Our Heisman watchlist feature series, to this point, has included a few of the favorites (Spencer Rattler, Trevor Lawrence), darkhorse picks like Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, or even non-quarterbacks like Rondale Moore, Ja’Marr Chase, and Derek Stingley. But our feature today – if he were to win the Heisman – would set an entirely new precedent. Today’s feature is Alabama’s incoming true freshman quarterback Bryce Young. The California product flipped his commitment from USC to Alabama back in September, and he’s now got his eyes on winning what should be a thrilling quarterback battle in Tuscaloosa. The Tide are moving on from the Tua Taugovailoa era, as Mac Jones returns with a few games of starting experience after Tua was injured, and he and Bryce Young will compete to take over Alabama’s dynamic offense with tons of talent that will be playing on Sundays in the near future.
The biggest obstacle in Young’s potential march to the Heisman, which would make him the first ever true freshman winner of the award, is winning that preseason battle, although, as we’ve seen several times in the Nick Saban era, claiming the job in the preseason does not always guarantee safety for the season. The mountain Bryce Young has to climb to fight for the Heisman award is a big one, but with a loaded SEC schedule and plenty of chances to prove himself, the Mater Dei High School alum will have an opportunity to make history.
We’ve seen in recent years that true freshmen with multiple years of starting experience in high school make headlines in their first year on the collegiate gridiron. Bo Nix (Auburn), Sam Howell (UNC), Max Duggan (TCU), and Jayden Daniels (Arizona State) all had very successful freshman campaigns, bringing more hope for Young’s future with the Crimson Tide. He’s a better prospect than any of the aforementioned QBs, as the #2 overall prospect in his class and top dual-threat quarterback. Not only that, but Young has three years of starting experience at Mater Dei, where he threw for over 13,000 yards, including over 4500 in his senior year, while adding 357 yards on the ground. He passed for 58 touchdowns and ran another ten into the endzone, while throwing just six interceptions.
Analysts rave over Young’s maturity under center. Working with dangerous weapons in the Alabama offense like Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith, and Najee Harris in the backfield, Young’s astounding ability to quickly progress through reads and improvise on broken plays should mesh well together. With the SEC West a giant question mark, if Young wrests the starting position from Mac Jones, he could become an instant Heisman contender just by putting up a big-time season with the Tide this fall…or spring…or if and when we have the season.
It seems too optimistic and/or risky to pick out games on constantly fluctuating schedules for Heisman opportunities, but if Alabama’s current SEC slate is played as schedule, Young should look forward to the end-of-season Iron Bowl clash in Tuscaloosa against Auburn. The Tigers haven’t beaten the Tide on the road since 2010, so if Young is starting under center and puts up a big game against a team that figures to be in and around the top 10, it will be a great last chance for him to make an impression on Heisman voters.
On the contrary, Alabama’s trip to LSU poses some major challenges, as the Tigers will have newfound confidence after winning on the road last year, but they figure to be a little weaker without Joe Burrow this year. It could be a tricky road game to navigate against an LSU team that’s probably not Playoff-caliber, but most certainly capable of beating the Tide in Death Valley. Can Bryce Young win in a brutal road environment as a true freshman? If he can, it’ll be a huge step towards making Heisman history in his first collegiate season.