The University of Alabama and head coach Nick Saban went in a youthful direction with the hiring of Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees. He will be Saban’s ninth guy to call the offense for him at Tuscaloosa and at 30 years old, the youngest since Major Applewhite, who was 28 when hired in 2007.
Rees is coming to Alabama after six years on Notre Dame’s coaching staff with the last three as their offensive coordinator. He was also a quarterback there just a decade ago. Though inexperienced compared to some of his predecessors in T-Town, Rees brings a young and innovative mind that should benefit the Crimson Tide. In addition, the departure of quarterback Bryce Young to the NFL Draft will make this offense vastly different in 2023. Here are two major changes that can be expected.
Alabama Will Have A Quarterback Competition
After several years of predictability in the quarterback succession plan, 2023 marks an opportunity for a fresh start. Dual-threat QB Jalen Milroe has been with the program since 2021 and has one start under his belt. Last year in his start against Texas A&M, Milroe threw for 111 yards and rushed for 81 yards. He has potential but took off running nearly as many times as he attempted a pass.
If the Tide want a better passer and stronger arm, they could go with Ty Simpson. The former five-star prospect has some familiarity with the new offensive coordinator. Rees tried to recruit him to Notre Dame, but Simpson went with Alabama instead. Additionally, freshman Eli Holstein, could also be an intriguing option. Holstein is 6’4, has a strong arm, and can run outside the pocket. It might be too early to bring him on as a starter, but he is likely the future at some point.
There will be plenty of time for the quarterback battle to shape up. All three guys have some upside and whoever is chosen will likely need to pass and run the ball. Looking back at Rees’ best season as offensive coordinator for Notre Dame, a dual threat quarterback gave that program the most success. Ian Book averaged around 230 passing yards and 41 rushing yards per game in 2020 as the Fighting Irish finished the year losing the College Football Playoff Semi-Final to Alabama.
Will The Running Game Take Off?
One of the criticisms of previous offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who left to join the New England Patriots as their OC, was the lack of a running game. In 2022, the Tide ranked 82nd in the nation in number of rushing attempts. However, when they ran the ball, they were effective with 5.57 rushing yards per attempt (fourth in the nation). Sure, Alabama had 2021 Heisman winner Bryce Young at quarterback, but a better running game could have helped them to spread out the offense.
Tommy Rees should be able to change this. His offense at Notre Dame ranked 21st in rushing attempts and 35th in rushing yards per game in 2022. Rees relied on a trio of running backs giving them each 100 carriers during the season.
Whoever Alabama has in the backfield this upcoming season, should have the opportunity to thrive. Expect the Tide to have a more balanced offense going forward. With more talent than he did in South Bend, Tommy Rees will likely be very creative with his offensive schemes. He was known for putting guys in motion to freeze up defenders and open up lanes.
Alabama got very close to where they wanted to be in 2022. They were just one spot away from making the College Football Playoff. A play here or there in either of their two losses (Tennessee, LSU) was the margin of error to miss out on competing for a national championship. The new energy that Tommy Rees will bring to this offense should bring about positive change despite multiple players declaring for the draft and exiting via the transfer portal.
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