By: Robert Craft
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
There were moments during the Alabama-USF game when Nick Saban was in pure anguish. The sideline faces of Saban have always been a trip, even when his team is playing brilliantly but this was different.
These faces, or blank stares, were coming from a man who seemed numb. It felt like he was nonverbally asking the question: “How did The University of Alabama get here?” How?
How did Alabama — the most consecutively talented team in modern college football — get to a place where they don’t have a quarterback?
That’s a complicated question to answer. It’s not like Alabama didn’t create options through recruiting and the transfer portal. The Tide came into the season with five quarterbacks on the roster, each ranked among the top 160 as a recruit.
Among them Jalen Milroe, Tyler Buchner, Ty Simpson, Eli Holstein and Dylan Lonergan, someone would figure it out, right?
They are all from different places, having varying experience levels and with different styles of play. Everybody continued to just assume the great Saban would find one of them to lead this ultra-talented team back to the College Football Playoff. What evidence in the past has proven this assumption wrong?
It turns out, in the 2023 season- Alabama has a problem not even Saban can solve, even if he’s the greatest coach in college football history.
Sometimes coaches, even the great ones, hit a lull and that can lead to some uncomfortable moments on gameday. This isn’t to say Saban lost his touch or no longer knows the quarterback recruitment landscape. This could be a result of constant assistant turnover on his staff.
Whatever the root may be, the issue has become increasingly clear: there’s a disconnect between the players they are recruiting and the output delivered on the field. This seems to be an evaluation and developmental issue, which could mean bad years ahead for the longtime greats.
What production has Alabama put on the field recently. I’m not sure anyone could watch that and say something isn’t wrong. And it’s not a numbers issue. The Tide successfully signed a QB in a recruitment class and had players transfer in.
These aren’t the normal transition pains a program experiences when it transitions from a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback to someone new. This is what it looks like to go from elite to bad.
We’re talking about the same coach and program that put a true freshman into the national championship game at halftime and let him fling it. It didn’t take Tua Tagovailoa long to show everyone he was a star.
What’s truly bizarre is why Milroe didn’t play at all in the USF game. Through all the agony coming through on the television, you’d think the Crimson Tide would have turned to the most experienced quarterback on the roster who surely could have made plays with his legs to win the game. Instead, it seemed like a prolonged experiment from Saban to see whether someone anyone could quarterback this team.
Talent, legendary coaching, incredible fans, intimidating stadium, the lore of being one of the best programs in college football history…None of it matters if you don’t have someone special taking the snaps.
Look at the entire SEC — the conference seems down because the quarterback play has been down. Look at all of the non conference games the SEC has lost this season.
In almost every single one, the team that beat the SEC squad had an advantage at quarterback.
Even the greatest coach of all time can’t solve the issue of not having a top-level quarterback, whether he is to blame or not.