Alabama’s three keys to the 2023 season

Crimson Tide photos / Alabama receiver Jermaine Burton (3), who began his college career at Georgia, had 40 catches for 677 yards and seven touchdowns for last season's Crimson Tide.
Crimson Tide photos / Alabama receiver Jermaine Burton (3), who began his college career at Georgia, had 40 catches for 677 yards and seven touchdowns for last season's Crimson Tide.

ALABAMA'S THREE KEYS

1. Quality QB play

This seems like an obvious objective, but it's been such a given in Tuscaloosa for years.

Think about it: Has any school ever had a better four-quarterback run than the Crimson Tide with Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones and Bryce Young? And it's not like those who came before them were exactly disastrous.

Blake Sims was the Southeastern Conference's second-team quarterback in 2014 behind Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, and Jake Coker guided Alabama to its fourth national championship of the Nick Saban era the following year.

This month's competition has featured Jalen Milroe, Ty Simpson and Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner, with Saban having yet to announce the starter. Saban also hasn't offered many specifics since his first preseason news conference on Aug. 6.

"This competition will go on and on and on, and we'll need all of the quarterbacks to continue to improve and continue to compete for beyond the time we name a starter," Saban said then. "We've had circumstances around here where quarterbacks have changed during the course of the year.

"That could be the way this situation is, and I want all the players to continue to compete and improve, so if they do get an opportunity to play, they're going to be ready to play and play well."


2. Holding serve

Alabama is a sparkling 51-1 in its last 52 games inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, with the lone loss all but clinching the 2019 Heisman Trophy for LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, whose Tigers prevailed 46-41 over the Tide on their way to that season's national championship.

This year's home schedule is highlighted by visits from Texas, Tennessee and LSU, a trio ranked among the top 12 in the Associated Press preseason poll. Having those games at home is a huge plus, with the Tide almost going 0-3 in those contests a year ago.

Alabama's two biggest road trips are to Texas A&M and Auburn, which each went 5-7 last season, but two years ago the Tide lost in College Station and needed four overtimes to win the Iron Bowl in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Aggies nearly prevailed last season in Tuscaloosa, and this year could reveal whether that was an aberration or the start of a troubling trend.


3. Perimeter punch

If Alabama is to have a season that ends in the College Football Playoff, its receivers will have to bounce back from last year's mediocrity.

Jermaine Burton led the team with 40 catches for 677 yards and seven touchdowns, while Ja'Corey Brooks added 39 for 674 with eight scores, Kobe Prentice 31 for 337 with two touchdowns, and Isaiah Bond 17 for 220 with one score. That quartet couldn't put up near the productivity of Jameson Williams and John Metchie III from the season before, with that duo combining for 175 catches for a whopping 2,714 yards and 23 touchdowns.

"I think our receivers have really improved," Saban said last Saturday. "I think they've played faster. They're playing with more confidence. I think we've had less drops, and obviously the goal is that you don't want any drops, and we're going to continue to work on that.

"I think we've made improvements in the passing game and that we're more confident in what we're doing. We're more confident, and I think that's helpful to the quarterbacks."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.


ALABAMA 2023 SCHEDULE

All times Eastern and p.m.; SEC games in bold

Sept. 2 — vs. Middle Tennessee State, 7:30

Sept. 9 — vs. Texas, 7

Sept. 16 — at South Florida, 3:30

Sept. 23 — vs. Ole Miss, TBD

Sept. 30 — at Mississippi State, TBD

Oct. 7 — at Texas A&M, TBD

Oct. 17 — vs. Arkansas, TBD

Oct. 21 — vs. Tennessee, TBD

Nov. 4 — vs. LSU, TBD

Nov. 11 — at Kentucky, TBD

Nov. 18 — vs. UTC, noon

Nov. 25 — at Auburn, TBD

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