Why Nick Saban and Alabama bottomed out at quarterback
- ESPN Staff WriterSep 19, 2023, 07:00 AM ET
- Close Covers the SEC.Joined ESPN in 2012.
- Graduate of Auburn University.Alabama receivers aren’t creating sufficient separation, the offending line is permitting too much pressure in the backfield, getting a snap from center has developed into an experience instead of a procedure, the running game is inconsistent at best, players throughout the board are committing too many penalties and the offense as a whole doesn’t appear to have a sense of identity or direction.Now Alabama finds itself outside the leading 10 of The Associated Press’survey for
the first time in eight years. With the Crimson Tide absent from the playoff conversation, hope seems a long method off. Whether that stays true for the rest of the season is anyone’s guess.And while it’s unreasonable to pin all the blame on the quarterbacks( see above ), a crucial eye needs to begin there
. It’s the most essential position on the field and the sharp decline has been startling. Alabama is a program that passed its QB baton from Jalen Harms to Tua Tagovailoa to Mac Jones to Bryce Young. Depending on how you count Hurts ‘time at Oklahoma, you’re speaking about one or two Heisman Trophy winners and 2 Heisman finalists.Coaches around the SEC last season stated privately Young was concealing a lot of Alabama’s defects, including the average play on the line and at receiver that continues today, however nobody believed to look even more down the depth chart at what would be missing once he left. To go from 4 consecutive future NFL beginning quarterbacks to the rotation of backups we saw Saturday versus South Florida boggles the mind.Jalen Milroe, Young’s previous backup who began the season as the starter and was benched after tossing two interceptions in a loss to Texas, didn’t take a single breeze in Tampa. Tyler Buchner, the late addition from Notre Dame, got the start and completed 5 of 14 passes for 34 backyards before he was pulled. His replacement, redshirt freshman Ty Simpson, wasn’t much better, running for a 1-yard goal and completing 5 of 9 pass attempts for 73 yards. Nick Saban saw his quarterbacks complete just 10 of 23 passes for 107 yards in a 17-3 win versus South Florida that was a one-score game until the final minute. Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire Against an unranked opponent it was favored to beat by 5 touchdowns, against a group that had actually quit 41 points to Western Kentucky in the season opener, Alabama needed to grind out a 17-3 win that ranked among the ugliest of coach Nick Saban’s 16-year tenure. Buchner and Simpson posted an 18.5 QBR in the game, the fourth lowest in 224 games under Saban and the lowest because 2009 versus South Carolina.Forget the 5 sacks, the 13 incompletions and that paltry QBR. Forget all those charges that cleaned points off the board. The video of a rain-soaked Saban leaving the field during a lightning hold-up informed the story of a frustrating day.Afterward, Saban was noncommittal about next steps.But Monday, he appeared to have comprised his mind. “This is all I’m going to say about this,”Saban said. “Jalen truly showed the management I was searching for in regards to supporting his colleagues.”Milroe, he included,”has earned the opportunity to be the quarterback.
“However if Milroe has another efficiency like the one against Texas– where he telegraphed his passes and
threw a pair of back-breaking interceptions– will Saban stick to him? Saban longs for consistency from his quarterbacks and values the capability to look after the football apparently above all else. Traditional, he’s said on more than one event that if a drive ends in a kick, whether it’s a field goal or a punt, that’s fine by him.So pay attention due to the fact that the drama may not be over yet.Editor’s Picks
1 Associated However prior to asking where Saban and Alabama go from here
, you have to ask
how they got here in the first location. How is it that no one was prepared to change Young after he left school as the No. 1 total draft pick? How did it fall to Milroe, Buchner and Simpson? How did it specify that the break in case of emergency choice– true freshman Dylan Lonergan– may have his number called before he’s ready?The answer is made complex. Some sources near the program state it’s as basic as the program’s good luck lastly going out. The Hurts-Tagovailoa-Jones-Young run was unprecedented for a factor, they state. However other, more negative sources, question the recruiting and advancement at the position the last two-plus years.Milroe may not have actually been Alabama’s choice in the 2021 class had Drake Maye not decommitted in March 2020, opting rather to sign at North Carolina.
