Alabama receivers aren’t creating enough separation, the offensive line is allowing too much pressure in the backfield, taking a snap from the snap has become an adventure instead of a formality, the run game is inconsistent at best , players across the board are also committing a lot of penalties and the offense as a whole doesn’t seem to have a sense of identity or direction.

Alabama now finds itself outside the top 10 of The Associated Press poll for the first time in eight years. With the Crimson Tide absent from the playoff conversation, hope seems very distant. Whether that will remain true for the rest of the season is anyone’s guess.

And while it’s unfair to put all the blame on the quarterbacks (see above), the critical eye must start there. It is the most important position on the field and the sharp decline has been surprising. Alabama is a program that passed the quarterback baton from Jalen hurts to Tua Tagovailoa to Mac Jones to young bryce. Depending on how you count Hurts’ time at Oklahoma, you’re talking about one or two Heisman Trophy winners and two Heisman finalists.

SEC coaches last season said privately that Young was covering up many of Alabama’s flaws, including mediocre play at the line and at receiver that continues today, but no one thought to look further down the depth chart to see. what would be missing once he left. Going from four straight future starting NFL quarterbacks to the backup rotation we saw Saturday against South Florida is mind-blowing.

Jalen MilroeYoung’s former backup, who began the season as a starter and was benched after throwing two interceptions in a loss to Texas, didn’t play a single snap in Tampa. Tyler Buchner, Notre Dame’s late addition, took the lead and completed 5 of 14 passes for 34 yards before being pulled. His replacement, a redshirt freshman. SimpsonHe wasn’t much better, running for a 1-yard touchdown and completing 5 of 9 pass attempts for 73 yards.

Against an unranked opponent that it was favored to beat by five touchdowns, against a team that had given up 41 points to Western Kentucky in the season opener, Alabama had to pull out a 17-3 victory that ranked among the most ugly of coach Nick Saban’s 16. -year old. Buchner and Simpson posted an 18.5 QBR in the game, the fourth-lowest in 224 games under Saban and the lowest since 2009 against South Carolina.

Forget the five sacks, 13 incomplete passes and that puny QBR. Forget all those penalties that wiped points off the board. He video of a rain-soaked Saban leaving the field During a lightning delay he told the story of a frustrating day.

Afterwards, Saban did not commit to next steps.

But on Monday he seemed to have made up his mind.

“That’s all I’m going to say about it,” Saban said. “Jalen really showed the leadership that he was looking for in terms of supporting his teammates.”

Milroe, he added, “has earned the opportunity to be the quarterback.”

But if Milroe has another performance like the one he had against Texas (where he telegraphed his passes and threw a pair of grueling interceptions), will Saban stick with him? Saban craves consistency from his quarterbacks and values ​​the ability to take care of the football seemingly above all else. Old school, he has said on more than one occasion that if a series ends in a kick, whether a field goal or a punt, that’s fine with him.

So pay attention because the drama may not be over yet.

But before asking where Saban and Alabama go from here, you have to ask how they got here in the first place. How come no one was ready to replace Young after he left school as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft? How did Milroe, Buchner and Simpson fare? How did you get to the point where the emergency break option is a true freshman? Dylan Lonergan — Could you call your number before it’s ready?

The answer is complicated. Some sources close to the show say it’s as simple as the show finally running out of luck. The Hurts-Tagovailoa-Jones-Young race was unprecedented for a reason, they say. But other, more cynical sources question recruiting and development at the position over the past two years.

Milroe may not have been Alabama’s pick in the class of 2021. drake maye He was not released in March 2020 and opted to sign in North Carolina. Fast forward to the end of last season and Alabama was sniffing around Maye again, according to multiple sources, in case she entered the transfer portal. which he didn’t do.

By the time it became clear that neither Milroe nor Simpson had parted ways (after going through the entire spring practice), Alabama was too late to find a top-tier quarterback in the transfer portal. Samuel Hartman I had already gone to Notre Dame and Brennan Armstrong I had already gone to NC State. The rest of the SEC had already cleaned up with the signing of Kentucky Devin Learywho broke Philip Rivers’ school record for touchdowns in a single season at NC State, and the Ole Miss signee Spencer Sandersan All Big-12 selection at Oklahoma State, and Walker Howarda former five-star who spent his freshman year at LSU.

Rumors briefly connected Alabama and Miami Tyler Van Dyke in April; The speculation was so rampant that the official X account of the Canes published a not so subtle message affirming Van Dyke’s commitment to the program. When the music stopped and the portal stopped spinning, it was Buchner, who would have been Hartman’s backup, who became the best remaining option. And even then, they brought in Buchner not with the expectation that he would be a dunk starter, but rather as someone who could compete and push Milroe and Simpson.

Maybe he did that. Maybe he didn’t do it. But Simpson started the season third on the depth chart for a reason and Milroe, despite starting the first two games, showed no noticeable improvement in his first real test against Texas. One former SEC coach said Milroe simply doesn’t have enough skill in the short-to-intermediate passing game, which is what Alabama needs to keep defenses honest.

One Power 5 defensive coordinator said Milroe was essentially the same player he saw on film a year ago: “Big play or nothing.” But in Milroe’s defense, he has had to deal with a not insignificant amount of turnovers during his time at Alabama. Former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, a wizard with the run and pass option, recruited him and left him to become Texas’ head coach two weeks after he signed his letter of intent. Then, when the opportunity to start this year finally came, the O-coordinator who coached Milroe the past three seasons, Bill O’Brien, left to join the team. New England Patriots.

Thats not all. Alex Mortensen, the behind-the-scenes quarterback analyst and guru who spent nine seasons at Alabama, left in December to join UAB’s new staff. On Monday, Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of Mortensen: “He was at Alabama behind every offense; he worked with Bill O’Brien, he worked with Sark, he was there when I was there. I have a lot of respect for Alex.” .

Meanwhile, new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has pulled back some of the game’s RPO (down 3.1% from 2021-22, down 7.3% from 2019-20) that might better fit Milroe’s skill set. .

“He’s in a tough spot, but I think he’s talented,” the Power 5 coordinator said of Milroe. “He throws a great deep ball, he can create on his own. He just doesn’t have that off-platform ability that Bryce Young had.”

Here’s the thing, though: Alabama doesn’t need any of its quarterbacks to be Bryce Young to have a more effective offense. At this point, another Jake Coker would be needed, someone who can manage the game, make occasional deep shots, and limit bad plays. In fact, last week Saban compared the offensive’s struggles to what the team went through in 2015, when Coker and Cooper Bateman competed for the starting job through the first three games of the season, including a heartbreaking loss to Ole Miss that sparked leading some in the media to speculate that the Alabama dynasty was coming to an end. Coker won the job, the Tide topped the table and won the national championship.

But this optimistic narrative has an obvious plot gap: this team does not seem to have another Henry Derrick to feed the runner. Henry set a single-season SEC record with 1,986 rushing yards in 2015 and won the Heisman.

With Saban reinserts Milroe into starting lineup against Ole Miss on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS), will he use his speed to field a more run-heavy offense? It is certainly possible. But can the offensive line handle it? And will the receivers hold up their end of the bargain? And will the team stop shooting themselves in the foot with penalties and unforced errors?

Picking a lane on offense is a good start to figuring things out, but it will take a lot more than that to get Alabama back on track and back in the playoff hunt.

Until then, questions about who should start at quarterback will dominate the conversation and questions about the health of Saban’s dynasty will not end.

Julián Sayín, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and No. 3 overall prospect in next year’s class, has been committed to Alabama for almost a year and represents hope for the future. But he can’t get to Tuscaloosa soon enough.