SANTA ANA, Calif. (BVM) – Bryce Young could play football at whichever college powerhouse he chooses. With offers from Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and a handful of other top-tier Division I programs, the college football landscape is Young’s oyster.
That’s the reality for Young, the 6-foot tall graduate of Mater Dei High School who is the No. 1-ranked dual-threat quarterback by ESPN300. Young’s senior season of 4,528 passing yards and 58 touchdowns not only led to his recruitment by the nation’s most prestigious programs, but also recognition as California’s best high school football player during the 2019 season.
“Bryce is the best high school quarterback I have ever coached against,” Servite High School head coach Troy Thomas said in a Gatorade press release.
Young is the fourth player from Mater Dei to be selected as the Gatorade California Football Player of the Year and joins former award-winners who went on to successful NFL careers such as Emmitt Smith, Matthew Stafford and Christian McCaffrey.
Much to the chagrin of many California natives, Young’s collegiate journey won’t begin in the Golden State, even though that was originally the plan.
Young committed to USC in July 2018 and even cut off communication with other schools at a point prior to the 2019 season. All signs pointed to Young joining the Trojans, and even in the midst of uncertainty – both with the direction of USC’s program and its head coach, Clay Helton – the Mater Dei standout remained confident in his decision. Young told Sports Illustrated in Feb. 2019 that he had “complete confidence that things will be great” at USC.
But just two days after an official visit to Alabama on Sept. 22, Young backed off his commitment to USC. He committed to the Crimson Tide the same day and enrolled early on Jan. 6, 2020.
The flip to the most dominant FBS program in the modern era could pay immediate dividends for Young as he is a legitimate contender for Alabama’s starting role. After Tua Tagovailoa traded in his senior season for a Miami Dolphins jersey and his younger brother, Taulia, entered his name into the transfer portal in May, it left Mac Jones as the only rostered quarterback with game experience.
Although Jones’ efficient play for a month after Tua’s season-ending injury in 2019 might ostensibly give him an edge in the quarterback race, it’s worth noting that each of head coach Nick Saban’s previous quarterbacks (Jalen Hurts, Tua) have started or played as true freshmen during critical moments.
An early enrollment and acclimation to Alabama could also help Young’s case, even though he was unable to go through spring practices as workouts were called off just hours before the Tide took the field.
Young’s father, Craig, spoke on 247Sports’ The College Football Daily podcast about the benefits of Bryce’s early enrollment.
“Yes, those practices on the field were lost,” Craig said. “However, being an early enrollee, the time he was there was invaluable. You got a chance to do all the involuntary workouts, you got a chance to do the strength and conditioning, you got a chance to acclimate to the university, you got a chance to have meetings with the coaches. And even in this time off, still having meetings, still know the playbook, still know the plays. So yes, missing those practices, we don’t want to minimize that, but also, all is not lost.”
Players returned to Tuscaloosa for the start of voluntary workouts on June 8, but Bryce and others were together putting in work before the restart of team activities. Wide receivers DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Xavier Williams joined Jones and Bryce for a workout on June 2, and gave Tide fans a taste of what their aerial assault will look like this fall.
— Charlie Potter (@Charlie_Potter) June 3, 2020
While question marks of how Alabama will adjust after the Tua-era are present, one certainty for the 2020 season will be expectations. Not only will there be the expectation that Saban and the Tide will continue their dominant recent history, but plenty of eyes will be fixated on the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback who will be tasked with following in the footsteps of Tua and Hurts.
There will be fans who call for Bryce to be the week one starter, but Craig’s expectations for his son are much more grounded.
“My expectations are for Bryce to compete, whatever form or fashion that may be,” Craig said. “Because when you send your young man to a university, you entrust in that position coach, that head coach to make the best decisions for the football team and then, by extension, for your son. My expectations are for Bryce to compete every second that he’s there — film room, on the field, off the field. And if you do those things and you show that you’re the player that we know that you are, everything will take care of itself.”
Even if he doesn’t see playing time right away, Saban has shown the willingness to experiment with quarterbacks at any moment. Besides, Bryce Young will have an entire fan-base glad to know he won’t see the field as early as week one.
Alabama was slated to open the season on Sept. 5 against USC before the Pac-12 opted for conference-only schedule for fall sports.