Fast-forward to the end of last season and Alabama was back smelling around Maye, according to multiple sources, on the occasion that he got in the transfer portal, which he didn’t. By the time it ended up being clear neither Milroe nor Simpson had separated themselves– after going through all of spring practice– Alabama was far too late to find a top quarterback in the transfer website. Sam Hartman had actually already gone to Notre Dame and Brennan Armstrong had actually already gone to NC State. The rest of the SEC had actually currently cleaned up with Kentucky signing Devin Leary, who broke Philip Rivers ‘single-season school record for goals at NC State, and Ole Miss signing Spencer Sanders, an All Big-12 choice at Oklahoma State, and Walker Howard, a former first-class who spent his freshman year at LSU.The report mill briefly linked Alabama and Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke in April; the speculation was so rampant that the Canes ‘main X account published a not-so-subtle message affirming Van Dyke’s commitment to the program. When the music stopped and the portal quit spinning, it was Buchner, who would have been Hartman’s backup, that ended up being the very best choice staying. And even then, Buchner was generated not with the expectation that he ‘d be a slam-dunk starter but rather as somebody who could complete and press Milroe and Simpson.Maybe he did that. Possibly he didn’t. However Simpson started the season 3rd on the depth chart for a reason and Milroe, regardless of being the starter the very first two games, didn’t show visible enhancement in his very first real test versus Texas. A former SEC coach stated Milroe just isn’t knowledgeable enough in the short-to-intermediate passing game, which is what Alabama requires to keep defenses honest.A Power 5 defensive planner said Milroe was essentially the very same player he saw on film from a year ago:”Huge play or absolutely nothing. “But in Milroe’s defense, he’s had to deal with a not irrelevant amount of turnover throughout his time at Alabama. Previous offending organizer Steve Sarkisian– a wizard with the run-pass alternative– recruited him and
left to become the head coach at Texas two weeks after he signed his letter of intent. Then, when the chance to start lastly came this year, the O.C. who coached Milroe the last three seasons, Costs O’Brien, left to join the New England Patriots.That’s not all. Alex Mortensen, the expert and behind-the-scenes QB guru who invested 9 seasons at Alabama, left in December to sign up with the brand-new staff at UAB. On Monday, Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of Mortensen, “He was at Alabama behind all the offenses– worked with Expense O’Brien, dealt with Sark, existed when I was there. I have a lot of respect for Alex.” Get your favorite live sports, stories and originals with ESPN +, Disney+ and Hulu. Upgrade to a Disney Bundle strategy and begin streaming something for everyone today! On the other hand, new offending organizer Tommy Rees has actually drawn back some on the RPO game(down 3.1%from 2021-22,
down 7.3% from 2019-20)that may match Milroe’s skill set finest.” He remains in a hard area , however I do think he’s gifted, “the Power 5 organizer stated of Milroe.”He tosses an excellent deep ball, can create on his own. He simply does not have that ability to make the off-platform throws that Bryce Young did.”Here’s the thing, though: Alabama doesn’t need any of its quarterbacks to be Bryce Young to have a more reliable offense. At this point, it would take another Jake Coker– somebody who can manage the game, take the occasional deep shot and limit bad plays. In truth, recently Saban compared the offense’s struggles to what the group went through in 2015 when Coker and Cooper Bateman competed for the starting task through the very first three games of the season, consisting of a heart-breaking loss to Ole Miss that triggered some in the media to hypothesize that Alabama’s dynasty was at its end. Coker won the job, the Tide ran the table and won the nationwide championship.But that positive narrative has one glaring plot hole: This group does not appear to have another Derrick Henry to feed at running back. Henry set an SEC single-season record with 1,986 rushing lawns in 2015 and won the Heisman.With Saban reinserting Milroe into the starting lineup against Ole Miss on Saturday( 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS), will he use his speed to field a more run-heavy offense
? It’s definitely possible. However can the offensive line assistance it? And will the receivers hold up their end of the deal? And will the group stop shooting itself in the foot with penalties and unforced errors?Picking a lane on offense is an excellent start to figuring things out, however it’s going to take a lot more than that for Alabama to return on track and back in the playoff hunt.Until then, the questions about who need to start at quarterback will control the discussion and the doubts over the health of Saban’s dynasty won’t end.Julian Sayin, the No. 1-ranked dual-threat quarterback and No. 3 general possibility in next year’s class, has actually been devoted to Alabama for almost a year now and represents hope for the future. However he can’t get to Tuscaloosa soon enough.