Alabama football players to watch this season

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

The Crimson Tide will kick off its season on Sept. 4 in Atlanta as it faces Miami. After a season with a perfect record and a national championship, the Crimson Tide lost 10 players to the NFL Draft, including six chosen in the first round. 

Those six selections tied the all-time record with LSU, which produced the same number of first round picks in last year’s draft. This was the fifth consecutive year that the Crimson Tide lost nine or more players to the NFL.

Even with these losses, there is reason to believe that Alabama will retool as it has in years past. 



As usual, head coach Nick Saban will be walking the sidelines at Bryant-Denny Stadium this season. Saban signed another extension this summer and will make almost $10 million this year.

It will be his 15th season as the boss in Tuscaloosa, only tallying 23 losses since taking over the program in 2007. Saban won his seventh national championship in January, setting the all-time record for a head coach.

After losing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to the University of Texas at Austin, The University of Alabama welcomes Bill O’Brien to run the offense. O’Brien was the head coach at both Penn State University and the Houston Texans. He won Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2012 and led the Texans to four playoff appearances.

Pete Golding will enter his third year as defensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide. Golding faced heat in 2020 after allowing 48 points to Ole Miss in October. He turned it around with the team’s performance against first-round quarterback Justin Fields and the Ohio State Buckeyes in the national championship.



Last season, the Crimson Tide offense was one of the most electric and efficient in the country. Averaging 48.5 points per game, the team ambushed every SEC opponent in their wake and produced the school’s third Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith. 

Eight starters left at the end of last season. There will be holes to fill, starting with the quarterback position. 

The projected starter is sophomore Bryce Young, who backed up Mac Jones last season. The Mater Dei High School five-star product appeared in seven games in 2020, completing 13 of 22 pass attempts with one touchdown. 

Paul Tyson appears to have the edge as backup, with freshman Jalen Milroe behind him.

The starting running back is a familiar face. Redshirt senior Brian Robinson Jr. is set to lead after the exit of Najee Harris. He has rushed for over 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns in his four years at the Capstone. He will share the backfield with sophomores Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams, as well as Trey Sanders, who suffered season-ending injuries in both 2019 and 2020.

The wide-receiving core is slimmer after the loss of DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. The two combined for almost 6,000 scrimmage yards and 64 touchdowns in their Crimson Tide careers, and Smith is first all-time in receptions, yards and touchdowns at the University. 

John Metchie III and Slade Bolden are sticking around this season. Metchie was 84 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season last year and caught six touchdowns. Alabama fans will remember Metchie for his bone-crushing hit on Florida’s Trey Dean in the SEC Championship. Bolden caught a touchdown pass from Mac Jones in the national championship and was important in filling the slot after Waddle’s mid-season injury. 

An exciting newcomer for the Tide this year is transfer Jameson Williams, who played two years at Ohio State. He only has 15 receptions over two years, but Williams was on the receiving end of a score in the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff semifinal victory. He impressed the coaching staff throughout camp. 

Jahleel Billingsley is yet another weapon for the offense that showed potential in 2020, and he is set to start at tight end.

The offensive line was one of the best last year, but after losing Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson and Deonte Brown, there will be a few new faces. Chris Owens decided to return and will start at center. Evan Neal is an NFL prospect and will play at left tackle. At right guard will be Emil Ekiyor Jr., who played in 13 games. 

The two new faces will be sophomore Javion Cohen at left guard and Kendall Randolph at right tackle. Randolph played in several games last season, appearing as a backup tight end on occasion. 



The Alabama defense is the biggest question mark for many football fans on a yearly basis, and the Crimson Tide is returning with a lot of players. 

Headed out are Patrick Surtain II and Christian Barmore. Surtain was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the ninth pick after a decorated Alabama career. Barmore was selected by the New England Patriots in the second round. Dylan Moses was not drafted, but was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars afterward.

The Crimson Tide defense will remain mostly intact. On the defensive line, fans will see LaBryan Ray, DJ Dale and Phidarian Mathis. Sophomore Will Anderson lines up alongside Christian Harris, Christopher Allen and new Tennessee transfer Henry To’o To’o. The former Volunteer was first on the team with 76 tackles and fourth in the SEC last year.

In the secondary, Josh Jobe will take over for Surtain, facing the opposition’s No. 1 receiver every Saturday. On the other side of the field will be redshirt junior Jalyn Armour-Davis. Coming off a strong freshman year, Malachi Moore will play in the slot as the Star, or nickelback. 

Holding down the back at free and strong safety positions will be Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams. Fans should expect to see redshirt senior Daniel Wright and freshman Ga’Quincy “Kool Aid” McKinstry on the field.


Special Teams

Junior placekicker Will Reichard will try to continue his success at the Capstone after a perfect 2020 campaign, making all his field goals and extra points. The punting situation is a work in progress with Troy University transfer Jack Martin leading in reps and former starters Sam Johnson and Ty Perine behind him. 

Freshman James Burnip is another name to keep an eye on. Jaylen Waddle will no longer be creating opportunities on punt and kick returns as Slade Bolden resumes his role as punt returner. Awaiting kickoffs will be starting running back Brian Robinson Jr. and tight end Jahleel Billingsley.



Alabama will begin the 2021 title defense on Sept. 4 in Atlanta against the Miami Hurricanes. The Crimson Tide will host Ole Miss on Oct. 2, Tennessee on Oct. 23 and LSU on Nov. 6.

The team will face Florida in Gainesville on Sept. 18 and Texas A&M in College Station on Oct. 9. The Iron Bowl is in Auburn this year, on Nov. 27 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.