Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has the look, and college football should be concerned

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Bryce Young has had the look.

His dad, Craig Young, knows it well. He’s witnessed it before. Several times, in fact, throughout the Alabama football quarterback’s life. And it’s back this offseason.

“I can see that look in his eyes where he’s been so motivated,” Craig said.

It appeared whenever Young spent the duration of an offseason day throwing, working out and lifting. Not traveling or taking a bunch of time off. Just working.

“I’ve seen that in him before,” Craig said. “And I know what that means.”

Craig saw that in 2016, when his son aimed to beat out the incumbent upperclassman starter even though Young would be only a high school freshman. The two quarterbacks ended up splitting time that year.

Nov 6, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) works to get himself focused before the game with LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Then there was 2019. After he threw 39 touchdowns as a junior en route to all-state recognition, Young pushed to get even better. He ended up throwing 58 touchdowns and rushing for 10 his senior year.

The look appeared again in 2021 when Young strived to take advantage of the open Alabama quarterback spot. He ended up winning the Heisman Trophy.

“This,” Craig said, “looks very familiar to those times.”

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Young is fresh off a season that ended with a 33-18 loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff championship. It was only Young’s fifth loss over his past four seasons of football.

Now, the quarterback who seldom loses has the task of responding to his greatest loss yet.

“He’s hungry,” said Taylor Kelly, a long-time QB trainer for Young. “It’s the hungriest that I’ve seen him.”

Miniature golf and bowling

The Young family competes at everything.

Everything.

Miniature golf, bowling, board games. Even Uno. If there’s a way for the Youngs to compete, they will.

The parents usually end up finishing second and third behind their son. 

“Bryce is better at everything,” said Julie Young, his mom, in New York before the Heisman ceremony. “It’s like one of those things where you just sit there and go, ‘Really? Really?’”

“It’s so annoying,” Craig added. “So annoying.”

Young usually winning especially became the case once he reached his teenage and high school years.

“But on the occasions he would lose at miniature golf or bowling, he would be so mad,” Craig said. “He wouldn’t even talk to us. He’d be mad on the car ride home.”

Then Young would usually get over it by the morning.

His disdain for losing hasn’t changed. The difference is in how he responds. 

“I think the maturity comes in how you apply what happens to not make things go in your favor,” Craig said. “How do you objectively look at those things? And then how do you make adjustments? And how do you use that to improve? I think that’s where his maturity is because I think he’s done a really good job of being internally motivated.”

No time traveling

Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama offensive lineman Chris Owens (79) and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) leave the field after the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Georgia defeated Alabama 33-18. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

The first feeling Young experienced after the national championship was hurt. Then came the anger.

At himself.

“You look back and wish you could have had plays back, moments back,” Young said in the spring.

He watched the film once immediately to help him process everything. Then he watched again in the spring. A few other times, he said he viewed it for self-scouting purposes.

“You can’t time travel,” Young said, “So what am I going to do to get better, to learn from those mistakes? It’s really been a process of turning that page for me and not looking at it as you want it back, but, ‘All right, I did this. That wasn’t successful. What can I do to grow?’”

Meanwhile, in the initial aftermath of the loss, his parents gave him the space he needed. That’s their protocol, whether it’s the national championship or bowling.

Young doesn’t want a bunch of hugs or attaboys, his dad said, but his parents will text him, send scripture and tell him they love him.

Once Young’s done going through his process by himself, he and his parents talk and go through it together. Craig and Julie made sure to give him the time and space he needed in January.

“The process was probably pretty familiar, but I think just the magnitude of it is what’s different,” Craig said. “In the short part of it, it sucks. He hates to lose.”

Instead of moping or pouting, Young channeled that contempt for losing. He got to work.

‘This year was a little bit different’

Many days in May looked similar for Young.

Staying in Orange County, California, the Alabama quarterback started the day with lifting. Then Young would drive 10-15 minutes to a secluded turf field in Huntington Beach, right off Interstate 405. There, Young worked with Kelly, a quarterback trainer at 3DQB who played the position for Arizona State. Kelly has worked with Young since he was in eighth grade.

After the sessions in May with Kelly and others, Young would end with speed and agility work. He completed this routine three to four days a week during the time off in May.

“The way he approaches a workout and training in the offseason, it’s at a high level,” Kelly said. “But this year was a little bit different as far as some specific things he really wanted to achieve this offseason.”

Positioning has been one area on which Young has worked. That could mean the positioning of his feet, his head or another part of his body. Maybe his feet were slightly out of place on a play or his head slid slightly on another snap. Small and almost unnoticeable to the uneducated eye but sometimes vital.

“He would almost make up for it just because he was so talented,” Kelly said. “But there are times where it didn’t work out.”

So Young and Kelly worked to limit those times for the 2022 season.

Sometimes, they had some help. Per Kelly, Alabama teammates who came to work out with Young included new receivers Tyler Harrell and Jermaine Burton as well as Christian Leary and tight end Cameron Latu. This is the first time Kelly could recall Young bringing receivers.

It’s part of Young’s effort to do more than only get himself ready for the season. The returning captain has a team to prepare with a national championship on the line in what will likely be his final college season.

“Even though he had a lot of personal awards that he achieved this year,” Kelly said, “I think he’s even more hungry to get the one he’s really after.”

Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at nkelly@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly