The Alabama Crimson Tide was not a surprising team to compete for a national title, but it didn’t appear that way a few games early in the season. The players needed some soul-searching after the loss to Texas and the close win at South Florida. After the bye week, the team played like the playoff contender originally thought to be during the preseason. Many players for the Crimson Tide deserve recognition for getting the team to an SEC Championship and another CFB Playoff appearance. Here are the top awards for the Alabama Crimson Tide this 2023 regular season.
Alabama Crimson Tide – 2023 Regular Season Awards
MVP – Kool-Aid McKinstry (cornerback)
This is an award that could have gone to several players this season. Among the most consistent players who played at the elite level is junior cornerback and team captain Kool-Aid McKinstry. In his third year as a starter for the Tide’s defense, McKinstry had the target on his back and the pressure to perform as a potential top-five NFL Draft pick this season. Through 13 games this season, he accumulated 27 total tackles, 19 solo tackles, seven pass breakups, and two tackles for loss. He was only been targeted 37 times for 17 receptions (numerous screens) for 183 yards and one touchdown. This is while he was taking on some of the best receivers in the nation like LSU’s Malik Nabers, Texas’ Xavier Worthy, and Ole Miss’ Tre Harris. He only allowed 0.39 yards per snap coverage this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Most Improved / Offensive Player of the Year – Jalen Milroe (quarterback)
It was no surprise that Jalen Milroe would win the starting quarterback job. It would also be no surprise that Milroe would struggle early. After throwing two costly interceptions in the 31-21 loss to Texas, Milroe was benched for the following game against South Florida. Milroe was put back into the lineup in the huge win over Ole Miss. He continuously got better and more confident as the season progressed.
In the five games he returned to the starting lineup before the bye week, Milroe completed 72-of-108 of his passes for 1,168 yards, eight touchdowns, and three interceptions. Milroe also rushed for 50 yards and three touchdowns on 55 carries. In the five games after the bye week, Milroe completed 72-of-108 of his passes for 1,101 yards, ten touchdowns, and only one interception. He was a much more dynamic threat on the ground rushing for 326 yards and seven touchdowns on 63 carries. Milroe went from crumbling pressure of the title and bad offensive line play to becoming a star in college football.
Top Linemen – J.C. Lantham (right tackle)
The offensive line has been the most frustrating aspect of the 2023 season for the Alabama Crimson Tide. From the disappointing first season of left tackle Kadyn Proctor to poor snaps and bad run-blocking from the interior, it has been tough for Alabama’s offense. The Crimson Tide allowed 43 sacks, the seventh-most in the nation. The biggest bright spot among the linemen was the stellar play of right tackle J.C. Lantham. At 6-6; 360 pounds, Lantham was not only one of the most consistent and dominant offensive linemen for Alabama but all of college football. He has climbed high into the first round of many 2024 NFL Mock Drafts, including PFF (#18). Lantham allowed only one sack, three hits, and seven hurries all season. Finally, PFF has given Lantham an overall grade of 80.8 this season.
Most Clutch – Isaiah Bond (wide receiver)
There have been many players who stepped up and delivered great plays at the right time to complete comebacks. One player that comes immediately to mind is wide receiver Isaiah Bond. He was rarely the best pass-catcher for the Tide this season, but his availability to make the biggest plays was even more critical. A play that will live in Iron Bowl is Bond’s 31-yard touchdown catch at the corner of the end zone on 4th & 31 with 32 seconds on the clock to give Alabama the 27-24 win over Auburn. When the Tide needed to get one more scoring drive in the fourth quarter of the 2023 SEC Championship game against the #1 Georgia Bulldogs, Bond ran great routes to catch four receptions for 57 yards to help put Alabama up 10 points late in the game.
Defensive Player of the Year – Dallas Turner (edge rusher)
There were no concerns with the Tide’s pass rush this season after Will Anderson left for the NFL as junior Dallas Turner stepped right up to the plate. From the start of the season, Turner caused opposing offenses to panic. In 13 games this season, Turner accumulated 50 total tackles, 26 solo tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. His best performance was against Ole Miss Rebels accounting for 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Turner was an easy decision for the 2023 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a 2023 Consensus All-American.
Biggest Surprise – Terrion Arnold (cornerback)
For the teams that did not want to challenge McKinstry, they would try to generate a passing game by challenging Alabama’s other cornerback, Terrion Arnold. Arnold was just as efficient, if not better, as McKinstry this season. In his first year as a starter, Arnold accounted for a coverage grade of 87.5 from Pro Football Focus. In 13 games this season, Arnold accumulated 61 total tackles, 38 solo tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 11 pass breakups and five interceptions. He was a player who would have been deserving of the Top Defensive Player of the Year award for Alabama.
Top Freshman – Caleb Downs
The Crimson Tide had the top overall recruiting class this April, which meant there was potential for the young players to contribute early. Safety Caleb Downs was among the top choices to start at safety since stepping on campus. Downs was tested early and often in the secondary and while he made some freshmen mistakes, Downs was stellar. In 13 games this season, Downs accumulated 99 total tackles, 64 solo tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three pass breakups, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Downs finished the season as part of the first-team All-SEC and named SEC Freshman of the Year. He is already making his statement as a future star of the Tide defense and in college football. Finally, he was named a first-team All-American by PFF.