College News & Analysis

What should Alabama do at quarterback?

2RRYRHK Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe warms up before an NCAA college football game against Texas, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

• Breaking down Alabama’s options at quarterback: Jalen Milroe, Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson.

• Milroe offers the highest ceiling but lowest floor: The redshirt sophomore has the most physical ability of the three but has been far too careless with the football.

• Simpson is intriguing but inexperienced: The five-star sophomore was solid against USF but has only 21 career dropbacks to his name.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The 2022 Alabama offense relied on Bryce Young to put out its fires, namely a subpar receiving corps by the Crimson Tide’s standards. This season, those flames became a full-fledged forest fire in Tuscaloosa.

And there are no firefighters in sight.

After losing at home to then-No. 11 Texas a week ago, Alabama struggled to a 17-3 victory over USF this past weekend. For reference, the Bulls entered the game as the 11th-worst FBS team in PFF’s power rankings.

There are several reasons for the Crimson Tide’s sluggish start. New offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has struggled to gain any sort of rhythm so far. The offensive line has surrendered the fourth-highest pressure rate in the Power Five so far (29.6%). There still aren’t any proven stars in the receiving corps, as Alabama has just the 63rd-best receiving grade in the country (67.9). 

Above all though, Alabama head coach Nick Saban still has no idea who his starting quarterback will be three games into the season. 

Jalen Milroe opened the season as a starter and immediately impressed with a 92.3 grade in the win over Middle Tennessee. However, his propensity to be careless with the football reared its ugly head in the loss to Texas, as the redshirt sophomore produced four turnover-worthy plays and a 53.3 passing grade. 

Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner started in Week 3 against South Florida but was benched before halftime, posting just a 49.4 passing grade and a 35.7% completion rate. 

Ty Simpson replaced him and looked better but not spectacular. The sophomore earned a 71.6 passing grade in the victory.

Alabama’s three quarterbacks this season

Quarterback Dropbacks Passing grade
Jalen Milroe 67 66.8
Tyler Buchner 20 54.7
Ty Simpson 16 71.8

So who should start next week against No. 17 Ole Miss? It’s a question even head coach Nick Saban can’t answer right now, as he was noncommittal in his postgame press conference, saying “We're going to evaluate the quarterbacks that played today and evaluate Jalen Milroe in terms of how he played and decide this week who gives us the best opportunity to be successful as an offensive team, and that's the way we'll go.”

Milroe won the job this offseason and has the most physical ability of the three, boasting a strong arm and an 80.0 rushing grade this season. With those highs come low lows though, as you can pretty much count on a few head-scratching mistakes every week. The redshirt sophomore’s 8.3% turnover-worthy play rate since 2021 is the worst mark among Power Five quarterbacks and second-worst in the country.

Buchner has the most experience in Rees’ system, working with him the two previous years in South Bend. However, he’s shown no signs of being a starting-caliber quarterback, earning just a 52.6 passing grade in his career.

Simpson might be the most intriguing option as a former five-star recruit who was solid against USF. On the flip side, he’s also the most inexperienced option with just 21 career dropbacks to his name. 

If I were making the call, I’d give the nod to Milroe this week because he presents the highest ceiling of the three. He’d be on a short leash though, as I'd have Simpson waiting in the wings if Milroe's struggles continue. 

Regardless of who starts, Alabama has serious offensive problems that will likely keep the Crimson Tide from the College Football Playoff for the second straight season. The last time Saban went consecutive years without making the Playoff or BCS National Championship Game was in 2007-08, his first two years on the job.

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