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It was a Jekyll and Hyde kind of a season for Nick Saban and the 2021 Alabam football team. There were moments when it looked like a vintage Alabama team, but there were also moments that left you scratching your head in disbelief.
A lot of the inconsistency is understandable. The 2021 version of the Tide was not only full of youth and inexperience, but they also battled several key injuries throughout the entire season. In fact, you could make the argument that Nick Saban and his bunch squeezed about as much out the season as anyone could have hoped for.
Most programs would be incredibly happy with Alabama’s “down season” if that meant making it to the CFP national championship game. But as most of you know, Alabama isn’t most schools. The standard is high, therefore fan expectations are even higher.
Now that the season has ended and we have had a couple of days to reflect on the season, let’s take a look at the final report card for this 2021 Alabama football team.
First …the offense…
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
The 2021 Alabama offense produced a Heisman winner in Bryce Young at quarterback, two 1,000-yard receivers in Jameson Williams and John Metchie, and a 1,000-yard rusher in Brian Robinson.
On the surface that looks incredible, and truth be told it really is. But unfortunately, there were also some issues with the Alabama offense.
Drops were an issue throughout the entire season, the offensive line was average by ‘Bama standards, and there were a handful of games where the offense simply couldn’t get out of its own way.
If we are being honest, it never really felt like offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien got comfortable calling plays for the Tide either.
Final Offensive Grade: A-
Next …the defense…
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Much like the offensive, the Alabama defense had moments of elite play, but they also had moments where they would have you tossing your hat and screaming at the TV.
Will Anderson Jr. had one of the better individual seasons in recent Alabama history accumulating a ridiculous 31 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks as a true sophomore.
Most of the inconsistent play occurred in the first half of the season, and towards the back half, the defense started playing more of the vintage style of Alabama defense.
Alabama’s play at the end of the season silenced a lot of Pete Golding haters.
Final Defensive Grade: A-
Next …special teams…
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Special teams are a hard unit to evaluate because there are several different units within special teams. Placekicker Will Reichard had a strong junior season finishing 22-28 on field-goal attempts. Reichard was tied for second in the country in total points with 137.
Alabama also had a pair of kick returns for a touchdown and also a couple of blocked punts that resulted in touchdowns.
Alabama also allowed a kick-return for a touchdown against Texas A&M that proved to be critical in the Tide’s comeback attempt. There were also several big returns given up on kickoffs sprinkled throughout the season.
It was elite, but it was still a pretty solid season for the special teams unit(s).
Final Special Teams Grade: B+
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
Overall I am finding it pretty difficult to be critical of the 2021 Alabama football. A team that was already full of youth and inexperience had to battle through several key injuries and when it was all said and done they played the toughest schedule in the country according to ESPN’s College Football Power Index.
This team produced Alabama’s first-ever quarterback to win a Heisman Trophy and also had its most dominant defensive player since the great Derrick Thomas.
It wasn’t always pretty and it didn’t always turn out the way Crimson Tide fans would have liked, but you would be hard-pressed to convince me that this wasn’t one of Nick Saban’s best coaching jobs in his tenure with the Tide.
Final Overall Grade: A-
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