On Friday, Alabama’s high-profile quarterback competition arrived at an answer; at least for week one. Redshirt sophomore Jalen Milroe will start at quarterback for the season opener against Middle Tennessee State (6:30 pm CT on SEC Network), a source familiar with the situation confirmed Friday. ESPN was the first to report the news.
Nick Saban has repeatedly said throughout fall camp that naming the week one starter isn’t the end of the competition but the beginning. Now, the regular season will begin with Milroe getting the first in-game opportunity to seize the job. Here’s what you need to know:
- Milroe’s appeared in 12 games in his career, passing for 338 yards, a 57 percent completion percentage, six touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s accumulated 320 rushing yards (seven yards per carry) and one touchdown on the ground.
- He served as the backup quarterback in 2022 and played in relief of starter Bryce Young against Arkansas, a 49-26 win, and started the following week in a 24-20 win over Texas A&M.
- Milroe beat out redshirt freshman Ty Simspon, who’s been competing for the job since January and redshirt sophomore Tyler Buchner, who transferred from Notre Dame in June and true freshmen Eli Holstein and Dylan Lonergan.
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
How surprising is this?
Milroe earning the week one nod is an expected development. He was the No. 2 quarterback last season and seemed to hold the pole position from off-season conditioning to now. However, his place in the competition was called into question following spring practice when Alabama brought in Buchner, who played under first-year offensive coordinator at Notre Dame; along with the hype around Simpson and Lonergan who are talented prospects in their own right.
But Milroe never conceded ground, at least enough to warrant a different starter in week one. Through fall camp Milroe was the first quarterback up in drills and in scrimmages and played well enough to get the first opportunity on Saturday. The indication is that barring poor performance, he’ll get the full first-team workload without rotating.
“The quarterback who plays on Saturday, that’s the quarterback for Saturday,” Saban said. “The life of a quarterback, any quarterback, depends on how they perform. If a guy plays well, that’s what creates security at that position. If you don’t play well … the first thing everybody does, when you have success, the quarterback gets a lot of credit. But also, when things don’t go well, the first guy they point at is the quarterback. So a guy has to understand the way he performs is really, really important.”
Milroe earning the first start is significant as it indicates who is the leader in the room right now, but what happens next is most important. Milroe will have the first opportunity to impress the coaches and take ownership of the position, and his ability to do so will dictate how much longer the competition will extend.
“Whoever starts the game, it’s not their job in perpetuity because they have to perform well,” Saban said “Because they don’t have a lot of experience, I think we’re all interested in seeing how they all perform.”
What Nick Saban said
Saban had this to say about Milroe this week during his Monday presser: “I think Jalen has made a significant amount of improvement. I think he’s more comfortable in the pocket. I think that he has more confidence in the way he executes and the way he plays. He’s been more consistent in the way he’s played. I think that the key to the drill for him is to be able to maintain that consistency in every practice so that he is developing the kind of habits that are going to carry over in the game and help him be successful.”
Saban stated during his Thursday night radio show that he informed the quarterbacks of his decision as to who would start, and shared a specific message with the starter, who we now know was Milroe.
“We’d like to play more than one guy in the game,” Saban said at Baumhower’s Victory Grille. “I’ve told the guy that’s gonna start the game, ‘We want you to play well enough so we have an opportunity to play all the guys at the position because that’s important for us.”
(Photo: Marvin Gentry / USA Today)