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 continue our series by asking who will score Alabama's first touchdown this season.
There are so many variables to this. Will Alabama’s first touchdown come from a pass or a run? Will it come from a few yards out or on a big gain? Due to these uncertainties, I’m picking a playmaker who can pull off all of the above.
Jahmyr Gibbs showed off his playmaking ability during the A-Day game, rushing for a game-high 100 yards on nine carries, including a 75-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The do-it-all back is also an established pass-catcher and was Georgia Tech’s second-leading receiver with 36 receptions for 470 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season.
Gibbs also has the ability to score Alabama’s first touchdown on special teams. Last season, he averaged 25.61 yards per kick return, including a 98-yard score against Boston College.
“Jah is super explosive, super dynamic, someone who is just lightning in a bottle,” Alabama quarterback Bryce Young said during his time at the Manning Passing Academy earlier this month. “Every time he touches the ball, he’s a threat. Getting the ball in his hands and just seeing him be able to improvise and just do great things with it, it’s been really fun for me to watch.”
Alabama’s first touchdown last season came as Young connected with receiver John Metchie III for a 37-yard score. In 2020 the Crimson Tide kicked off its scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run from Najee Harris. Who knows what this season will bring, but regardless of the situation, there’s a good chance Gibbs will be on the field.
Over the years that Nick Saban has been head coach at Alabama, we’ve seen the Crimson Tide’s offense slowly evolve from a ground-and-pound style to its current format, a pro-style offense.
With that in mind, the odds of Alabama’s first touchdown being through the air is seemingly the most logical.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs is more than capable of scoring the Crimson Tide’s first touchdown of the season on the ground. But a quick look at the Crimson Tide’s style of play will hint at a different result.
How many times has Alabama attempted a deep strike on its opening drive in order to gain an early lead? Over time, it’s become a staple of the Saban-coached Crimson Tide: strike early (or at least attempt to) and jump out ahead. In 2021, the Crimson Tide’s first touchdown was a 37-yard strike from Bryce Young to John Metchie III. In 2022, it’s going to be a similar result.
Alabama might have lost Jameson Williams to the NFL Draft this offseason, but it adds standout wide receiver Tyler Harrell from Louisville. Harrell was known with the Cardinals for his dangerous speed and ability to create separation from defenders — which is why he will be utilized by Young for the Crimson Tide’s first deep strike against Utah State on Sept. 3.
So to clear things up: I believe that Young will connect with Harrell for a touchdown to give Alabama its first score of the season. On top of that, I believe it will be a touchdown of 30+ yards.
This is a fun one because there’s really no way to know, which leaves so many options to choose from. Because Alabama’s opening the season against a non-Power Five opponent for the first time since 2013, I think there’s a good chance that the Crimson Tide’s first touchdown could be non-offensive.
But recent history shows us the odds are high that Alabama’s first touchdown will be a passing touchdown as it has been in four of the last five seasons. So now the question is which receiver will it be?
I’m going to go with Cameron Latu. Alabama’s first score in 2019 was a touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Miller Forristall after Forristall hadn’t even recorded a single catch in 2018. He would go on to have four total touchdown catches that season, but Latu saw an even bigger season for a tight end in 2021. Latu didn’t have a single catch in 2020 before recording 26 catches and eight touchdowns in 2021, including two touchdown catches in the season opener against Miami.
When Alabama opens the season on Sept. 3 in Bryant Denny Stadium against Utah State, I can see Alabama marching down the field with Jahmyr Gibbs before Bryce Young connects with Latu in the end zone to give the Crimson Tide a 7-0 lead.