season in 2020, but he has shown flashes of brilliance while completing 13 of 22 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.
Here’s everything you need to know about Young, who figures to be a key figure in Alabama’s 2021 quarterback competition and beyond:
Young is tied for Saban’s highest-rated recruit ever
Saban has secured just three five-star quarterbacks in his time as Alabama’s coach: Phillip Sims, the No. 1 pro-style quarterback and No. 31 overall player in the class of 2010; Blake Barnett, the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and No. 6 overall player in the class of 2015; and Tagovailoa, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and No. 32 overall player in the 2017 class.
Young, labeled a dual-threat, was the No. 1 overall quarterback regardless of style in the 2020 class, and its No. 2 overall player.
Per 247Sports’ Composite rankings, Young is tied for the 20th-ranked player on the recruiting service’s boards all time; he has a .9994 rating out of a possible 1.0. He’s tied with Alabama offensive linemen Andre Smith (2006) and Cyrus Kouandjio (2011) as Saban’s highest-rated recruit of all time.
Despite his label, Young considers himself more of a traditional quarterback.
“People in the (NFL), the Lamar Jacksons, Kyler Murrays, the Baker Mayfields, people like that are really pushing the envelope of what dual-threat means,” Young said in a 2019 interview with USA Today High School Sports. “People think a dual-threat is someone who can, a running back that can throw a little bit … but really dual-threat should mean, and it does mean in my mind, someone who has the ability that can really do both as far as extending plays and run the ball but is still a passer.”
Young comes from a school with an impressive QB lineage
Young’s was a prolific high school career: Per his Alabama football bio, he threw for 13,250 yards and 152 touchdowns (to just 18 interceptions) and rushed for 1,084 rushing yards and 26 more scores, accounting for 178 career high school touchdowns. Tagovailoa had 8,158 passing yards and 84 touchdowns at Saint Louis School (Honolulu), adding 1,727 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns for 111 high school touchdowns.
That Young could put together that stat line is impressive. That he could do that at Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.) makes it astounding. The school has been a quarterback factory, producing such talents as Todd Marinovich, Matt Leinart, Matt Barkley, John Huarte and JT Daniels.
Among that group, Young ranks first all time in passing yards, completion percentage (70.6) and second in passing touchdowns.
He played against the country’s top high school talent
Young played some of the nation’s top teams — and defenses — at Mater Dei. The 2020 MVP of the Army All-American Bowl played such teams as Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.) and St. Frances Academy (Baltimore).
That includes one future Clemson commit in D.J. Uiagalelei, who faced off against Young in the 2019 California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 1 championship game. In that game, Uiagalelei led St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) from a 28-5 deficit to a 39-34 win over Mater Dei. Young threw for 405 yards and five touchdowns in that game, but also a season-high three interceptions and a fumble at the end of the game.
Can we expect those two to face off a couple times in college?
Young nearly committed to USC
Mater Dei has been a longtime funnel of quarterbacks to the Trojans program; it was nearly the same for Young, who was a USC commit for 14 months before flipping his commitment to Alabama in September 2019. He was staunch in his commitment to the Tide once he flipped, and remains an enticing piece to the team’s offensive future.