What we learned (and didn’t) about Alabama football’s QB battle during open practice

Published Aug. 05, 2023, 6:25 p.m.
By Matt Stahl |
Some combination of Jalen Milroe, Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson took the snap and dropped back early in Alabama football’s open Fan Day practice Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Going in pairs, they looked down the field and fired passes to receivers in the end zone.
Each one was complete. Tough day for the invisible defenders trying to compete against the competing quarterbacks.
Nick Saban has said the competition isn’t complete.
“Everybody’s getting reps at the position,” Saban said after the Crimson Tide’s first preseason camp practice. “Somebody’s got to take the bull by the horns. Somebody’s got to separate themselves. When that happens, we’ll tell you. Will be glad to tell you. When we’re going to take the cake out of the oven, we’re going to tell you when it’s time. But until then, there’s really nothing to talk about, nothing to say”
During Saturday’s open session, it seemed the head coach was telling the truth. After warm-up periods Milroe, Simpson and Buchner split off from the other quarterbacks, making it fairly clear who the starter candidates were.
As practice rolled along, none of them seemed to separate themselves. All three made some nice throws, whether an actual defense was involved or not.
Moving into 11-on-11 portions of practice, all three took snaps with the first-team offensive players. At that point, none of them had much time to make decisions, with Dallas Turner and the rest of the Alabama pass rush rolling through.
Milroe usually went first in drills, followed by Simpson, then Buchner, who took less first-team snaps than the others. That order can’t be completely ignored, but it’s also the same in which they joined the team, so it could be a matter of seniority.
All three had some miscues, an overthrow or miss by Buchner and Milroe here, a wobbly floater from Simpson there. Saban had noted Buchner had less experience in Alabama’s system than the others, and that might have shown up on a few occasions, but no player appeared clearly worse than the rest.
Afterward, the quarterbacks sat down at tables surrounding the field to sign autographs for Yea Alabama members who came out for Fan Day. Milroe kept his pads on and had the longest line, but the whole group seemed to get their share of interest.
So the battle doesn’t seem to be over. And really, not that much could be gleaned from a single practice, especially one where Saban knew media and fans were in attendance.
The rest of the college football world will know when the Crimson Tide is ready to tell them which of the three is most living up to the expectations their coach set for the starting job.
“We want all the guys when they’re in there, you play the position like it’s yours. Like it belongs to you,” Saban said after the first practice. “You’re out there competing. You’re not looking over your shoulder, you’re not looking at what somebody else does. You’re playing like you’re the man.
“That’s what we want each guy to do and see who can do that with the most consistency. So it’s important. You’ve got to be processed-oriented. You can’t be outcome-oriented right now, you’ve got to be process-oriented because that’s what you want to help your players to have the kind of consistency is you need to play winning football at the position, which is ultimately what we’re looking for.”
Alabama is scheduled to continue preseason camp through Aug. 26. The Crimson Tide opens the season Sept. 2 against Middle Tennessee State at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

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