What addition of Louisville receiver Tyler Harrell means for Alabama football
Alabama football's offensive success in 2021 had a fairly simple formula.
Let Nick Saban explain.
“We had the kind of team where we had a really good quarterback and we wanted to have skill guys that they couldn’t guard,” Saban said in January. “So we had two that were really, really good: (John Metchie III) and (Jameson Williams). And they both got hurt.”
Saban was speaking to the Alabama Football Coaches Association in January about how young receivers didn't step up without the two starting receivers in the College Football Playoff Championship. And playing without Metchie and Williams won't be a one-time event. They expect to hear their names called in the 2022 NFL Draft next week.
The Crimson Tide didn't want to be caught in the same spot again this year without skill guys teams can't guard. So, Saban and his staff have gone out and added more.
Tyler Harrell is the latest piece, as he announced he's transferring to Alabama on Friday. He brings blazing speed and the ability to take the top off a defense.
Harrell was officially timed at 4.24 in the 40-yard dash at a Louisville pro day in 2021.
That gives Bryce Young a dangerous piece to whom he can turn down the field. And speed aside, Harrell also provides another option with some experience at a position that lost three starters: Metchie, Williams and slot receiver Slade Bolden.
Last season, Harrell caught 18 passes for 523 yards and six touchdowns.
Harrell is the second receiver to transfer to Alabama this season, joining Georgia's Jermaine Burton – who was the Crimson Tide's most consistent receiver this spring, Saban said. Both have a chance to be valuable assets for this offense that will also have receivers such as JoJo Earle, Ja'Corey Brooks (who missed the spring with an injury), Traeshon Holden and a couple freshmen who could contribute, including Aaron Anderson.
But Alabama has done more than add scary speed at the receiver spot via the transfer portal. The Crimson Tide also brought in Georgia Tech running back Jahmyr Gibbs.
He showed the kind of homerun threat he can provide when he burst through the line of scrimmage and outran the defense for a 75-yard touchdown during the A-Day spring game.
Creative offensive coordinators can put together tricky schemes for opposing teams to defend and find ways to win games, but having superior athletes is a more direct route to success.
Scheme can go a long way in stopping a team, but often better athletes find a way. Frequently, defenders seemed to be in a good position to tackle Williams in 2021. They would have good pursuit angles, then he would just run right by them en route to the end zone. Williams caught four touchdowns of 70-plus yards, an Alabama single-season record, in 2021.
Expecting Harrell to pick up right where Williams left off might be a big ask. Williams set the bar awfully high after transferring from Ohio State, catching 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Whether Harrell can have a similar impact remains to be seen, but Williams made one thing clear: This offense is at its best when it has a receiver with scary speed.
Now Alabama has that again in Harrell.
Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly