A closer look at Alabama football's quarterback battle with Tyler Buchner, Jalen Milroe

Blake Toppmeyer John Adams

Alabama’s newest addition to its quarterback competition threw for just 44 yards in Notre Dame’s spring game, so who says the grass is greener from the Irish side?

The Crimson Tide increased the candidates in its hotly debated starting quarterback battle by adding Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner last week, but that shouldn’t eliminate Jalen Milroe’s candidacy or even catapult Buchner to the top of the heap.

After all, Buchner entered the portal after coming up short in Notre Dame’s quarterback competition. His final act with the Irish: He was 8-of-18 passing with an interception in the Irish's spring game last month. Weather conditions were not ideal, but that didn’t stop Notre Dame’s first-stringer Sam Hartman from completing 13 of 16 passes for 189 yards.

While Nick Saban’s quest to settle on a quarterback who will play “winning football” continues, Milroe’s athleticism and potential can’t be ignored.

On this edition of “SEC Football Unfiltered,” a podcast from the USA TODAY Network, hosts Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams re-examine Alabama’s quarterback competition.

Buchner joins Milroe and Ty Simpson as top contenders.

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Here’s the case for each:

Jalen Milroe

The pros and cons: If you need a refresher of Milroe’s upside, watch the highlight of him blazing through Alabama’s defense on A-Day on a 35-yard run. He moved like the fastest man on the field. He also hit some deep strikes, amid too many incompletions and two interceptions. That inconsistency mirrored Saban’s description of Alabama's quarterback competition throughout the spring. Milroe is a familiar face. He won his lone career start, against Texas A&M, last season, despite a mistake-filled game. Dual threats are harder to evaluate in practice, when quarterbacks are protected from contact. If Alabama lacks elite receivers or a bell-cow running back, it could use a quarterback with Milroe’s big-play, dual-threat ability, if only he can reduce his miscues.

Tyler Buchner

The pros and cons: Buchner and Alabama offensive coordinator Tommy Rees spent two years together at Notre Dame, so he should be a quick study on the system Rees is installing at Alabama. While it’s tough to match Milroe’s athleticism, Buchner can scoot, too, and he’s elusive. An injury to his non-throwing shoulder sidelined him for 10 games last season. Like Milroe, he needs to become more efficient. His career completion percentage is 56.8%, and he’s thrown eight career interceptions on just 118 attempts. That includes three interceptions with two pick-sixes in Notre Dame’s bowl game against South Carolina. If Saban’s preference is an efficient passer who will steer Alabama away from mistakes, Buchner has not shown that ability. Notre Dame signed Hartman, a Wake Forest transfer, to be its starter before Rees departed for Alabama. Buchner was slated to be Hartman’s backup. It’s strange to think a Notre Dame backup would become Alabama’s answer.

Ty Simpson

The pros and cons: Simpson was the highest-rated recruit among the trio, as a five-star prospect from the 2022 signing class, but he’s experienced the least playing time, and Milroe outperformed him in the spring game. The glass-half-full outlook is the redshirt freshman is full of untapped potential with the skillset to improve as a passer. While Simpson is no statue in the pocket, the half-empty counterargument is he does not threaten defenses with his legs to the same degree as Milroe or Buchner, and he’s not proven himself to be a more efficient passer. Entering his second season in the program, Simpson has been unable to surpass Milroe on the depth chart. A second quarterback arriving with starting experience may crowd him out.

Later in the episode

Alabama matched Georgia with 10 NFL Draft selections. That includes eight Alabama players selected within the first three rounds. It marked one of Saban’s best draft classes. So, why was Georgia celebrating its second straight national championship while Alabama missed the playoffs? All that Alabama individual talent didn’t cover up for a team that played with too little discipline. That probably explains why Saban’s spring mantra is settling on a roster that will play “winning football.” Winning at the highest level requires more than talent.

Sports Illustrated reported last week that conference leaders are discussing ideas for harsher penalties that will tighten the screws on field stormings and court rushings. Toppmeyer and Adams discuss why some of the stiffest penalties may face an uphill battle toward approval.

Where to listen to SEC Football Unfiltered





Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is the columnist for the Tennessean. You can subscribe to their podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered, or check out the SEC Unfiltered newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.