Five questions about the 2021 Alabama football team that Nick Saban must answer

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama football has no shortage of question marks heading into 2021.

That's just the nature of having to replace 10 Crimson Tide players who heard their names called during the 2021 NFL Draft.

But several question marks doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of answers. Nick Saban and company usually find a way to provide them. Saban still has plenty of talent and potential with which to work.

As Alabama re-tools, here are five questions with the season opener against Miami about 100 days out:

White quarterback Bryce Young (9) directs the first team offense during the University of Alabama A-Day game Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Bryant-Denny Stadium. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

1. What will (projected) QB1 Bryce Young’s season look like?

Young doesn’t lack talent or pedigree. With a five-star rating in high school, he earned the No. 1 spot for dual-threat quarterbacks as well as the No. 2 ranking for all 2020 prospects. But he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to showcase his talent yet, primarily working in spot duty as a freshman. He’s off to a good start, though. He put together a solid A-Day performance with 333 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Can he build off that immediately? Or will he experience some growing pains early in the season?

2. Can Alabama produce another elite passing game?

Replicating this past season’s success through the air will be difficult. And that’s for good reason. Alabama had a remarkable year in passing touchdowns with 42, second in the nation. The Crimson Tide had a Heisman winner at receiver, a Heisman finalist at quarterback and another first-round receiver and running back. Alabama loses 31 touchdown catches from that group, with DeVonta Smith catching 23. That’s nothing short of remarkable, but maybe Alabama doesn’t have to hit those numbers exactly for the 2021 passing attack to be considered a success. Either way, spots are open. Can John Metchie III and crew fill that void and put together another high-flying passing offense?  

More:How 'late bloomer' transfer punter Jack Martin ended up with Alabama football

3. What will the defensive line rotation look like?

Alabama lost Christian Barmore (and eight sacks) to the NFL, but most of his D-line teammates return. There will be plenty of contenders for playing time. Phidarian Mathis returns after registering 31 tackles, five for loss, in 2020. DJ Dale is also back. There’s also Justin Egoigbe, Tim Smith and Byron Young, among others. LaBryan Ray could be one of Alabama’s best on the defensive line if injuries don’t plague him again.

4/19/21 MFB vs SteakandBeans
Alabama defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis (48)
Photo by Kent Gidley

4. Will Alabama’s linebacking group be the best in the country?

Linebacker might be the biggest strength on the team. Christian Harris has one inside linebacker spot locked down and Henry To’o To’o, the transfer from Tennessee, will compete for the spot next to him. Alabama also has Jaylen Moody, among others. Then, the Crimson Tide will have two strong edge defenders in Will Anderson and Christopher Allen. The duo combined for 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss in 2020. Individually, Alabama has elite talent at each spot in its linebacking corps. Collectively, the group could end up being among the nation’s best.

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA;  Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. (4) hurdles Ohio State safety Josh Proctor (41) as he runs during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

5. How will carries be split among running backs?

How the Crimson Tide use its bevy of running backs remains to be seen. It could go the route of having one primary guy like it did with Najee Harris this past year. Redshirt senior Brian Robinson Jr., who has waited in crowded backfields for this opportunity, could very well be that guy. Or the Crimson Tide could put together a more balanced rotation. There’s no shortage of running back talent on the roster with players such as Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams also available.