Nick Saban Hints at Bryce Young’s Primary Receiver

Nick Saban

Getty Alabama head coach Nick Saban

On January 10, 2022, when Alabama fell to Georgia, Jermaine Burton celebrated with the Bulldogs as they won their first national championship since 1980. This year he will be suiting up for the Crimson Tide, as he transferred from the champions to the runner-up 13 days following their victory.

During a press conference on August seventh, Nick Saban answered questions about his wide receiving corps which is projected to be led in part by two transfers, Burton is one of them. With the season opener less than four weeks away in Tuscaloosa against Utah State, the time to assign the number one receiver role is approaching.


Burton Seems to Be Impressing Saban Thus Far

Burton coming into the Alabama program as a junior transfer has had his fair share of experience in the toughest conference in college football, the Southeastern Conference.

While at Georgia he appeared in 22 games, catching 53 passes for 901 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s already played against Alabama three times in college; Once in 2020 and twice in 2021. In all three games combined he scored a touchdown and caught nine passes for 122 yards. 

Although Burton has yet to put up high-caliber numbers he will be entering his most important season yet, and with Bryce Young, the Heisman winner at quarterback he is set for a breakout season. Saban’s remarks during the post-practice press conference just increase the likelihood Burton will be the number one option for Young in the pocket. 

Saban kept remarks about Burton short and sweet stating he “has played with the most consistency” out of all receivers. When it came to the other transfer from Louisville, Tyler Harrell, Saban’s words weren’t as positive, but still moving in the right direction.


Where the Rest of the Alabama Receivers Stand Currently

“Tyler has been sort of in and out a little bit to this point,” Saban said on August 7. “He has been able to practice on a daily basis but not 100%. I do think that he has shown that he has a lot of ability. We just need to get it channeled in the right direction so that we can use him in a way that will be most productive for him and us.” 

The fact Burton seems to be a favorite over Harrell has less to do with talent and more to do with experience in the offense. Harrell transferred over at a later date and was not involved in spring practice like Burton and the rest of the team were.

In 2021, Harrell played in 12 games catching 18 passes for 523 yards and six touchdowns. Even though Harrell’s stats were stronger than Burton’s last year, it is fair to mention that he did not have to face the defenses of the SEC while doing so. 

The most experienced returning receiver from last year’s squad is Ja’Corey Brooks, but he is only a sophomore and not ready to lead the team yet, only appearing in seven games as a freshman. Brooks started slow but as the season progressed showed what he could be capable of moving forward.

In the last four games of the season, from the Iron Bowl in Auburn to the title game in Indianapolis, he recorded 13 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns. He also played a key role in the fourth-quarter comeback win over Auburn, catching the over-the-shoulder touchdown pass from Young to send the game to overtime. Brooks shows much promise but will likely not end up as the primary target for Young, although he will be just as influential during game time. 

When Burton announced his transfer many were confused and shocked, but now reality sets in that Saban committed highway robbery against his former defensive coordinator and current Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. Since Smart left the Tide for the Bulldogs to chase glory of his own he has faced up against his former mentor five times, winning only once. 

Smart’s win over Alabama broke a seven-game win streak for the Tide against the Bulldogs, spanning back to Saban’s second year at Alabama in 2008. Burton will be a key factor in the revenge tour of 2022, potentially even getting a chance to match up against his former team in the SEC Championship.

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