Nick Saban explains Alabama’s quarterback battle, why Jalen Milroe didn’t play vs. South Florida


Alabama rarely has major questions at quarterback. The last time there was any uncertainty came when Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts battled for the starting role, and that was a debate between two standout QBs.

That’s not the case for the Crimson Tide in 2023. Jalen Milroe won the starting job out of camp, but struggled against Texas in a 34-24 loss, Nick Saban’s worst home loss as Alabama’s head coach. Tyler Buchner was named the starter against South Florida, only to be replaced before halftime by redshirt freshman Ty Simpson.

The offense for the Crimson Tide never got into a groove against a team that should have been overmatched, with Alabama winning only 17-3 despite entering as 34-point favorites. So what’s next for Alabama?

“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,” Saban said after the game.

MORE: Who is Ty Simpson?

It had been reported late in the week that Alabama was going to start Buchner, a transfer from Notre Dame, as the starter against South Florida. Buchner was woeful, albeit in challenging conditions that brought out a lightning delay, completing 5-of-14 passes for 34 yards and rushing twice for 11 yards. With Buchner under center, Alabama went scoreless on five drives.

When Alabama’s James Smith recovered a fumble from South Florida’s Byrum Brown, it was Simpson who came out to the field. He threw an incompletion and was sacked, but the field position and a 17-yard run by Jase McClellan helped Alabama boot a 30-yard field goal to tie the game.

Simpson wound up completing 5-of-9 passes for 73 yards and rushed nine times for a loss of 12 with a rushing touchdown. 

“Thought [Simpson] did OK. He made a couple really good throws and we missed a couple big-play throws that we’ve been making some of those, but I thought he played well, managed the game well,” Saban said. “We ran the ball quite a bit when he was in there. I don’t think the sacks were necessarily his fault so we’ll evaluate it when we watch the film.”

Was Jalen Milroe benched?

Noticeable in Tampa was that Milroe did not enter the game despite the offensive struggles. In a week, he seemingly went from the starter in a ranked matchup against Texas to the third-string quarterback, not seeing the field even in a matchup in which his dual-threat capabilities could have helped in rainy conditions.

Saban described Milroe’s absence from the game as an “internal team thing.”

“Everybody has the opportunity to respond the right way when things don’t go exactly like you want them to and we plalyed the guys that practice the best all week long,” Saban said.

Milroe could be seen congratulating his teammates on the sideline after plays went well, which Saban praised.

“He did a great job,” Saban said. “He really has been supportive of his teammates and I was happy to see that. And hopefully we’ll all learn lessons from the experiences that we have and move forward in a positive way.”

In two games this season, Milroe has completed 60 percent of his passes for 449 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s also rushed 22 times for 92 yards and scored two touchdowns, all of which either led the team or were tied for the team lead heading into Saturday’s game.

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