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It looks different. It feels different. But the results, no matter the style, are very much the same. For those hoping for a pause between dominant Alabama quarterbacks after a recent deluge of production and success, Saturday was not a good day.
In fact, the Tide’s smothering 44-13 victory over Miami in Week 1 was a convincing bit of evidence that anyone waiting for a drop-off in production will likely be waiting for some while.
The Bryce Young era is here, and it has a chance to be just as potent as the eras that came before it. Considering the abundance of talent Alabama has welcomed, groomed and sent to the NFL over the past few years, this is saying plenty.
At a time when former Alabama QBs Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones are preparing to start for their respective NFL franchises next weekend, the latest and greatest at the position under Nick Saban announced his presence.
Young put up a record-setting stat line in his first start: 344 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Ho-hum. No big celebration. No parade. Just more of the same for a program that makes dominance look so routine.
And as brilliant as Hurts, Tagovailoa and Jones were for this program, there’s a possibility that Young could equal or perhaps even raise the ridiculous bar that has already been set. That is not meant as hyperbole; the possibilities are, in fact, very real, so you might as well brace yourself for it now.
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That said, Young wasn’t perfect. In first start, the undersized sophomore was off the mark on occasion. But it took only one half—a half that saw the 6’0″, 194-pound QB throw for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns—to see all that he is capable of.
He’s slippery. Young glided in and out of the pocket as the Hurricanes tried to corral him in the first half. In almost every instance, however, Young seemed to avoid the pressure and find an open target.
He’s also calm. That’s part of the slipperiness and a trait that has been a constant with the QBs who came before him. Young, who operates like you do in a game of Madden while scanning the secondary, doing everything in his power to wait just a second or two longer to see if something bigger will eventually open, takes his time. It looks like the game is moving slow, and it can’t be stressed enough what a compliment that is.
To open the second half, we saw more. Backed up in his own end zone after the Alabama defense stuffed Miami on 4th-and-goal, Young uncorked a 94-yard touchdown to wideout Jameson Williams, another player whose moment has been coming, to all but put the game away not terribly long after it began.
That touchdown, his fourth passing TD of the game, is the most ever by an Alabama QB in their starting debut. The throw, a 45-yard dart that hit Williams perfectly in stride, was without question the most jarring moment of all.
Yes, Williams was open. Alabama wideouts tend to do that. But to deliver the ball in that way—in this moment, his first of many—was a daunting signal to everyone who doubted that Saban would be able to backfill this much talent lost this soon.
And it’s not Young. Williams, who has waited plenty for this moment, is yet another robust talent waiting for his time. The same can be said for fellow wideout John Metchie III, who flashed last season in Waddle’s absence and caught a touchdown of his own against Miami.
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And tight end Cameron Latu, who caught two first-half touchdowns after largely factoring on special teams the past few years. And the cast of running backs, largely a mix of former high school superstars, asked to fill in the tremendous void left by Najee Harris.
And a defense, which took its lumps early on last season largely because of youth, only to look all grown up Saturday. Miami QB D’Eriq King, one of biggest stars of the sport, stood no chance.
This support system, like the dominant QB play of late, is at the core of Alabama’s dominance. While we will find out in time just how gifted this group is, it is abundantly clear already that it too will be a factor.
At the center of it all, however, there was Young. His movements were much different than Hurts’. And Tagovailoa’s. And certainly Jones’, who did most of his damage from the pocket.
Trying to compare him to one of the three will get us nowhere. He is his own player with his own unique ability, surrounded by new faces who will likely become far more recognized in the weeks to come.
What haven’t changed, of course, are the impossible expectations. It is almost unreasonable to ask Young to match the production that came before him, but that’s what you do when you play football at Alabama. And these days, when you play quarterback, you are asked to be one of the best football players on the planet.
In time, we’ll find out how Young fits in with all of this. In the moment, after gracefully accepting the baton from a string of NFL starting quarterbacks, everything appears to be in motion once again.
It is different, and that is by design. It won’t look the same or feel the same. Young will do it his way.
But the outcome and the sheer avalanche of production will likely be all too familiar.