Should Alabama football be concerned about its receivers after Texas?

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

AUSTIN, Texas ― The Utah State game might have given a false sense of hope for Alabama football's receivers.

The Crimson Tide offense tossed the football around with ease in the first game of the season. Bryce Young had five touchdown passes before halftime. Traeshon Holden, Kobe Prentice and Jermaine Burton each caught five passes. Two of those went for touchdowns for Holden and Burton.

It seemed the receivers might be OK after all, amid an offseason of significant transition at the position.

Fast-forward a week to Texas, and that didn’t seem to be the case at all. Frankly, the receivers as a group gave plenty of reasons for concern.

The receivers not finding ways to step up on a consistent basis over four quarters is part of the reason why Alabama (2-0) found itself in a pinch against Texas, barely pulling out the 20-19 victory on Saturday because of late-game heroics from Young and kicker Will Reichard.

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Receivers didn’t account for even half of Young’s completions against the Longhorns (1-1). Traeshon Holden, Kobe Prentice, Ja’Corey Brooks and Jermaine Burton combined for only 13 receptions.

Jahmyr Gibbs, a running back, led the team with nine receptions. He also caught the lone touchdown Young threw.

There are a few reasons why the receivers weren’t more productive for Alabama. Drops were part of that. Burton and Prentice each had a drop, according to Pro Football Focus’ charting. PFF only charts drops when the receiver is at fault, not when a defender makes a play on the ball or receiver.

Drops are bound to happen, but not making a catch when there’s a prime opportunity is certainly not going to help when the offense experiences a drought.

Drops can be isolated incidents, though. What was more concerning ― how the receivers couldn’t seem to get open for Young on a consistent basis.

Against Texas, Alabama’s receivers didn’t seem to have the burst needed to create separation. On multiple occasions, Young would look downfield, not see anything and have to either hit a short throw to a running back such as Gibbs or take off and run himself.

He only targeted Holden and Burton, two starting receivers, a combined six times. The week before, Young threw in their direction 15 times.

That can be attributed in part to good coverage or too much pressure in Young’s face for him to get a good look downfield. So the pass protection needs to hold up long enough for receivers to get open. That will also need to improve moving forward.

There just doesn’t seem to be that scary receiving threat the Crimson Tide has been known to have in recent years. If there is, it didn’t show against Texas.

Tyler Harrell has the potential to be that player. He was clocked at 4.24 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Louisville pro day before he transferred to Alabama. Unfortunately, Harrell has not been available yet. He was in a boot on the sideline during the Utah State game. It’s unclear what his status will be moving forward.

One thing that is clear: Alabama could certainly use speed like his.

Now, one concerning game from the receivers doesn’t mean the position will be problematic all season. It just wasn’t a good sign for how the receivers fared against better competition.

Young can make spectacular plays, but he needs help for the offense to be productive on a consistent basis.

Maybe that help is on the roster. Maybe it’s not. Either way, Alabama’s receivers will need to do better than they did for three-plus quarters in Austin.