5 key observations as Alabama football throttles Miami in season opener

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

ATLANTA — No. 1 Alabama football wasn't perfect, but as far as openers go, the Crimson Tide was nothing short of impressive. 

Injuries at the linebacker position put a damper on the afternoon, but Alabama had plenty of positives to take away from a dominant performance with a 44-13 victory over No. 16 Miami on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Bryce Young stellar in debut as QB1

Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA;  Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) warms up before the Crimson Tide's game with Miami at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

The hype has been there all offseason for Bryce Young. He met and perhaps exceeded those expectations in his first start. 

He seldom made mistakes and more often than not made plays. He threw three touchdowns in the first half alone. Young finished 27-for-38 with 344 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

Young wasn't perfect, but like the team, he looked pretty dang great in his 2021 debut. 

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Don't try to get in the way of Brian Robinson

Robinson mentioned during preseason practices he's probably not going to hurdle guys like Najee Harris did. Robinson said he's going to go through guys. And he showed that Saturday. 

When he had a chance to jump over a defender coming low to tackle him, Robinson just shoved the defender out of the way. No hurdle needed. 

He showed a toughness and strength, and it's going to take a lot to bring him down this season. At times, defenders bounced off his legs as he kept churning. He carried the ball 12 times for 60 yards, averaging five yards per carry. 

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And don't try to arm-tackle Cameron Latu

Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA;  Alabama tight end Cameron Latu (81) scores after catching a pass from Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) with Miami defensive back Tyrique Stevenson (2) defending at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

With all the attention paid to Jahleel Billingsley's preparation heading into the season, Cameron Latu's name hasn't been mentioned much when talking about the tight ends. That quickly changed Saturday. 

His first two receptions? Both touchdowns. 

The second might have been the most impressive. He broke out of one arm tackle, then shoved another defender away en route to the end zone for a 25-yard score that put Alabama up 27-0 in the second quarter. 

Warning for future defenders: Put your big boy pants on if you're going to try to tackle Latu by yourself. 

The offensive line has a few kinks to work out in pass protection

On first glance, the offensive line made Young's life a bit more stressful than they probably wanted it to be. 

A few times, he had to put his best scrambling moves to the test, spinning out and extending plays. On one in the first half, he barely got the ball in front of Latu's feet while evading pressure. 

Young also fumbled when he couldn't evade several pass rushers coming at him at one point in the third quarter. That appeared to be on the offensive line. 

The offensive line has been banged up and hasn't had a ton of time to work together as a unit, Nick Saban said leading up to the game. More time together will likely lead to more cohesion and better protection for Young, but if there was anything negative about the offense's performance, it's the pressure the offensive line allowed at times. 

There were some bright spots, though. On the play when Roydell Williams coughed up the ball in the second quarter, Darrian Dalcourt and Emil Ekiyor Jr. created a wide open hole. 

The pass rush is potent 

Will Anderson creating problems for an opposing offense is no surprise. He, of course, had a sack Saturday. But Alabama got pass-rushing contributions from multiple players. 

Christian Harris and Phil Mathis got in on the action, each recording sacks. 

Overall, this Alabama defense was dominant for much of the game, likely a preview of what's to come for an experienced unit. A strong pass rush will be part of that.