College football has a storied past. None more so than the history set by the Alabama Crimson Tide. Over the years, Alabama football has been one of the most dominant college athletics programs in the nation, winning 15 national titles, 29 conference championships, and being tied for second all-time with 953 wins in program history. Among the great teams that have come through Tuscaloosa, one team looked poised to win it all in dominant fashion but came up just short. That team was the 2018 iteration of the Tide. Let’s take a look at one of the most talented rosters in college football history that couldn’t finish the job.
Quarterback Room Depth
It is extremely rare for a program to have a Heisman trophy finalist at quarterback in its history. Well, in 2018, Alabama’s quarterback room consisted of three players that would all, at one point or another, finish top three in Heisman voting.
The 2019 Alabama QB room was INSANE:
• Jalen Hurts (Eagles QB)
• Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins QB)
• Mac Jones (Patriots QB)
• Taulia Tagovailoa (Maryland QB)
This may have been the BEST college QB room of all time 😳 pic.twitter.com/ZtsCqZTs5q
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) January 28, 2023
The starter, Tua Tagovailoa, lit the college football world on fire during the National Championship Game on January 8, 2018, in which he came off the bench in relief of Jalen Hurts and led the Tide to an overtime victory over Georgia. He was slated to be the starter heading into the 2018 season, and he didn’t disappoint. The Hawaii product threw for 43 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards while finishing second in the Heisman voting to Kyler Murray. Tagovailoa was eventually drafted fifth overall by the Miami Dolphins and has had a solid NFL career up to this point.
The man he replaced in said title game, Jalen Hurts, stayed at Alabama for one more season and backed up Tagovailoa. He would eventually transfer to Oklahoma where, like Tagovailoa, finished second in Heisman voting to Joe Burrow. Hurts led both Alabama and Oklahoma to the playoffs and fell to the second round, where he was snagged by the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, he is one of the highest-paid players in the NFL and one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Third string quarterbacks in college football are often never heard from again. Mac Jones is the exception. After being the third string quarterback in 2018, Jones waited his turn and in 2020, he finally got his chance. He threw for 41 touchdowns and finished third in the Heisman voting, although there is a real argument to be made that he should have won it over his teammate DeVonta Smith.
Absolutely crazy that Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, and Mac Jones all threw TD’s on their last pass at Bryant-Denny pic.twitter.com/Olxz7DK2xt
— Alex Brehm (@ajbrehm24) January 17, 2021
This quarterback room is the best quarterback room from top to bottom in college football history. All three had elite college careers and are enjoying varied amounts of success in the NFL. However, this isn’t even the craziest position group on the team.
Receiving Weapons Galore
Jerry Jeudy. Jaylen Waddle. Henry Ruggs III. DeVonta Smith. Irv Smith. You will be hard-pressed to find a group of receiving talent that can even sniff the level of greatness produced by this group. Sure, the 2019 LSU Tigers had Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, but it got pretty thin after that.
Bama had an NFL WR room 🐘 #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/7OtcxC9603
— ESPN (@espn) April 30, 2021
Jeudy, Waddle, Ruggs, and Smith were all drafted in the top 15, while Irv Smith Jr. was drafted at pick 50. Backup tight ends Hale Hentges and Miller Forristall also earned a cup of coffee in the NFL as well.
Like the quarterbacks, all five of the top receivers have had varied levels of success at the NFL level. They are all solid-to-elite players in the league and the fact that Alabama had five dudes like that in 2018 is absolutely crazy.
Wild Stable of Running Backs
There have been some great running back rooms in college football history. Georgia’s with Nick Chubb, Todd Gurley, and Sony Michel may come to mind as being the best in history. While they may have the more high-end talent, nobody can deny the borderline asinine depth that the running back room in Tuscaloosa possessed in 2018.
Josh Jacobs announced he is switching to jersey #8, the same number he wore at Alabama
Jacobs was a BEAST for the Crimson Tide🐘
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 22, 2023
There were five running backs on that team that are currently in the NFL. Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris, Brian Robinson Jr., and Jerome Ford all had extremely successful NFL careers and are enjoying success in the NFL as well.
Both Harris (New England Patriots) and Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders) were drafted in the first three rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft and have had great success in the league, as Jacobs even led the NFL in rushing in 2022. Behind them, Najee Harris would finish in the top five of the 2020 Heisman voting, as well as become a first round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers after a tremendous senior season.
Brian Robinson had to wait a long time for his turn, but he certainly made the most of it. He gained over 1,600 scrimmage yards and scored 16 total touchdowns. The fifth-year senior played well enough in his final season to get himself drafted in the third round of the 2022 draft by the Washington Commanders.
Most missed tackles forced in a season by an Alabama RB since 2014
🥇 Brian Robinson Jr (’21): 79
🥈 Derrick Henry (’15): 76
🥉 Najee Harris (’20): 71 pic.twitter.com/aT5VRWsBo7
— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 4, 2022
Jerome Ford would eventually transfer to the University of Cincinnati after not getting much playing time at Alabama. At Cincinnati, he’d rush for almost 2,000 yards and nearly 20 touchdowns over two seasons. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns.
Overall, I have never seen a college running back room with five NFL players in it, especially not four players that would get drafted in the first three rounds of their respective drafts.
Offensive Line Studs
The running backs were great in their one right, but they were also running behind some studs up front as well. This group of offensive linemen had six players that ultimately got drafted into the NFL, but they were headlined by first-round tackles Alex Leatherwood, Jonah Williams, and Jedrick Wills.
Highest PFF Grade by Alabama Tackles since 2014:
1. Jonah Williams (2018) – 89.2
2. Jedrick Wills (2019) – 88.8
3. Evan Neal (2021) – 84.9 👀 pic.twitter.com/GTeJ42EXvn
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 8, 2022
Now, all six of these players have had varied amounts of success in the NFL, but that doesn’t take away how dominant they were in college.
In total, this offense possessed a Heisman trophy winner and four other players to get Heisman votes, there were 12 first-round picks on this offensive depth chart, and there are at least 13 players that you can expect to see start on Sundays in 2023. I have never seen anything come close to the amount of talent on one depth chart.
Jan 7, 2019: With a 44-16 romp over Alabama, #Clemson becomes the first college football team to go 15-0 in a season in the modern era. Trevor Lawrence threw for 347 yards ad 3 TDs and Justyn Ross caught 6 for 153 yds and a TD. pic.twitter.com/O9tDsjTKxu
— Tiger Sports History (@Tiger_Timeline) January 7, 2022
What Clemson did to them in the National Championship Game when they beat them 44-16 will forever blow my mind. For NFL comparisons, it does remind me of the 2007 Patriots. Plenty of folks don’t remember how truly dominant they were because they couldn’t finish the job. The same can be said for the 2018 Alabama Crimson Tide and their hilariously elite offense. They are the best offense in college football history that never won it all.
For more college football content, check out the links below!
–Top Ten Transfer Portal Acquisitions Thus Far in College Football
–Top Five Sleeper Teams For The 2023 College Football Season