When I saw Mike Williams catch that incredible ball on the same play Alabama got a fifteen yard penalty, I stood up out of my seat. When I saw Jordan Leggett make that incredible one handed catch, I bit down on my finger in anticipation. When I saw Williams draw that passing interference in the endzone, my eyes got wider. And when Hunter Renfrow caught that pass I jumped up in celebration. I, more than many, was yearning to see the SEC and their poster child, Alabama, take a trademark loss.
That doesn’t change the fact that they are returning many, many talented contributors next season.
Jalen Hurts racked up 3,500 yards this year (2,600 through the air, 900 on the ground). He also combined for 33 touchdowns. Hurts is a true freshman this year and has at least two more seasons at Alabama.
Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris totaled 1,900 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground between the two of them. They’re both sophomores.
Calvin Ridley is a true freshman and was able to notch 800 yards and 7 touchdowns. He’ll be around for a couple more years too.
Sure, they have an incredible amount of talent going to the NFL. They also are one of the best at reloading their ranks. They had the #1 recruiting class in 2012, 2013, and 2014. In 2015, they had the second best class behind USC. They’re also sitting at #1 for 2016 and 2017, all according to Rivals. Next year, they will have three five-star quarterbacks sitting on the bench waiting for Hurts to go pro in 2019.
Clemson returned a lot of talent for 2016. They are losing their leader in Deshaun Watson at quarterback along with their leading wide receiver in Mike Williams. Many Tigers on defense are graduating on top of that. Clemson is no slouch when it comes to recruiting.. but they cannot quite compare to Alabama’s incredible success.
Undoubtedly there will be other teams stepping up if Clemson cannot maintain their success. Ohio State and Michigan are waiting in the wings with young teams. Washington looms across the Rocky Mountains with a young team of their own. Oklahoma seems to always be in the national title hunt. USC and Penn State made their own statements this year as well with both teams returning their stud quarterbacks.
In short, there are no shortage of programs to compete against Alabama. Other teams exist and get top five recruiting classes. There are plenty of young quarterbacks who are emerging on the scene. Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, USC, Washington, Oklahoma, and a spate of SEC teams are all standing in Alabama’s way next year. If I were forced to take a bet on Alabama v. The Field, though, I would be tempted to put my money on the Crimson Tide. I would love to hear your opinion on why I am wrong.
Picture sourced from SaturdayDownSouth.com