Tide Takes: For Once and For All, Let’s Break Down the QB Situation

Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe (4) throws the ball during practice at Thomas-Drew Practice Fields in Tuscaloosa, AL on Friday, Aug 11, 2023.

Welcome to a new series on the WNSP website! You’ll be able to find Tide Takes right here every Monday starting now along with a regular schedule of columns on Auburn, the SEC, the Saints/NFL, high school scoreboards, as well as staff picks for the week’s slate of games once football season begins!

Every Monday we’ll get into a different topic on the Crimson Tide, break down the previous game, preview the upcoming game, and everything in between. For the first edition of this column, it seems logical to start with the biggest question on everyone’s mind that will remain up until the start of the season, and possibly several weeks into it. What is Alabama going to do at the quarterback position?

For those of us hoping that we would have some clarity following Alabama’s first scrimmage of fall camp, we really got the opposite. In fact, Nick Saban stated that the evaluation of the quarterback play this past Saturday “can’t be summed up by the box score”, and that they will be more interested by what the film dictates. So take that as you will.

First, let’s backtrack. As we know, the only one in the room with any real game experience is Jalen Milroe. Milroe filled in for the injured Bryce Young for six and a half quarters last season and his performance was up and down to say the least. Showing electrifying ability as a runner but limitations as a passer, Milroe was able to help Alabama hold on to defeat Arkansas on the road, followed by a scare against a dreadful Texas A&M team in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Ty Simpson has yet to play any meaningful game action, but if you go back to what he was supposed to be when he was recruited, he should be the best quarterback in the room, at least on paper. Simpson was a consensus 5-star, top-30 prospect who every recruiting site ranked as a top-five signal caller in the nation for his class. But it begs the question, if Simpson is the quarterback he was billed to be, why has he not seized control of the job yet? What has he shown, or rather not shown, to be the starting quarterback in 2023 thus far? His most impressive action that we have seen so far was probably in last year’s A-Day game:


Then there’s Tyler Buchner, who Alabama brought in as a transfer from Notre Dame back in late April following a lackluster performance in the spring game by both Milroe and Simpson. Buchner of course has a familiarity with new Alabama offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, having worked with Rees at Notre Dame. By all accounts, however, Buchner seems to be at least a notch behind both Milroe and Simpson as things stand right now in the 3-man race.

Alabama also has two quality freshmen on the roster in Eli Holstein and Dylan Lonergan, but Nick Saban has made it clear that this is a three-man race, and either of the two freshmen seeing time this season would likely be in a disastrous injury situation.

I have continued to wait for Ty Simpson to take control of the job and separate himself from the rest of the pack, but it simply hasn’t happened yet, and time is running out before the opener against Middle Tennessee State on September 2nd. It sounds like both Milroe and Simpson had positive moments in Saturday’s scrimmage, with neither looking significantly better than the other.

If this lack of separation continues, Jalen Milroe is going to be the starting quarterback, at least to begin the season. All three guys will likely play in the opener, but Alabama doesn’t have the luxury of multiple weeks to figure it out with a high-flying Texas offense coming to town in week two. I’d go so far as to say this is the most important decision Nick Saban has faced in his entire time at Alabama.

If Saban doesn’t get it right, Alabama’s season can get off the rails quickly. If he does and whoever wins the job can at least be efficient and effective, this team can compete for a national championship. With less than three weeks until kickoff, we’ll have our answer soon enough.