Superlative predictions for Alabama football's 2020 season, including MVPs
Alabama is nine days away from its 2020 football season, one where the Crimson Tide’s usual expectations of a national championship are not unreasonable.
Here are some predictions for the key roles that could lead that charge back to the College Football Playoff.
Offensive MVP: Najee Harris
Harris was by far last year’s team leader in all-purpose yards – his 1,528 was nearly 300 yards ahead of Devonta Smith in second – and did so while touching the ball on just 28 percent of UA’s plays.
UA has all the personnel to be more run-based in 2020, and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is thinking along the same lines. Harris is in position to be the featured ballcarrier for a team that could run on at least 55% of its snaps, if not more, giving Harris plenty of chances to rack up impressive statistics and score a handful of touchdowns.
Defensive MVP: Dylan Moses
What Alabama’s defense needed more than anything else in 2019 was communication – or more accurately, someone to facilitate it. Moses’ experience in that position and experience in the system provides just that, on top of a All-SEC performer from 2018.
With some experience but little returning production on the defensive line, and several lost starters in the secondary, a linchpin player like Moses could be vital in UA’s pursuit of better run defense while maintaining excellence in pass coverage and pass rushing.
Offensive Breakout Player: Mac Jones
When serving as a starter against Power 5 competition last season, Jones was excellent: 60 for 86 (69.7%) for 897 yards (10.4 yards per attempt) and 10 touchdowns with two interceptions. The two interceptions – both in the Iron Bowl, both leading to crucial touchdowns for Auburn in a three-point win over UA – have stuck with Jones in the court of public opinion more than most of his success.
Jones is a capable passer with experience in Sarkisian’s system and against top-tier defenses. He could easily surpass relatively modest expectations.
Redshirt freshman running back Trey Sanders and sophomore wide receiver John Metchie are both poised for bigger roles on this year’s team, but incumbent starters at their positions could limit the amount of touches they get. Jones would have to lose his job to Bryce Young to experience the same limitation of opportunity.
Defensive Breakout Player: Josh Jobe
Had Patrick Surtain II asserted himself at the star position rather than cornerback, Jobe could have been starting at corner last year alongside Trevon Diggs. Instead, Jobe spent another year developing his wealth of physical gifts.
Jobe may also have a better chance than most to produce statistics, assuming teams will not be keen on testing Surtain II, a likely first-round draft pick next spring.
Newcomer of the Year: Will Anderson
Anderson has been consistently praised by UA coach Nick Saban at a position (outside linebacker) that Saban said is likely to have one or two freshmen contribute. Anderson has been particularly impressive as a pass rusher in preseason practice, an area of concern for UA given it lost the players responsible for 18 of last year’s 32 sacks and 36 of last year’s 58 quarterback hurries.
Anderson is filling both a position of need and a skill set of need in preseason practice thus far, giving him a clean path to playing time. If his pass-rush ability leads to sacks, he’ll be adding valuable statistics to his case for newcomer of the year, possibly more valuable than any receiving yards contributed by grad transfer tight end Carl Tucker or passes defended contributed by freshmen defensive backs.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson