Alabama sophomore quarterback Bryce Young will be the new leader behind center for the Crimson Tide in 2021 and he'll have new faces to toss the ball around to, for the most part.
Over the last two seasons, Alabama has lost four first-round NFL draft picks in Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. The only two veterans left in the position room with meaningful experience are junior John Metchie III, who finished with 55 catches for 916 yards and six touchdowns last year, and redshirt-junior Slade Bolden, who finished 2020 with 24 receptions for 270 yards and one score.
"I think it's a role I'm embracing, having learned from all the guys before me," Metchie said last week during SEC Media Days of his role expanding in 2021. "I'm definitely excited about it. I'm looking forward to being able to teach the young guys things and definitely lead the receiver room. So I'm definitely looking forward to that."
However, Coach Nick Saban and company made a splash in the offseason by landing Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams, who fills an immediate need. During his two seasons with the Buckeyes, he caught 14 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns.
"Jameson Williams has been very impressive with us this summer," Saban said last week. "We felt like we needed someone who has the juice and speed at receiver to complement the players that we do have and we needed some experience after losing four first-round draft picks in the last two years at that position.
"He certainly has not disappointed in how he has added those elements to our offense in what we have seen this summer."
Of the returners, sophomores Traeshon Holden, Javon Baker, Thaiu Jones-Bell and redshirt-junior Xavier Williams are next in the pecking order. Holden was the leading receiver during the A-Day Game this spring with nine receptions for 89 yards.
Alabama was active at the position in the 2021 recruiting cycle adding four highly-touted freshmen in Agiye Hall, Ja'Corey Brooks, Christian Leary and JoJo Earle.
Hall was the A-Day sensation, finishing the final scrimmage of spring with four catches for 72 yards. He put his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame on display, making many highly-contested receptions, and showcased his electric play-making ability.
Like Hall, Brooks, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, is a big-bodied and physical specimen that can excel in making catches in traffic and across the middle of the field. He was rated by Sports Illustrated All-American as the fifth-best wide receiver coming out of high school last year.
Where Leary and Earle can excite Crimson Tide fans is with their dynamic speed and ability to separate from defenders. There can be a case made for both players that each one was the fastest wide out in the entire 2021 cycle. Both will likely make an impact in the return-game as well.
"A lot of the receivers have stood out in summer workouts," Metchie said. "I think all the guys in the freshman class are doing really good. Agiye, Baker is doing really good, Slade, even the older guys. I think just as a team everybody is coming along."
Crimson Tide Wide Receivers
- Returning: John Metchie III, Slade Bolden, Traeshon Holden, Javon Baker, Xavier Williams, Thaiu Jones-Bell
- True Freshmen: Agiye Hall, Ja'corey Brooks, Christian Leary, JoJo Earle
- Incoming Transfers: Jameson Williams (Ohio State)
- Departed: DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle
This is the third story in a series previewing the 2021 Crimson Tide by position.