Bryce Young is the overwhelming favorite to be the first overall pick in Thursday’s NFL Draft, as the Carolina Panthers traded up last month to land the top pick and have their choice of quarterback to lead their franchise.
Young carries the strongest resume of any of the quarterbacks in the Class of 2023, having won the 2021 Heisman Trophy and backing it up with another terrific year that, while the counting stats weren’t as gaudy, was similarly impressive, particularly considering the offensive line in front of him wasn’t as dominant as we’ve grown to expect from Alabama. The biggest knock on Young is the one thing that is out of his control: Size. At 5’10, 204 pounds he doesn’t have the prototypical measurements of a franchise quarterback, with Kyler Murray as the only real comp for a past No. 1 overall pick at that size.
The thing is, everything else Young brings to the table as a quarterback is pretty spectacular. He’s incredibly accurate, has good arm strength, processes the game better and faster than his counterparts, and has an incredible knack for making plays under pressure in spite of his stature.
On Monday, we got to speak with Young on behalf of his partnership with Snickers Ice Cream about what he’s wanted teams to know about him, his growth as a quarterback and a leader, battles with Will Anderson and the Alabama defense in practice, and learning how to be better under pressure.
Three days to draft night. Where are the emotions and the excitement level as we finally reached the week of?
Yeah, definitely super excited. It’s surreal for it to kinda all be around the corner. I mean, throughout this process it’s felt so far away that for it to be kind of here now is super exciting.
What have been the things that when you talk to teams, what are the things you’ve wanted them to know about you both as a player and a person through this process?
I think I’ve just wanted them to hear about my philosophy and my approach to the position. You know, my mind, my process and how I view things, my preparation, all that, and just share some experiences I’ve had. Put forward and present what I’ve done in the past and how I’ve done things, whether it be what I’ve had success with, the reasons of why I wasn’t successful on specific plays, and things like that. Just be able to speak on how everything goes and how I process things and things like that. So, I’ve been grateful for all the teams that have heard me out and have wanted to hear about the stuff that is happening and how I’ve gotten to where I’m at.
That’s something that I wanted to talk about with you. You go from from your sophomore year to your junior year, and you’re coming off such a great season. What were the things you felt you were able to improve in your game from your first year as a starter to last year that you’re most proud of in your development?
Yeah, I think the biggest thing was just the command of the offense and stepping up to the next level as a leader. Your second year in, you’re feeling more comfortable, having had success my first year starting, you’re more comfortable as far as playing a different role leadership-wise and taking full command of the offense. I think being able to do that and help assimilate and bring in newer faces that, you know, it was some of their first times, whether it was in the program or just playing at that level and contributing at that level. So, I think bringing things together and stepping up in command of the offense and of the team, I think was what I was most proud of in stepping up in this last year.
And with how the season went, what did you learn as a leader in terms of navigating some tough spots and kind of keeping guys level and understanding that, you know, even after maybe you drop a game, there’s work to be done and there’s still goals to accomplish as the year goes on?
Yeah, for sure. I think it’s just being consistent in your message, whether it’s, like you said, make sure you’re consistent and you’re focusing after a couple straight wins. Or making sure after a loss, you’re still able to keep pushing, keep going towards to your goals. I think it’s making sure you’re consistent in your messaging, especially in game situations throughout the week, making sure that you’re really not wavering in whatever it is, whether there’s adversity or success. Being that same person and not wavering over who you are is something I definitely pride myself in and was able to do this past year. I think it’s a reason that helps bring the team together and stay on that goal.
And then for you going up against the defense that you face every day in practice with Alabama guys like Will Anderson and Brian Branch. What does that do the sharpen your skills as a quarterback?
It’s an invaluable experience knowing that Will Anderson’s on the other side of the ball, so you know, you gotta make sure you’re efficient in everything you’re doing from your movements to your decision making and thinking that quick. Knowing guys like BB, [Jordan] Battle, Marco [Hellams], Eli [Ricks], all those guys that are going to the next level, known as you have a backer like Henry [To’oto’o], and DJ [Turner], Byron [Young] up front and all those guys are coming out. When you go up against that every single day and that’s not even mentioning the guys that are returning this next year that played a lot last year. Those guys push you every single day. You have to be on your P’s and Q’s, you have to bring your A-game, and it culminates that environment of competition. So, having played against the best in practice and us pushing each other on every day, I feel like it definitely helped prepare me, especially at the college level, and I feel like it will hopefully help me at the next level as well.
My colleague talked to Will last week, and he said that you’d get them hot because they couldn’t hit you and you’d tell him it wasn’t a sack every time they got close to you. How much fun did you have kind of poking the bear over there on that side?
Yeah, well, every time that they get within three yards of you in the black jersey, they just yell “Sack!” And it’s like, it’s good for their confidence or whatever, you never want to go over there and get their confidence too low before a game, but in reality, most of them were not sacks. Like, most of them I would have moved different, I would have taken a different step to like move out of the way. We always had that back and forth. They’re always gonna act like they sacked me 15 times a day. And I’m like, guys, I’ve never just gotten sacked eight straight plays like you claim, no. We always go through that back and forth, and you know, with the black jersey on there’s never a winner. So we’re always going to be arguing that stuff, but it’s definitely fun.
I do want to ask how this partnership with with Snickers came about and how fans can try to get themselves the Bryce Cream Bars?
Yeah, I’m super excited to be going to this draft alongside Snickers Ice Cream. We’re partnering together to offer NFL fans a way to chill out with the limited edition Snickers Bryce cream bar, which is something that’s a huge honor I’m super excited about, super grateful for. I just want to say a huge thank you to the people at Snickers Ice Cream for all the hard work that came into it to make this happen. And yeah, fans can take advantage at Snickers.com/BryceCreamBar to enter for a chance to to win some of these exclusive frozen treats, so I’m super excited and super happy about it.
And lastly, you talked about going up against Will and those guys and from year one to year two, that also was something that seemed like you took a step forward on was was cutting back on sacks that you took. What did you learn about how to play under pressure and kind of when to live to fight another day? And what’s the process of doing that as a young quarterback?
Yeah, so, you have to take that rep by rep as far as assessing what’s really best for the team, and you have to take into account in that, what’s the situation? Are you up a couple possessions? In the fourth quarters, not taking the risk. Are you down so you have to be a little bit more aggressive? What’s the down and distance? Where’s the momentum of the game? All that stuff you have to process within a split second and you have to keep in the back of your mind and keep an account of. So, I think it’s about reps and then you listen to coaches about their different philosophies. Like, these are the times that we can’t … or knowing where you are in the field of times where you can’t take a sack. Maybe you can elude them but you might get sacked and might get out of field goal range. Maybe it’s fourth down where you only have a minute left and you have to take the risk of maybe getting sacked. You know, stuff like that. So, I mean, I think that it’s how much you can recall the things that are going on at the time and then make that split second decision. I’ve been blessed with the coaches that I’ve had that have instilled that in me throughout the years.