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BamaCentral 22 for '22: Who is Alabama’s Most Important Player this Season

The Crimson Tide returns arguably the nation's best player on both sides of the ball.

After falling one win short of adding a 19th national title last season, Alabama will look to rebound and take the next step this year. The Crimson Tide returns a loaded roster, including reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young and a rebuilt offense as well as one of the most talented defenses in the Nick Saban era.

Alabama will open its season on Sept. 3 when it hosts Utah State inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. To help pass the time, BamaCentral’s Joey Blackwell, Tony Tsoukalas and Katie Windham will discuss 22 topics and questions concerning the 2022 season.

Today we conclude our series by asking who is the most important player for Alabama this season.

Blackwell's take

Who is the one Alabama player that was more frequently mentioned than any other prior to not just last season, but this season as well?

The answer doesn’t take long to think of, and it’s Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young.

Now, there are certainly arguments that players like linebacker Will Anderson Jr. and running back Jahmyr Gibbs could be considered as Alabama’s most important player for the 2022 season. Certainly, both of those players would have strong cases.

But neither case would be as strong as Young’s.

Look at it this way: if Anderson were to disappear, Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell could step into his place. Would they play up to the same standard as Anderson? Absolutely not. But they could do a solid job and making up the difference.

Now, if Young were to not be on this team? Well, that would most likely end the season for Alabama before it even started.

Young has developed himself into an irreplaceable talent for the Crimson Tide, but with that talent also comes pressure. In 2021, Young took that pressure in stride and boosted an underperforming Crimson Tide team to an appearance in the CFP title game. This year, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner looks to one-up that performance.

Need proof? Just read to this quote from Young just over a week ago:

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“Obviously we came up short last year, and that’s all that I’m focused on,” Young told reporters at this offseason’s Manning Passing Academy. “[…] At the end of the day, my goals were to win a championship. That’s our goal every year. We don’t shy away from it. That’s our standard. […] Right now in the moment, last year’s season was a failure for me — for everyone — because we didn’t win it, and that’s what our goal is.”

Young is playing angry this year, and that’s going to be dangerous for all of college football.

Tsoukalas' take

I’d love to come up with some creative answer about how Jahmyr Gibbs’ versatility or Tyler Harrell’s speed is the key to making Alabama’s offense work. However, there are plenty of capable replacements waiting in the wings if either of those two goes down to injury.

If the question was “Who is Alabama’s most talented player?” Will Anderson’s name would certainly enter the equation. However, his importance is offset by fellow five-star pass rushers Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell.

Let's cut to the chase here, the only acceptable answer to this is Bryce Young.

Forget the fact that he’s the reigning Heisman Trophy winner or perhaps the best quarterback in program history, Alabama doesn’t have anyone on its roster who can come close to matching what Young brings to the team.

Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson might become stars of their own one day, but neither of them has taken a meaningful snap at the college level. Young’s experience will be key in running an offense that underwent a dramatic overhaul this offseason. The same can be said for the junior’s presence in the locker room as Young joins Anderson as one of two returning permanent team captains from last year’s roster.

I’ll save my hot takes for later in the season and go with the obvious choice here.

Windham's take

Sorry to be repetitive, but Bryce Young is really the only option here. As always, Alabama’s roster is loaded with talent, but that doesn’t mean all the talent is replaceable.

When John Metchie and Jameson Williams both went down with injuries at the end of last season, it showed how costly certain injuries can be. And while there was a drop-off in production, there were other options to step up at receiver.

Even though Jalen Milroe impressed in the spring and Ty Simpson also received positive reviews from teammates and coaches, Alabama lacks experienced depth at quarterback if Young were unavailable. Young put up numbers never before seen from an Alabama quarterback in his first season as a starter, but it wasn’t just his skills on the field that were important for the Crimson Tide.

With a team lacking senior leadership, Young and Will Anderson Jr. stepped up as sophomores and became well-respected voices in the locker room by the end of the season. With a full season under his belt and the motivation to redeem what was lost against Georgia on Jan. 10, Young is absolutely key to any type of success Alabama will have this season and its goals of winning another national title.