TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When it comes to the University of Alabama offense, the future looks bright.
Like supernova explosion kind of bright.
Although the emergence of Tua Tagovailoa may put coach Nick Saban in a very difficult and unique position of having two quarterbacks heading into the 2018 season, with neither going into his senior year, the Crimson Tide offense returns a lot of key players.
The only senior on the offensive line this past season was center Bradley Bozeman, and the starting three wide receivers will all need to be replaced.
Alabama will also lose a little depth at running back with Bo Scarbrough leaving a year early after rushing for 596 yards and 8 touchdowns, with 17 receptions for 106 yards. He finished his Crimson Tide career with 267 carries for 1,512 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“I don’t think that I had a great season that I was planning on having,” Scarbrough said. ”Things didn’t turn out the way we expected it to be.”
When asked if the depth at running back influenced his decision, he admitted, “Somewhat it does.”
Here’s where Alabama stands with each position group:
• Staying: Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa
• Going: No one
• Redshirt: Mac Jones
• Signed: None
The biggest question of the offseason will be regarding how Alabama handles the quarterback position, and Saban made it clear after the National Championship Game that he’s in no rush to figure out the details. One has to think that Hurts is considering his options, and Tagovailoa had a strongly-worded tweet in support of his teammate on Thursday. Adding another player on National Signing Day becomes a bigger priority if the Crimson Tide can find a worthwhile prospect still unsigned.
RUNNING BACKS (7)
• Staying: Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris, Brian Robinson, Ronnie Clark
• Going: Bo Scarbrough
• Redshirt: None
• Signed: Slade Bolden and Jerome Ford
Damien Harris is returning for his senior season with 2,194 career rushing yards and a chance to finish among Alabama’s career rushing leaders. While he only had 17 rushing yards during the National Championship Game, giving him exactly 1,000 for the season, Najee Harris showed that he’s ready to regularly contribute.
WIDE RECEIVERS (8)
• Staying: Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III, Derek Kief and Xavian Marks
• Going: Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Cam Sims
• Redshirt: Tyrell Shavers and Chadarius Townsend
• Signed: Xavier Williams
The three freshmen who saw a lot of playing time against Georgia will be in the mix to start, as Smith, Riggs and Jeudy all showed that they’re ready for bigger roles. Otherwise, Alabama needs to quickly develop some depth. Townsend has the ability to play running back as well, but will have a better chance to play at receiver.
The scariest thing to hear this game…
“Alabama, with 3 freshmen receivers and a true freshman QB on the field…”
— Brett Perkins (@brettperk) January 9, 2018
TIGHT ENDS (5)
• Staying: Hale Hentges, Major Tennison, Kendrick James, Miller Forristall, Irv Smith Jr.
• Going: None
• Redshirt: None
• Signed: None
This position could be a real strength in 2018 as Forristall will be back from a knee injury and Hentges has 43 games of experience. Smith led the group in receiving with 14 catches for 128 yards and 3 touchdowns, but is capable of a lot more.
OFFENSIVE LINE (18)
• Staying: Alex Leatherwood, Jonah Williams, Jedrick Wills, Lester Cotton, Richie Petitbon, Ross Pierschbacher, Deonte Brown, Chris Owens, Scott Lashley, Dallas Warmack, Elliot Baker, Joshua Casher, Brandon Kennedy, Matt Womack
• Going: Bradley Bozeman, J.C. Hassenauer
• Redshirt: Hunter Brannon and Kendall Randolph
• Signed: Emil Ekiyor, Tommy Brown
Leatherwood and Wills are good enough to start, yet neither has a role to fill as both starting tackles and guards are poised to return. Look for there to be competition in the spring at center, and maybe a little experimenting.
It will be lost in the Tua talk today but Alex Leatherwood played like a grown ass man against an incredible group of pass rushers last night. True freshman left tackle thrown into the fire after the Williams injury and played at an elite level. Bright future.
— Mike Johnson (@MPJohnson79) January 9, 2018