After that, Young was recruited and offered scholarships by dozens and dozens of colleges as he became the No. 1 dual threat quarterback in the nation at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, California, by his senior season in 2019.
He signed with Alabama in its 2020 class. Coach Nick Saban had five national championships at Alabama at that time, but he did not promise Young one.
“For me, in recruiting what really stuck out was how real he was,” Young said at the College Football Playoff national championship game media day in Indianapolis on Saturday.
“Some coaches make you promises in recruiting,” said Young, a sophomore who last month became the first Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy. “When you start to hear those promises, it starts to become a little bit of a red flag, hearing a coach promise you this or that when you’ve heard it might not be like that when you get there.”
Saban, who had nine No. 1 classes by Rivals.com from 2008 through 2021, had a different approach.
“Coach Saban was always direct with me. He never promised me anything,” Young said, except for one thing. “He only promised me opportunities to compete. He told me from the jump in recruiting that this wasn’t a place for everyone and exactly the type of player and person that he was looking for and will thrive in this organization. And that was the player and person that I strive to be.”
Other programs had different strategies.
“He was always honest and always real with me in recruiting,” said Young, who committed to nearby USC in July of 2018 before flipping to Alabama in September of 2019. “That was something that really stuck with me and really separated this place from every other place in the country.”
So far, it appears to be working out. Young backed up Mac Jones last season as the Tide won the national championship. Jones was picked in the first round by New England, where he is the starter, and Alabama is one win away from another national title.
“Coming here, I understood the rich quarterback history,” Young said. “Being able to watch Mac, I really got to see what it was like. So, carrying that legacy and doing what I can to improve it means a lot to me.”
Young has proven to be more elusive in the pocket than Jones. So much so that Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis compared him to a gingerbread man.
“He’s slippery,” Davis said Saturday and explained that he and his teammates watched an episode of “Hard Knocks” on HBO in which the Indianapolis Colts were calling Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray the gingerbread man because of ability to escape tacklers.
“That’s what we’ve been calling him (Young) all week, just seeing him run around our defense in the SEC Championship Game,” Davis said.
Young was hurried eight times in the Tide’s 41-24 win over Georgia on Dec. 4 in the SEC title game, but he was not sacked. He also rushed three times for 40 yards with an 11-yard touchdown with 26 seconds to go in the second quarter for a 24-17 halftime lead. He completed 26 of 44 passes for an SEC title game record 421 yards and three touchdowns. His 461 total yards also set an SEC title game record.
“Definitely this go-around, we’ll try to contain him and get him,” said Davis, who has 12 quarterback hurries and two sacks on the season. He had neither in the first Alabama game.
“I’ve been going against wide receivers in our quarterback rodeo drill in practice,” he said. “So, trying to track down a wide receiver who is shifty, it takes a lot of skill and a lot of practice. And it teaches you to track his hips. We’ve been tracking hips all practice.”