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For the first time in ten years, the Alabama Crimson Tide has a quarterback problem. Yes, you read that right, the same program that has won the National Championship seven times under head coach Nick Saban is struggling at the quarterback position. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Buchner, redshirt freshman Ty Simpson, and redshirt sophomore Jalen Milroe all have struggled mightily in 2023. This is difficult for the Crimson Tide faithful to digest as they are not used to mediocrity at the most important position in football. Over the past decade, the quarterbacks at Alabama have set a standard for excellence: Blake Sims, Jake Coker, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones, and Bryce Young have led the Alabama offense from 2014 through 2022. This group led offenses that averaged at least 444 yards and 37 points per game each season except for Coker in 2015. The 2015 offense “only” averaged 427 yards and 35 points per game. In 2023, the combination of Milroe, Buchner, and Simpson is averaging a paltry 364.8 yards and 30.25 points per game.

The Alabama offense has been led by a who’s who of offensive minds: Lane Kiffin in 2014-2016, Mike Locksley 2017-2018, Steve Sarkisian 2019-2020, and Bill O’Brien 2021-2022. Kiffin, Locksley, and Sarkisian are all head coaches at Power Five programs while O’Brien has gone back to being the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. In 2023 Coach Saban decided to tweak the offensive mentality and hired former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to be the new OC at Alabama. Rees runs more of a pro-style offense but has settled into a spread with a focus on running the ball. Statistically, the results are not on par with the prior coordinators.

Tyler Buchner was highly regarded coming out of high school and has started at two highly successful programs, Notre Dame and Alabama. For his career, Buchner is 75-137 passing for 1,010 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. In his lone start for Alabama, last week at USF, Buchner was wildly inaccurate and not in sync with his receivers. A number of throws were short, some were behind the receiver and some of the passes were thrown too late. This is not the type of play for someone trying to win the job as the starting quarterback of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Ty Simpson was a five-star recruit out of Martin, TN in the 2022 class. He appeared in four games last season and combined with 2023 he is 10-15 passing for 113 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. In his time against USF Simpson also looked out of sync with his receivers. He was hit early on and appeared to get happy feet, which caused problems with his throws. He ended the game 5-9 passing for 73 yards. Again, not the kind of performance expected by the Alabama starting quarterback.

Jalen Milroe was a four-star recruit in the class of 2021. He has appeared in 15 games with three of his four career starts coming in 2023. Milroe is 44-66 passing for 674 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions this year. Milroe is averaging 224.7 passing yards per game and has a 173.4 passing efficiency mark, good enough for third in the SEC and 16th in the FBS. Milroe’s average of 10.21 yards per pass attempt is fourth in the SEC and 13th nationally while his 15.32 yards per completion are second in the SEC and 17th nationally.

Milroe is clearly the better of the three Alabama quarterbacks and should be named the starter for the remainder of the season. However, he will need a lot of help to start living up to the standards set by the likes of Tagovailoa and Young. While Milroe’s statistics rank him in the top quarter of the SEC in 2023, his numbers pale in comparison to Tua and Young. Tagovailoa averaged 264.4 passing yards per game in his first year as a starter at Alabama while Young averaged an amazing 324.8 yards per game.

First, Milroe will need his offensive line to vastly improve in pass protection. Texas and USF had five sacks each against the Crimson Tide marking the first time under Nick Saban that his quarterbacks have been sacked five times in back-to-back games at Alabama. Ole Miss only managed four sacks, saving the Tide from going back-to-back-to-back in five sack games.

14 sacks in three games are a lot for anyone to handle, especially when the Crimson Tide are breaking in a new quarterback. Giving Milroe little, to no time, to throw the ball will seriously restrict the passing game. He does have dual-threat capabilities, but defenses are loading the box as Alabama has shown little to no reason to fear their passing game. Settling the line issues and getting Milroe in sync with his receivers will go a long way toward reaching the lofty quarterback standard set at Alabama.

If Milroe stumbles through the 2023 season, he will have a hard time keeping the starting job in 2024. Consensus five-star quarterback Julian Sayin has committed to Alabama and is ranked as one of the top two quarterbacks in the class.

For Nick Saban, the remaining sands of time for coaching is growing smaller by the day and the emphasis on winning is now. His options at quarterback are not great, and no one has really set themselves apart from the other in this impromptu quarterback competition. Milroe has established himself from the rest, but his status is not concrete and only through good play can Milroe firm up his status. With Saban not having the luxury of time, he will be looking to fix this situation sooner rather than later.


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