Who will be Alabama football's top offensive weapon in 2023? A few candidates

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

New Alabama football offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has a problem on his hands, but it's the kind of problem every offensive coordinator wants.

How does he handle snaps for all the talented running backs and receivers he has?

Alabama has a variety of good options at each spot. Veteran options, young players and newcomers fill up each group. How Rees uses each player and how much time he gives to each guy will be worth following, and it could very well change throughout the season.

Nick Saban raved about the running back spot during spring practices.

"They’re all very productive players," Saban said in April. "All those guys can contribute to the team in some ways. They’re doing really, really well. As long as we can stay healthy at that position, I don’t think that’s an issue on our team.”

Wide receiver shouldn't be either. And heck, with the addition of Maryland's CJ Dippre, the tight end spot could be one that could create problems for defenses, too.

Who will be that one player who keeps defensive coordinators up at night, though? Here are five of the top candidates who could be Alabama's top offensive weapon in 2023.

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Malik Benson, receiver

The top junior-college transfer drew considerable buzz in the spring and has a chance to be one of the next electric receivers to emerge from Alabama.

Benson has size, speed and athleticism and if he meets the hype could be a valuable play-maker early and often.

In the A-Day game, he caught five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, working with quarterback Jalen Milroe on the White offense, primarily made up of the first group.

“Benson’s had a really, really good spring and is capable of stretching the field and making big plays,” Saban said. “Good all-around player. He certainly is going to help us.”

Justice Haynes, running back

Here's another newcomer who was the worst-kept secret during the spring as a player to watch. The freshman running back showed why on A-Day, rushing for two scores. He finished the day with 10 carries for 24 yards as well as four receptions for 40 yards and another score while working with the Crimson offense.

Don't be surprised if Haynes is a staple in the running back rotation early in the season as a freshman.

“If you are just a guy sitting on a log watching, you would never know he’s a freshman,” Saban said. “So he's a very talented guy. He can make cuts. He can make you miss. He's got some power, good speed. He's a good receiver. So he’s done a really, really good job all spring.”

Jase McClellan, running back

Haynes is the new guy, so there's naturally some excitement involved. Don't forget about McClellan, though. The senior running back is a proven rusher and pass-catcher who can be a mismatch for defenses.

He averaged 5.3 yards per carry against the first-team defense on A-Day, which is along the lines of his mark from a season ago. As a junior, he rushed for 655 yards on 112 carries (5.8 average) for seven touchdowns.

Future first-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs got more attention as the elite athlete at the position in 2022, but McClellan has an extra gear in him, too. Remember the 81-yard touchdown run against Texas?

Isaiah Bond, receiver

He showed hints of big-play ability during his freshman year. He caught two passes for 76 yards against Arkansas. If Bond can take the next step in his game, he could be a nice weapon for whoever starts at quarterback.

Ja'Corey Brooks, receiver

Brooks has size and athleticism, and that's a problem for any cornerback.

He had a solid season in 2022 with 39 catches for 674 yards and eight touchdowns. If he can increase consistency and keep growing in his third season, Brooks could be in line for a true breakout year.