QB front-runner Young mostly shines in Alabama’s spring game

Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Bryce Young made a juke move to elude a rushing defender, set his feet and launched a quick pass for a big gain to tailback Roydell Williams on the opening drive.

He also lost a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown.

The Alabama sophomore quarterback showed in Saturday’s spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium why he’s regarded as the frontrunner to replace Heisman Trophy finalist Mac Jones. It was also clear that the highest-rated quarterback signee of the Nick Saban era is a work in progress, and so is an offense with some huge voids to fill along with key returning players being held out.

Of course, the defending national champions and their young quarterback know it’s just April.

“The pocket collapses on him and he was in some tough situations relative to that,” Saban said. “I think he’s done a really good job all spring. We continue to work on him kind of having a presence out there that affects other people in a positive way. And I think he’s starting to get more and more respect from the other players by the way he plays.”

The 6-foot, 194-pound Young is competing with fellow sophomore Paul Tyson – the great grandson of former Alabama coaching legend Bear Bryant – and freshman Jalen Milroe, who was held out of the game.

He was thought to perhaps have a chance to compete with Jones for the job starting last spring after arriving as the nation’s top quarterback prospect. But then practices were called off because of the pandemic.

Young ran the first-team offense against the first-team defense, completing 25 of 44 passes for 333 yards and a 59-yard touchdown to tight end Cameron Latu.

He also had his first chance to lead a game-winning drive at Alabama, even if it was just an end-of-spring scrimmage. He took the White team down the field in the final minutes with the game tied, setting up a short field goal for a 13-10 win over the Crimson.

“I think Bryce has put in a lot of effort this spring in just understanding the offense and trying to improve on himself and also bring the offense together,” wide receiver Slade Bolden said. “He’s shown some leadership skills. He’s also done a great job of executing on the field.”

There are plenty of new faces on the offense, from Young to new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, a former Houston Texans and Penn State head coach. Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith and fellow finalists Jones and tailback Najee Harris are among the departed stars from that unbeaten team that averaged 48.5 points.

Young did have a couple of mistakes, including a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by linebacker Jaylen Moody late in the first half. He also had a surefire pick-six interception chance dropped.

Tyson completed 18 of 34 passes for 171 yards.

A number of players were out for the game, including the top returning rusher and receiver in Brian Robinson Jr. and John Metchie III, along with linebackers Will Anderson Jr. and Christian Harris.

Some young talent got a chance to shine, including freshman wide receiver Agiye Hall. After an acrobatic first-half catch, Saban told ESPN: “He’s one of the most explosive players on this team.” Hall later pulled down a sideline catch, just getting a foot down.

Alabama allowed half-capacity attendance at Bryant-Denny in the game because of COVID-19, and announced the crowd at slightly less than that (47,218). Masks were required, but many fans didn’t appear to be wearing one in the stands.

Saban watched the spring game from the field, coaching up players in between plays. He nearly got run into during an interception return but joked that he wore his pink suit in part so he’d stand out more clearly for the players.

“Basically, the players know that if they run into me, it’s very similar to running into the goal post,” Saban said, joking. “So it’s not a good choice and decision for them, so they usually avoid me. And I wear a jacket like this so they can see where I am, for their safety, not really for mine.”

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.