Alabama is going back to Jalen Milroe at quarterback.
After Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson went a combined 10-of-23 for 107 yards in Alabama's uninspiring 17-3 win over South Florida, Nick Saban told reporters Monday that Milroe has "earned the opportunity" to be the starter. Alabama, now down to No. 13 in the AP Top 25, is set to host No. 15 Ole Miss this coming Saturday.
Milroe started the first two games of the season for the Crimson Tide. He excelled in the Week 1 win over Middle Tennessee, throwing for 194 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 48 yards and two more scores. However, he struggled in Alabama’s Week 2 home loss to Texas. Milroe threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns and had 44 yards on the ground, but he also threw two costly interceptions in the 34-24 loss.
That performance prompted Saban to give Buchner and Simpson a shot against a South Florida team that won four games combined in the previous three seasons. It did not go very well. Buchner, a transfer from Notre Dame, got the start and went just 5-of-14 for 34 yards. He was then benched for Simpson. Simpson provided some stability as he went 5-of-9 for 73 yards with a late-game rushing touchdown, but he held onto the ball too long and took several sacks as the Tide struggled mightily.
After seeing all three play, Saban said Monday that Milroe played the best of the three so he will be back in the lineup against Ole Miss.
"From a quarterback standpoint, this is all I'm going to say about this. Jalen really showed the leadership that I was looking for during the game in terms of supporting his teammates and doing the things he needed to do," Saban said. "He's had the opportunity to play. So have the other guys. Jalen played the best of all those guys so I think he's earned the opportunity to be the quarterback."
Alabama has had a run of extremely strong quarterback play in recent seasons with Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones and Bryce Young all starting for the Tide, dating back to 2016. All four of those QBs are now NFL starters with Young being the most recent. Young won the Heisman Trophy in 2021 and then was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft following the 2022 season.
The competition to take Young’s spot was a major storyline this offseason. Initially it was Milroe and Simpson battling it out, but then the coaching staff brought in Buchner from Notre Dame. First-year Alabama offensive coordinator Tommy Rees came to Tuscaloosa from Notre Dame, so he was very familiar with Buchner. In the end, Milroe — Young’s backup last season — was able to win the job. And after a bumpy three weeks, he is back in the starting role as Alabama opens SEC play.
Alabama sits at 2-1 on the year and fell outside the top 10 of the AP poll for the first time since the 2015 season.