After a sparse season, Bryant-Denny adapts to changing restrictions

This weekend, Bryant-Denny should be twice as crowded as it was last semester.


Hannah Saad | @hannah_saad21

COVID-19 restrictions left Bryant-Denny Stadium 80% emptier in the fall.

Once upon a time, coach Nick Saban begged students – many of whom had grown bored of winning – to stay in the stands at Bryant-Denny stadium until the final buzzer. But in the past year, a deadly pandemic outmatched even the most drastic of fourth-quarter exoduses, as the University cut seating capacity to 20%.

Now, Alabama athletics is inching closer to normalcy. 

Alabama will open the doors of Bryant-Denny Stadium to 50% capacity for the A-Day game this weekend. This game will serve almost as a test run for the season in the fall. 

The change comes 45 days after UA Athletics Director Greg Byrne tweeted that Alabama planned on having full-capacity crowds at the games this upcoming season. The announcement came out along with a plan to return to traditional classroom settings by the University.

“With this announcement, we’ve received a number of questions regarding capacity at Bryant-Denny for [Alabama football] in 2021,” Byrne said. “We are moving forward with plans to have a full stadium in the fall and will monitor medical guidelines as we have all along.”

Leah Goggis | @leahisonline

As with every start to a new season, the Crimson Tide has plenty of holes to fill on its roster. Stars like quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith declared for the NFL Draft, which leaves the team with plenty of questions.

One of the most important questions for Alabama is who will replace its star-studded offensive line. Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson and Deonte Brown were the leaders of one of the best offensive lines in Alabama history last season. Although lineman Chris Owens, Evan Neal and Emil Ekiyor are returning and Alabama has a pair of five-star recruits, JC Latham and Tommy Brockermeyer, coming in, playing as a unit is key to success when the season starts.

“I think first of all, they’ve gotta get confident in doing the things that they need to do, and it’s always important to be able to play together in the offensive line,” Saban said in a press conference after the team’s second scrimmage.

Alabama also brought in highly-touted former NFL coaches Bill O’Brien and Doug Marrone. Both came off disappointing career stops as head coaches of the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. But the two newcomers have a combined 57 years of coaching experience, which should be helpful in replacing Alabama’s former offensive coordinator and current Texas Longhorns head coach, Steve Sarkisian. 

“These guys both have a lot of experience in college and very successful experience, I might add,” Saban said Wednesday on SEC Network. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here when we hire new people.”

Alabama’s last three quarterbacks leave a huge shadow cast over sophomore quarterback Bryce Young. He is the second-highest graded recruit in Alabama’s history, according to 247 Sports, and showed plenty of promise while serving as Mac Jones’ backup. During spring training this year, Saban said Young is working on his leadership skills. 

“He’s done great,” Saban said. “He knows the playbook really, really well. I told him one of the things that he has to work on is having a presence on the field, being the man, so to speak, taking charge, being in command, and I think that he’s done better and better at that.”

Before the Crimson Tide’s second scrimmage, senior Brian Robinson said the team needs to keep progressing. 

“[We have to] compete at a higher level to kind of see where our team is… at the end of spring compared to where we started in the spring,” Robinson said. “I just wanna see guys go out there and compete, which we always do.”

Getting better on both sides of the football is what Saban and the coaching staff are focused on right now. He said that the less experienced players need to take time to learn how to “finish plays.”

“We’re just going to have to figure out what we can do with this team,” Saban said. “We just keep on working with these guys and see if we can get more guys to play winning football.”

A new roster won’t be the only thing making its debut on Saturday. The University installed a new fan attraction at the corner of University Blvd. and Wallace Wade Ave. “Tuska” is a 19-foot-tall bronze elephant that sits atop a 6-foot platform. According to, the elephant was a gift from the North River Yacht Club. The project to install “Tuska” at Bryant Denny cost roughly $400,000. 

This new addition to Bryant Denny comes after the $107 million renovations to the stadium that included a new press box, team tunnel and student section plaza. University of Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said at the unveiling of the renovated stadium that he wants Bryant-Denny Stadium to be a place for all fans to enjoy.

“We know that fans literally come from all over the world to come and see Bryant-Denny Stadium and everything around it,” Byrne said. “So let’s make sure that the things that they can come see that will be memorable.”